what is the meaning of the movie us? I think that we try to see the problems that you have hidden and how those problems reflect the problems that society also hides. but is it?
If you left the theater after seeing us, not knowing what to think, we are here to help you. we want to explain the American film and talk about how it applies to the world we see every day.
In this post I am going to review the possible meaning of us. from the hidden meaning of us, to the open meanings, and everything in between.
After a few weeks of unprecedented success at the box office, it seemed like a lot of us were (ha) looking for the answers behind the compelling and unique film. they have googled, consulted reddit and tried to collect all the most convincing explanations from us.
There will be spoilers in this post, so if you haven’t seen the movie or want to avoid them, try to stay away. If you’re excited to talk about the meaning of the movie, keep reading and hit the comments later with your analysis and theories.
I want to start this analysis with the fact that film is a subjective medium. that means your interpreted meaning may differ from mine. it probably should! leave a comment at the end with your own interpretations!
Let’s get into a little analysis, shall we? First, I want to talk about…
the duality of man: a possible explanation of us
At the beginning of us, we see a little girl lost in a fun house. the place is supposed to be themed based on some sort of Native American culture. when she walks in, she finds a mirror image of herself wandering around. this marks her as a person, and when we catch up with her as an adult, we see that this trauma still shakes her to the core, though she tries to hide it.
This duality of a person, good and bad, is the theme of everything that follows in the film. if we all have a double of ourselves, we bury ourselves deep in the tunnels, then what makes it come out? Can we tell it’s gone if we bury it?
as the saying goes, those who do not see, those who do not see, but how do these hidden traumas and darker thoughts and feelings influence our daily lives?
If it really is about the duality that lives within humanity, then we must look at it on two levels: the individual and the social.
the individual analysis of us the film
let’s take our main family in us, the wilsons. each of them has a distinctive personality and character development. when his mirror images come from the tunnels and attack the home, they are emblematic of the character’s flaws. in fact, these mirror images call themselves “the tethers” and are directly linked to our thoughts and actions.
the father works unilaterally, buying a boat to keep up with the jones. the image of him in the mirror is heavy and unrelenting, as is the jealousy of him that creeps into everyday conversation.
the daughter, who likes to be distracted and wants to get off the track, is chased by a girl who is focused and loves to run. the son, a boy who wanders, gets into trouble and has trouble using a magic trick, is confronted by a boy covered in burns who plays with fire.
That leaves us with the mother, a woman defined by her childhood trauma, having to face the girl she left behind all those years ago, the girl who took her place in the basement. while the film is built around individual bad deeds, we bury them as a family. this change makes me think that peele is telling us that no matter how deep we hide it, these versions of ourselves will always exist.
this individual duality is even in some of the American movies, which means easter eggs.
for example, in the opening, the girl is dying to get a “thriller” t-shirt. that the 1980 version of michael jackson is very different from what we know today. and when the mirror images of people get up and wear that leather glove and red jumpsuit of suspense, it feels like pele let us know that even the most beloved artists of all time have these horrible mirror images buried deep inside. deep. thanks to leaving neverland, we know the darkness that was hiding inside michael. and Pele even confirmed this fact.
but how does this work at the macro level?
the meaning of the American film within society
that same trauma reflected in the wilsons is reflected in the changing coastal town. it is no longer a place for carnies and poorer families; now it’s a yuppie destination for the wealthy and people trying to beat their tax bracket. As the Wilsons arrive and hang out with their yuppie friends, we make observations about how much the city has changed. the fun house is now an innocuous and more politically correct “wizard” topic. most of the community seems rebuilt, refurbished, and refreshed. Santa Cruz has never looked better.
but there’s still the same bum waving his sign. you can’t pave over people. you cannot pave over the past. because no matter how deep you bury something, it will always rise again.
racial symbolism in us
Peele emphasized that we’re not about race in the way dating is about race, but wilson’s blackness in a genre that tends to center white as the default is a strong symbol of changing times. New and diverse directors can help us see stories that could never make it to the big screen.
There is a feeling that class jumping, from the bottom dwellers to the top people, may be associated with the rise of African Americans in the United States. We clearly see the idea of impostor syndrome, feeling like you don’t belong, associated with the twist of this movie and the Wilson family juxtaposed against the white yuppies around them.
the big twist on us
the big twist in us occurs when we realize that trauma with mirrors is happening all over the united states. the tunnels under every part of society are bursting and throwing out the worst in us.
This interpretation of the film imposes on society the burden of changing.
So what is Peele saying about society with the Us?
i think it’s pretty easy to see the gentrification of santa cruz, the political correctness washout of carnival, and the irony of “fuck the cops” blowing up a white person’s house while they’re being attacked and understand peele is addressing the contemporary race relations in the united states. it’s about how we as a country try to rename, reclaim, and cleanse the stains of the past, as if that only makes everything better.
The film opens up to the hands of the entire United States, a declaration of unity that was supposed to be the “we are all one, racism is over” moment of the ’80s. But in 2019, we know that’s not the case. just like in leaving obama’s presidency line hurts a lot, because people thought when he took office, they could declare an end to racism, but as they watch us and see the issues, we know that’s empirically false.
when the tied up shake hands at the end of the film, it reads like an acknowledgment that this dirty and racist past exists throughout our country. we can paint houses, pretend to be politically correct, and even befriend a wide range of people. but the past will not go away.
So what are we supposed to do about it?
how should we confront what the explanation of us says about… us in the movie?
I think the general message from peele is that we shouldn’t try to bury and sanitize these images. we should be talking openly about them. From the misconceptions and horrible things we have on an individual level to the big scars on society like slavery in America, economic inequality, and the destruction of cultural centers to make places nicer for rich people.
how can I deal with this American interpretation?
if we recognize what we put in the tunnels, we could foster change and understanding within our duality.
If we continue to bury these thoughts and feelings, they will continue to try to kill us. if we talk about the good and the bad tied together, we confront it on an individual and social level, then perhaps the world we all pretend to have, the euphoric and propagandistic utopias built on the landscapes of yesteryear, is a possibility.
The awesome folks at wisecrack put together this video summarizing some theories and analysis. I think it is the best on the internet. so check it out.
what do we mean if you’re not American?
I wanted to post a photo of the best comment on this article so far. It is from the filmmaker Vincent Galiano.
I LOVE this analysis. It really digs into an outside critique and gives a perspective that no American citizen could see without coming at the story from 10,000 feet.
It is very difficult for me to get away from my own personal ideas and processes to analyze this film. lucky for me, jordan peele has spoken a lot about the meaning of us.
what is jordan peele’s analysis of us?
jordan peele’s analysis of his own movie is pretty good. I’m sure he’s delighted that we’re all talking about the film and debating its dimensions. One of the biggest questions I had was the use of rabbits in the film. they seemed to be part of a motif, like the bird in Hitchcock’s birds.
but pele has never really addressed rabbits, “they’re an animal of duality. they’re adorable, but they terrify me at the same time,” he told the keeper. “and they have these scissor ears that scare me.”
still, in an interview with empire, peele gave us this explanation:
“this movie is about maybe the monster is you. it’s about us, about looking at ourselves as individuals and as a group. the protagonist of the movie is the surrogate for the audience, so at the end of the day i felt like , it wasn’t doing my central theme justice if it wasn’t revealing that we’ve been the bad guys in this movie. we’ve been following the villain. I say ‘villain’ loosely because I think there are a lot of experiences from the movie, and I think a lot of people are asks what is good and evil? does that exist? both characters are lovable and terrifying, based on the lives they’ve led, they’ve just reversed paths.”
When asked about the ending of Us, Peele addresses the wink and nod in that same podcast interview:
“adelaide and jason sharing that moment at the end, i leave it a little vague on purpose as to what exactly he knows or how far he’s gone in figuring out what, if anything, i think the little guy The smile she gives him is many things. I think it’s a connection to the evil smile she once had as a child, but also a kind of realization that her family unit was strengthened from this experience.”
perhaps the way to read this is that the family unit can only be strong if it addresses the monsters within it. when we admit our own faults, we can grow as people. we can grow beyond our nature and learn to nurture the people who make up our unit.
There are many theories, so keep reading and commenting. I’m excited to see what you come up with as we go.
I want your American renditions!
what’s next? delve into film theory!
Now that we’ve dissected ourselves, let’s move on to other film and television reviews. it is important to have a foundation of film theory so that you can properly analyze what is in front of you. dissecting a movie and understanding the context can take years of training. but you have been training without knowing it. every time you watch a new show or movie, you’re creating an internal database. you have something to base your reactions on, and over time, your tastes grow.
If you want to work in Hollywood as a creative or even as a film and television critic for a living, film theory is extremely important. In this post, we are going to learn how to put that media consuming training into practice by learning about film theory.
Click the link for more information.