The enduring popularity of Key & Peele attests to the chameleonic dexterity of its stars, who dipped into a panoply of ethnicities (to say nothing of genders and sexualities) over its five season-run. In both The New Yorker’s “Brother From Another Mother” and her more controversial piece “Getting In and Out” for Harper’s Bazaar, the writer Zadie Smith twice concerns herself with blood quantum: either Peele’s biracial-ness or hers or her children’s. Peele’s work, at least, does not betray the kind of racial insecurity about his positionality that usually marks such authors; perhaps because, as Smith curiously points out in The New Yorker, his “phenotype is less obviously malleable—you might not guess that he’s biracial at all…” The observation skirts the more conspicuous conclusion. Visible or not, Peele’s proximity to whiteness (in the profile, he recalls childhood anxiety around “speaking white”) surely aided his (not at all undeserved) ascent, if only to arm him with all the mores to survive the predominantly white circles in which he found himself circulating; likely providing the seed of inspiration.
By now, Peele belongs to that tenuous class of anointed artists of a certain background —an emblem of cultural advancement, real or imagined—and like anyone with enough sense who finds themselves in such fickle ranks, he set about securing his legacy. In 2012, Peele founded Monkeypaw Productions, which co-produced, along with Peele’s three films to date, Keanu (2016) and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman (2018). But the particular, sheer accomplishment of Get Out (2017) cannot be overstated: look no further than the glut of graceless mimicking that has flowed ever since.