Us, another masterpiece by Jordan Peele, has left its viewers in awe and spiraling confusion.
In today’s (and probably only one i’ll be doing) Movie Explained, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts and interpretations of the mysterious story line of Us, as well as leave answers to many burning questions, such as what the Tethered are, what Jeremiah 11:11 means and the symbolism of Rabbits.
What is the Tethered?
This is perhaps the biggest mystery that is not fully explained in the movie. Red (Adelaide’s counterpart played by Lupita Nyong’o) explains that the Tethered are clones created by the government with the aim to control their citizens above ground, as hinted by something that Zora (played by Shahadi Wright Joseph) blurts out in the car, ‘Did you know that the government puts Flouride in the water to control our minds?’. Eventually, they gave up with the project and abandoned the Tethered underground, allowing them to live the rest of their lives mirroring their counterparts above.
So what exactly is the Tethered?
It was never confirmed by Peele, but he did mention that they were based off a mythology, which I personally think is the Doppelganger.
Doppelganger translates to ‘double goer’ or ‘double walker’ in German. Albeit being a replica of one’s original body, they are known to be a sinister version of that body, like an evil twin. Based on folklore, meeting your doppelganger is an omen, a sign of misfortune as they are harbingers of darkness.
This lines up with the story line of us, as young Adelaide meets her Tethered counterpart, causing a bloody ripple in the timeline.
You may have googled Jeremiah 11:11 right after the movie to find a correlation between this verse of the scripture and the plot.
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 – Jeremiah 11:11
This verse speaks the core of the movie- revenge.
Based on the Old Covenant, Jeremiah has been appointed to reveal the sins of the people and explained the reason for the nation of Judah’s impending disaster of famine and plundering. This resembles Red’s desire for a revolution as she leads the Tethered out of the rabbit hole to voice out their suffering by mimicking the Hands Across America movement, as seen from the last scene of the movie where the Tethered, in their orange jumpsuits, forms a line across the country.
Interestingly, like Red, Jeremiah was unable to speak in his early days. (Red’s inability to speak could be due to her vocal chords being crushed by her Tethered counterpart when she was young.)
Besides the dark meaning behind this verse, the numbers 11:11 also serves as a symbolism of the original and the Tethered; a mirror image of each other in a sense.
The numbers occur multiple times, such as the eleven rabbit cages per row, the score of basketball game that Gabe was watching (played by Winston Duke) and on Jason’s (played by Evan Alex) clock, almost as if Peele is saying that it is time for the Tethered to come.
In the first appearance of Red, she shares that the Tethered consumes raw rabbit meat to mirror their originals as they eat. Rabbits are a sensible options given their reproduction speed, but there is also a symbolic meaning behind this choice of animal.
Rabbits are common motifs in the Arts that signifies resurrection and rebirth, a symbolism of the Tethered coming out of the dark. The act of killing their counterpart could also signify their will to replace them.
Moreover, like the rabbit hole Alice in Wonderland, perhaps Peele is trying to refer to the entering of a different dimension as Adelaide and Red swaps positions in their respective rabbit holes.
In an interview with The Guardian, Peele also mentioned that rabbits ‘are an animal of duality. They’re adorable but they terrify me at the same time. And they got those scissor-like ears that creep me out.”
Us // U.S.
We are Americans.
As Red answers Adelaide’s question about who they are, the comedic moment for most of the audience, as half the cinema started chuckling at what seems like a joke, is in fact a social message that Peele intends to highlight.
The Tethered represents the lower class of America who have been ignored by the bulk of America. In this movie, they are literally living beneath the privileged Americans above ground who have no clue about their existence.
Taking reference from the Hands Across America movement in the 80s, the charity stunt with the goal of raising awareness and money for the homeless, Red leads a revolution against their original copies who have been taking their privileges for granted while they had to live in suffering.
She also mentioned the contrast between the living conditions of the originals and the Tethered, warm meals and cold leftovers, fluffy new toys compared with cold metal scraps to play with etc.
Why The Orange Jumpsuit and Glove?
The Tethered stands out in the crowd with their bright orange jumpsuits and leather glove. While the orange jumpsuit could signify their status as ‘prisoners’ trapped in the experimentation laboratory, it is more likely an Easter egg that Peele planted to tease the audience about who Red really is.
Before the young Adelaide went missing, her father had won her a Michael Jackson Thriller t-shirt and it was also mentioned in the movie that she had seen the music video before. Thus, being a child with only so much memory capacity, perhaps the choice of donning orange jumpsuit is a sign that this stunt is only something that the real Adelaide would know.
Meanwhile, the scissors represent the separation of the Tethered from their original’s lives.
“there’s a family out there’