I walked out of that movie theater with questions. The answers that I’m going to offer are more of a questionable speculation more than a definitive answer. So, I’m open to hear other people’s feedback to my theories as well as their own analysis of the story line.
For the sake of understanding what the heck I’m talking about, the people in red jumpsuits will be referred to as “Tethered”. Adelaide and her family, if not addressed by character name will be referred to as “Surface People” since all of the Tethered live in tunnels.
How come the Tethered just couldn’t leave the tunnels whenever they wanted? What was actually keeping them there?
It could be explained that just like many people on the surface wasn’t aware that an entire society existed underground, that the same could be said about all of the Tethered. It was Young Adelaide’s curiosity that led Little Red to wander off where the two of them found one another in the House of Mirrors that was poetically named, “Find Yourself”. So in theory, not knowing that another world existed could be the reason why the Tethered stayed underground. It wasn’t until Red was literally tethered to the underground society that she was able to enlighten the others since she came from the surface.
The rabbits. What’s up with the rabbits?
The rabbits could be a metaphor for how highly populated a struggling society can be. It would also make sense that since rabbits rapidly multiply that such an animal would serve as sufficient nutritional substance for the Tethered community.
So for every person living on the surface, we’re to believe a Tethered person ie Doppelganger automatically exists and that they’re all living in the California tunnels?
Yep. The Tethered represents the side of ourselves that we choose not to acknowledge. Shadahi Wright Joseph’s character, Zora Wilson doesn’t find much interest in running, but Umbrae, her doppelganger with lost edges—another scary element, thrives in the sport and uses it against her.
Evan Alex’s creepy –character Pluto shows his “good” doppelganger Jason Wilson what could happen to him if he kept messing with that lighter. The mask signifies them both refusing to acknowledge their own reality.
I honestly don’t know what Winston Duke’s characters represent other than comic relief, but that’s OK. I’ll check this off as Peele’s stamp of humor on the story line.
Adelaide’s Red flips the script and makes the audience question who is the actually the good guy here. Young Red grew up in a underprivileged society and did whatever she could to get out of that situation—by extreme means no doubt, adding to the horror of it all leaving the real Adelaide to grow up in a community of Tethered people who couldn’t speak English—which makes sense why Red was the only one who could speak plainly in that spooky, scratchy voice and the others couldn’t.
Follow me now: In the context of this movie, even though the Tethered couldn’t speak English, doesn’t necessarily make them uncivilized. Yes, they’re acting spooky as hell, but living in that environment, I reckon you would act a little…off too. Adelaide is proof that the Tethered are perfectly capable of living a civilized life as long as they have the same access to the resources as the people living on the surface.
Want to Deep? I’ll Take You Deep
This whole Tethered vs Surface People conflict might be a metaphor between the light and darkness within ourselves. Let’s say Adelaide and Red are actually one person. It appears that two people cannot exist in one another’s world. It’s kind of like how in “Back to the Future”, Marty McFly shouldn’t exist in the same dimension with his former self? So here, in order for Adelaide or Red to exist in one another’s world, she had to kill a part of herself because both of them represented a type of reality that of that neither one could stand to acknowledge and/or live in.
The same could be said about people living in underprivileged communities who have somehow found an opportunity to live a better quality of life—transitioning into a more fruitful society, or higher tax bracket. These types of communities are typically out of touch with the realities of societies with fewer economical resources and tend to have a less than respectable view of anyone from such community. As a result, those who have been able to improve their quality of life are expected to “kill” any part of themselves that represent their old way of life. In the case of Adelaide and Red—and the whole family—and the whole world—we’re all fighting one another—to the death for a better quality of life. I really think that this is truly what the movie is about.
Where did Red get the red suits and gloves from?
I don’t know.
How did they all manage to get a set of the same scissors and where did Young Red get a hold of some handcuffs?
I don’t know, man…Hustling?
Aha! Scissors represent a cutting off of things—un-tethering if you will. Plus, I think it serves as an excellent horror element, so thumbs up for that prop. I mean, if Jason can have the machete, Freddy has the gloves, Leatherface has the chainsaw, and Michael Myers and Chucky can have the kitchen knife, what’s left?
What was up with the man with the bloody hand?
I don’t even know, but it served as a spooky element in the story, so I’ll keep it.
Remember that the Tethered cannot speak English. So when Adelaide switches places with Red, her parents think she’s not speaking because she’s traumatized from wandering off when in fact, she didn’t know how to speak. However, she could understand the language which was why she was able to understand how to communicate. Since Red instinctively knows what Adelaide knows, Red was able to “tell her story” to the Tethered by dancing, therefore enlightening them and leading that entire society to a coming out of sorts.
The whole Hands Across America. What?
I remember when that was going on in the 80s. It seemed like a good idea. Leave it to Peele to make it look creepy. Here’s my take on that:
So the Tethered use Hands Across America to make a stand against the Surface People who seem to have ignore them—that is, if they knew they existed. Either way, the Tethered are clearly salty. Anyway, they’re taking a stand against the injustice of neglect against their society, but in doing so, they’re committing an injustice themselves. While they all are holding hands putting up a united front, people are killing one another, corpses are lying all around, cars are on fire…it’s complete chaos. This scene reminds me of Childish Gambino’s video, “This is America” where the kids are dancing and having a good time while the world is falling apart.
Is there a person or an organization that knows about the Tethered and keeping them imprisoned?
I don’t know! This is where a sequel might be able to explain this because in the world of storytelling, there’s always somebody behind the curtain.
Either that or it’ll be more of a Fight Club thing where the conflict is clear that it’s an internal struggle.
Lupita’s Voice Tho
Red and her whole family is the new Boogeyman. I which I had invested in red jumpsuits at wholesale prices. Halloween is about to be lit with “Us” characters!
Check out this video where Lupita Nyongo talks about her research for choosing “that” voice.
Let’s Talk Music for a Second
“Why you treat me so baaad? I don’t know why, baby!”
Yes Jordan Peele, I see you!
“Why You Treat Me So Bad” by Club Nouveau is the song I believed inspired the theme music to the “Us” movie as the hook is poetically fitting.
However, the Luniz version, “I Got 5 On It” to Club Nouveau’s track is still a banging song. I dare you not to dance!
Then again, the “Tethered Mix” is chilling AF with the “creep on in” line peppered in the track.
Any Other Takes on the Movie, “Us”? Please comment!
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9 Comments Add yours
Yes! Yes! And more yes! Couldn’t agree more with your analysis. I picked up on the socioeconomic inequality theme, but you put it so eloquently. Could the consumption of raw rabbits be a statement on how those if lower socioeconomic status can’t afford to pay for healthier, better quality food? (E.g., you can get a burger at McDonald’s for $.69, and a salad will easily cost you $7.)
I love the scissors. They are so creepy, and what better tool can you get for cutting a tether?
I thought Red’s voice was so raspy because (other than the symbolism of her voice being stifled for most of her life) she got choked by Adelaide.
I’m going to be discussing “Us” on a podcast, and I’ll make sure to give you a shout out.
Thanks for taking the time to write out your thoughts! Loved reading another perspective!
Ellane, I originally thought her voice was stifled by the choking too! It’s such a testament on Lupita’s skill as an actress to do that much research. You are spot on with the rabbit analysis. Amazing how cheap fast food is these days, right? Thank you for reading. What’s the name of the podcast?
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The podcast is called We Ain’t Found Sith. It’s a podcast my husband is on with a few other bros. They discuss nerd culture and review movies. Next week they’re reviewing Us.
My husband and I loved Get Out, so we just had to see Us.
Peele’s first film dealt with racism, his second film with socioeconomic inequality – I wonder what social commentary he’ll present in his next film. What do you think?
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Perfect! I just subscribed! 🙂 That title is awesome, btw! 😀
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Thanks so much! Can’t wait to dissect this film on the podcast. Your article really helped me flesh out my thoughts and feelings about Us. I’ll send you the episode on Facebook too, just in case. Have a great week!
Hey! I finally got around to listening to “We Ain’t Found Sith”. Man, I wish I was on the show. We could’ve had an estrogen vs testosterone debate on villainy! For scary movie sake the Tethered are clearly the villains but as the plot unveils itself, we learn that Adelaide isn’t an angel either. In fact, it could be said that she drew “first blood” (Rambo “First Blood” 1982, baby) making her the hostile one. If we stretch the timeline outside the confines of the 2-hour film and look at the psychological aspect, we’ll see how complex the hero vs. villain conflict is, but in the context of the movie, yeah. Red + Scissors + Murder = Totally Bad. I love, love, love how you tied the title of the movie up as the answer to your question “That’s Us” – Brilliant!
What a long and cool article of thoughts!! The reason why I wanted to start my blog on cinema was to see other people’s analyses to movies that interest me! I think whats up with the rabbits is also that they represent freedom, because in the first scene we see them locked up in cages and at the end they are freely moving around in those corridors. Also that there is only one black rabbit among all those white rabbits to signify that one of them is different.
I understand your questions on certain logical issues and they have also disappointed me because it feels like there are a lot of plot holes. But anyway, just the way Jordan Peele thought of those rabbits, all those symbols makes me happy, it gives me a feeling that he cares about his audience and he wants to put his own limits to cinema.
If you’d like to check my article on the movie I’d be really happy! 🙂
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I remember reading somewhere that the guy with the bloody hands was standing there to form the first “link” in the chain since he was the first one to kill his surface counterpart
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Yeah, it seems like it’s one of those scene that you’d really get if you watch the movie a second time.