By Colby Tortorici
Jordan Peele’s Us is equally — if not more — enticing than his previous Academy Award-winning Get Out.
Proving that lightning really can strike twice, Peele’s sophomore directorial turn is thought-provoking, arresting and as one would assume, scary. While not a review, I’ll be taking a look at the Us and the subtext and themes present in the film as a whole. Major spoilers for the movie are ahead.
In the final act of Us, it is revealed that Adelaide’s doppelganger, Red, completed her goal thirty years ago, and managed to successfully replace her surface dwelling counterpart, eventually gaining the ability to speak and function as a normal human. While this scene clarifies many questions, much of the movie stays shrouded in mystery.
Why did Red seem to be far more capable than any of the other Tethered, allowing for her escape? How was Adelaide able to mobilize the entirety of the Tethered, who seemed to be almost brain dead before hitting the surface? While there are most likely answers to these questions, do you need them? Would your enjoyment of the film be heightened if there were an exposition-heavy scene explaining away all of the mystery of the story?
What keeps Us so engrossing is the aura of mystery and the subtext that mystery carries throughout the film. All in all, Us gives us many different themes to parse through. However, the two that the movie pursues the most are the issues of class and humanity.
The final fight between Adelaide and Red encroaches on the aspect of humanity and class coming to a cross. As Adelaide starts to gain the advantage in the fight, Red starts to fully regress to her Tethered form. While she managed to keep a human composure for her entire life, the second her back is truly against the wall; she falls back into her foremost instincts. It is hard to climb from the bottom to the top. Once you have, you will do anything to make sure you stay there.
While Red was willing to give up everything to stay at the top, Adelaide would let nothing stop her from getting back there. Red was able to move from a position of massive disadvantage to a happy life, and from there, she was content. Adelaide started her life with a huge privilege over the Tethered. Once she was forced into the disadvantaged life herself, she mobilized the Tethered to kill millions of people. Red was able to build a normal, happy life for herself, and that was all she needed. Adelaide was in no way content with making sure that she just took her own life back. She wanted every surface human’s life ended.
Red’s climb to the surface was not an easy one. Being born into a world that counts you out from the beginning is not an easy one to navigate. However, when she had the chance to seize the life she wanted, she did. From there, she had accomplished her goal. She attempted to live the life she knew she deserved, and never fought to have or take away anyone else’s happiness than her own.
Adelaide started at the top and fell. Once she was at rock bottom, she made sure that no one would get in the way of seizing her life back. She wanted more than that though. She knew she was entitled to the life that she was robbed of. She wanted everyone who was living the life she deserved to have to pay. Pay with their lives.
Us says a lot about the issue of class and privilege. Rising above your class and falling from your privilege are things that just don’t often happen in the way that society is formed. A desire to break through those boundaries can drive people to do whatever it takes. When the privilege you were born with is ripped away, you will get it back, no matter what it takes.
Class is a dividing factor in today’s society. The conditions that you were born into can easily decide your entire life for you, no matter how much you fight it. Managing to break out of the confines that your status puts you in is something incredibly rare, and Us highlights what people will be driven to do to make sure that they can achieve the life that they believe they deserve. Shattering something that is made to divide is no easy feat, and will drive people to their most primal instincts. Whatever it takes to climb your way out, or to climb your way back up, will be done. Whoever needs to be hurt in the process will be hurt.
Us illustrates what class divisions can ultimately lead to. In a world where you are classified by what you have, not who you are, people will go to the extremes to obtain the life that they know they deserve.