Jordan Peele is unabashedly placing black bodies at the forefront of speculative film and television. Capitalizing on the success of Key and Peele (2012-2015), the success of Get Out (2017), permitted his meteoric rise in popularity. Get Out was marketed as an independent horror film that Peele has referred to as a documentary. Extending his range as a creative producer, Peele has buttressed his social commentary through the traditional construction of classic genres such as sketch comedy, horror, and most recently, the science fiction anthology.
In an official statement, Peels said, “Too many times this year it’s felt we were living in a twilight zone, and I can’t think of a better moment to reintroduce [The Twilight Zone] to modern audiences. The current reboot will be the third time that the series will attempt a comeback for contemporary audiences. Peele is marketed as the new Rod Serling, the original creator of the science-fiction anthology series. What is it about this moment that makes the iron right for striking? Why is it that the industry is adamant that now is the time for a resurgence of The Twilight Zone (2019)?
The Twilight Zone (1959–1964) originally premiered on October 2, 1959, on CBS. CBS Television Network produced and distributed the show. In a move to gain market share, the interactive arm of CBS, CBS All Access, promotes the ability for consumers to stream 10,000 episodes of live TV and CBS All Access Originals. Building on the foundation of its archive, CBS developed original content using familiar franchises to entice audiences to “discover something you’ve never seen before." The CBS audience has seen several iterations of this "original content" before. So what will Jordan Peele’s rendition of The Twilight Zone (2019) bring to the fore?
Several key issues are at stake in not only the 2019 reboot of The Twilight Zone but in the body of Peele’s work as a whole. The late 1950s marked a shift in the social relations of America that led to more significant social and political movements. Placing Peele, a bi-racial, American man, at the center of speculative fiction presents the opportunity to build an archive based on the experiences of bodies rooted in a black experience while at once navigating post-Civil Rights and post-racial politics. Peele shows an extraordinary acuity to race relations while simultaneously re-reading colorblind politics. His upcoming film US (2019) is marketed as a classic horror film that just so happens to have a predominantly black cast. Albeit a classic horror, can the audience ever not read more into a black body in horrifying situations? Fans are already accosting Peele to retell fan-favorite stories of The Twilight Zone. Given our current social and political state paired with an “on demand” consumer culture, Jordan Peele and CBS All Access are a perfect storm for the science fiction anthology.
I can't wait to see what
I can't wait to see what Peele does with this show. Not only does he already have a huge fan-following, but this a reboot that comes with a lot of title-recognition (and hopefully with more fans of the series or genre drawn to it). I imagine it will mix the style and thematic-bent of his horror/sci-fi filmmaking projects with short-form television programming much more like the comedy-sketch format of Key & Peele. Two backgrounds in very different media, genres, and affective experiences coming together to make some very interesting socio-cultural commentary.
Weird City to Twilight Zone
I think it's also fascinating to look at the industrial position Peele set up for himself by producing two sci-fi anthologies through his Monkeypaw Productions—Weird City on YouTube and The Twilight Zone reboot in which you focus. As Peele continues to build his brand as a notable figure behind sci-fi and horror media, I think the distinctions between his various productions will become clearer.
Also, as a side note, great to see a number of actors working on multiple projects with him (Betty Gabriel from Get Out to The Twilight Zone as well as Steven Yeun on Weird City and The Twilight Zone, to name a couple of examples).
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