Movie Maniac

Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ is terrifying and brilliant. But I have some questions...

Stop reading this right now if you haven’t yet seen “Us,” Jordan Peele’s absolutely terrifying tale of a family being victimized by a group of doppelgangers.

But by the looks of it, there aren’t too many who didn’t see it, as the film had the biggest opening weekend of any original horror film in history. Peele’s follow-up to his 2017 Oscar-winning smash “Get Out” pulled in $70 million in its opening weekend at the box office. That’s the second-highest opening for a live-action original film, behind only “Avatar” in 2009.

But seriously, stop reading if you haven’t seen it. Because I have some questions that can only be discussed if you’ve seen the (did I already say absolutely terrifying?) film. Major spoilers are, of course, ahead. You’ve been warned.

Peele’s script — and the universe he created within it — is mind-blowing. He completely made up his own rules, but did he stick to them? To that end, here are my questions (which aren’t necessarily criticisms, mind you):

Did adult Adelaide know her true identity the whole time?

If she did, that makes the outcome even more sinister. Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) was playing all of us for a fool.

There were some clues that hinted that she did know, such as her “fear” of going back to the beach in the first place.

Also, she doesn’t seem that surprised when the doppelgangers, known as The Tethered, show up. She even tells husband Gabe to stop offering money and his boat to them as bribes, as she seems to know what they’re really there for.

And when at the beach, she tells her friend Kitty that she’s not a good talker (since the Tethered don’t talk). Mmm-hmmm. Right.

But it could also be that she repressed those memories, and only came to realize her true identity at the time of the flashback at the end of the film. Maybe she found out at the same time we did? But then what’s with that sinister smile at the end there? (Cue heebie jeebies.)

Did Red know her true identity, as well?

In Peele’s universe, the Tethered were the result of a government experiment gone awry, and that every person in America has a Tethered doppelganger living in underground tunnels, relegated to acting out their counterpart’s lives deep down below. When it’s revealed that Red is actually the original child and that Adelaide swapped places with her, does Red remember all this? Has she been enacting a revenge plan all along? She certainly seems to be their leader, as she’s the only one who can talk, albeit with a fiercely creepy rasp (Nyong’o modeled Red’s voice after spasmodic dysphonia, a speaking condition that can be caused by emotional trauma, according to The Washington Post — and that voice is actually hers).

How did the Tethered live undergound for so long?

So we’re to believe that all these shadowy shells of every human living above ground existed in underground tunnels with only live rabbits to eat? And with no sunlight? Wouldn’t they be extremely pale, almost translucent?

And just how do the rabbits survive, as well? I didn’t seen any carrots laying around.

Where did all those gold scissors come from?

Every Tethered person has the wicked gold shears. Did they buy them in bulk from some demented underground Dollar Tree?

What’s the significance of the number 11, and specifically Jeremiah 11:11?

The number 11 pops up a lot in the movie, specifically 11:11. Young Adelaide sees a man holding a sign that says “Jeremiah 11:11” at the beach.

When Gabe is watching baseball, the announcer says, “We’re tied at 11-11.”

The son, Jason, points at his clock when talking with his mother, as it reads “11:11.”

Peele explained in Esquire that “There’s a double meaning to everything … This movie’s about duality.”

So does 11:11 represent duality?

But what about the Bible verse? In the King James Bible, it reads: “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.”

Clearly there are some heady things going on here, open to interpretation. That’s why Peele’s script is demented genius.

Just what do the Tethered symbolize?

Peele seems to be saying something about privilege. Apparently the government experiment was abandoned when it was discovered that the “clones” and their “original” counterparts had to share a soul. Was the government trying to master mind control? Is Peele saying something about brainless masses?

Why Hands Across America?

It was a nice nostalgic throwback to the ‘80s charity effort, but it’s presence in the film is clearly symbolic, too. Was it the sign of a revolt? Or of unity? Or maybe a little of both?

Rod Pocowatchit is an award-winning independent filmmaker and SAG/AFTRA-eligible actor who has written and directed four feature-length films, all made in Kansas. He has been a journalist for 29 years and is also an internationally award-winning page designer.
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