Us is a horror film, brought to the mainstream from the mind of auteur, Jordan Peele. Heavily promoted since the trailer came out last December, the insane marketing drove viewers to spend nearly $175 million during its first week. This is no surprise considering the commercial success of Peele’s debut in the horror genre, 2017’s Get Out, for which he won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. While the movie is mainly a horror flick, there were comedic moments that were a pleasant surprise (a scene with a golf club beating has viewers in my theater saying, “Oh, SHIT!” over and over again). The film left many open-ended questions that need exploration. If you have not seen Us yet, stop what you’re doing and go check it out. Let’s take a deep dive into a few of these questions, the symbolism, and yes, there are spoilers.
Who or What The Hell Are The Tethers?
The Tethers are a population of doppelgangers. Mirror images of the humans who populate the planet. The Tethers live in a series of subsurface tunnels. We don’t know how they came into being or the purpose of their existence. The only clue we have is that “humans” created them and that they are “Americans”. They were an experiment created to control the surface people by “them”. No other clues beyond that. They all appear to be wearing something akin to the latest prison swag and they have no language that is decipherable to the audience. Except Red.
The year was 1986. In the opening scene, a young Adelaide Wilson wanders away from her parents at a fair or carnival and strolls into a creepy house of mirrors (there is a lot to be said about “childlike curiosity”, but there ain’t no way I would have done that as a kid) where she encounters a young Red, Adelaide’s doppelganger (both adult characters are played by Lupita Nyong’o). We’ll get to what happens next in a moment.
Why Is Red Different From The Other Tethers?
Red, although not apparent at the beginning, seems to be an inspiration to the other Tethers as to what is possible when you dream (or, in this case, when you dare to nightmare). Red is clearly different. First of all, she can speak English, not grunts like the rest of the Tethers. Also, the adult Red moves about with an almost choreographed precision. This is because she is actually Adelaide. Remember I mentioned that young Adelaide wanders into the house of mirrors (symbolic in itself considering that the Tethers are mirror images of their humans)? What we didn’t find out until the end of the movie was that Red abducted Adelaide and traded places with her. That’s correct. The real Adelaide grew up as a Tether and Red grew up human in Adelaide’s place. So it makes sense that Red can speak English because she is really Adelaide. Red’s precise and crisp movements are a result of the ballet lessons that Adelaide took as a child and Red continued upon replacing her. Red was non-verbal initially and the only way she could express herself was by embracing ballet.
Why Didn’t Adelaide Remember That She Was Actually Red?
Adelaide and Red were only eight years old when the switch took place. You would think that each would have been old enough to remember what occurred. It would make sense that Adelaide (the Tether) would remember and want to exact revenge against Red (the human). However, it was a almost a complete surprise to Adelaide. I say almost, because Adelaide did mention to her husband, Gabe (played by Winston Duke) like she has always felt like something was out there following her. The fact that this is is only a feeling that Adelaide has and not a statement of fact just raises more questions. How did Adelaide forget that she “Mortimer-ed” Red and traded places with her? Did young Adelaide love her new life so much that she suppressed it? Or did she actually remember and just kept it on the low? C’mon, Jordan Peele. This one really has me twisted.
What Is The Meaning Of Jeremiah 11:11?
One of the elements that made this feel like a Stephen King film was the vagrant on the beach before Adelaide went in to the funhouse. He was holding a sign with a bible verse that simply read, “Jeremiah 11:11”. This particular verse reads, “Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they will not be able to escape; and though they cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” In other words, even though some bad shit is about to drop, no one is coming to save the day.
The number eleven shows up several times during the course the film. It is shown on clocks in various scenes, on top of the ambulance that the Wilsons use to make their escape, and at least twice we see the vagabond holding the sign with Jeremiah 11:11 written on it. Considering that the vagrant’s sign is a bible verse, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it is believed by some that the number eleven, when used in the bible, symbolizes chaos, disorder, lawlessness, and judgement. Sounds like the Tethers to me.
What Do The Rabbits Mean?
The rabbits are first seen in the opening act of the movie. The camera is is focused on a single, white, fidgety rabbit and then slowly zooms out and cuts to reveal what seems like hundreds of rabbits in a cage. They are also seen near the end of the movie all throughout the tunnels where the Tethers live. I’m not sure what the symbolic meaning of the rabbits are (I hope to figure it out when I see it again), but it makes sense that the rabbits are probably a food source for the Tethers. Rabbits are known for multiplying quickly and would be in abundance. Besides, rabbits taste like chicken, right?
What Did The Final Act of Us Tell Us?
Red kidnaps Jason after Pluto is killed (both played by Evan Alex)and retreats into the catacombs beneath the Santa Cruz boardwalk where the Tethered spent their entire existence. Red tells Adelaide the purpose of the Tethered’s creation, how they were abandoned, and why they were left to fend for themselves. Adelaide and Red fight, Adelaide kills Red, rescues Jason, and returns to the surface.
As the Wilsons escape Santa Cruz, we are shown the Tethered joined hand in hand spread across the shore. It is reminiscent of the Hands Across America scene shown earlier in the film. It is in this final scene that we see Adelaide remembering the repressed memory of being a Tethered. It is also when I thught to myself that a sequel has to be planned.
Jordan Peele and the cast of Us gave us plenty of heart-stopping excitement, but also left a lot unexplained. The film is worth watching again to see if the answers become any clearer. If not, let’s hope for an US 2.