*content contains spoilers*
Maybe you’re a slut for metaphors and symbolism. Maybe you’ve just watched Us, a nightmare of a movie (in the best way though, because Jordan Peele is an absolute genius). Maybe you have some questions and theories dancing around in your head.
I’ve never watched a movie like this. I mean, I was hooked. I kept my eyes peeled, desperately searching for the symbols and metaphors and easter eggs.
So if you’re like me, and you’ve left the theater speechless and immediately googling theories and answers to your questions, I feel you, and I’ve gathered everything here.
So let’s get some things out of the way first. The Tethered. What the heck?
The Tethered are the doppelgängers. For whatever reason, these people were an experiment. Failed, obviously, and nonetheless, abandoned underground. They were subjected to being forever tethered to their human pair, like puppets or ballerinas dancing “The Nutcracker” (and yes, this also ties [ha..ha..] in with Adelaide being a dancer when she was younger).
We get a little deeper into what really happened that one night on the beach, when Adelaide was a little girl and came face-to-face with her Tethered. And that’s when things start to get a little wild.
So here are some symbols and metaphors I noticed (and also Googled a little because I wanted to know everything).
When Adelaide is a young girl, she picks out the “Thriller” t-shirt for her prize. In Michael Jackson’s music video for “Thriller” – a story about false identities -, he wears an all red outfit with a single glove. Did you notice the outfits that the Tethered wore? Mhm. A red jumpsuit with a single glove.
Maybe this cute little thing that was thrown in was Red’s secret way of showing that she’s the real Adelaide, because what person living underground knows who Michael Jackson is? Sure, it’s not much, but it’s still super interesting and definitely brings up some theories..
Jason, the son, also wears a werewolf mask throughout the film, and if you’ve watched MJ’s video, you get it.
Not only were there thousands of bunnies hopping around underground, but we see Zora (the daughter) wearing a shirt with a bunny on it (this ties in with the clothing too) and at the end of the film, Jason holding a bunny in the front seat of the car.
In the film, they were used as food for the people underground. Yikes. In Peele‘s eyes, bunnies are low-key really scary creatures: they might be cute on the outside, but that alone masks the terror that lies underneath. Is this a metaphor for the natural-born and the Tethered? Probably.
The Tethered use scissors as their weapon of choice. Why?
Snip snip! You use scissors to cut ties or something that is tethered. Duh.
On a deeper level, scissors are on the borderline of being something so mundane and something so terrifying. Red? Adelaide? The Tethered? Terrifying. Natural-born humans? Mundane.
4. The number 11.
Jeremiah 11:11 says “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.”
This Bible verse comes up a few times throughout the movie, but “11” is a reoccurring symbol: 11:11 on the clock, the paramedics truck is #11, the Michael Jackson t-shirt was prize #11, and the concept of duality.
There’s a lot, so I’ll be brief.
The number 11. Scissors have two, identical holes for your hands. The natural-born and their Tethered. The hall of mirrors. Adelaide’s head pressing against the table with her reflection in the shattering glass. Jason’s Tethered mirroring him and his actions (which is what the Tethered do, but it’s a lot more obvious with Jason, for whatever reason).
6. The Itsy Bitsy Spider.
When young Adelaide enters the mysterious hall of mirrors, she whistles the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and her Tethered whistles the song, too, mirroring her.
Towards the beginning of the film, a spider crawls on the table and Adelaide stares at it in fear. Almost as if it triggers her and reminders of her what she did…
Later on, Red stares at Adelaide, with her head in her hands, touching her fingers against her cheeks with a similar movement to a spider and their legs.
It’s nothing too serious, but it’s still something that makes you think, “why?”
7. “Us” and the double meanings.
There’s a double meaning in the title.
Maybe it’s about the obvious: our doppelgängers.
Or maybe it’s about what’s happening in our country today. When asked who they were, Red replies, “Americans.”
Is this a representation of the genocide of Native Americans and white people taking over their land? Is this a metaphor for the America we are living in today? Hands Across America is a pretty prominent symbol throughout this film, too. Did Peele do this on purpose? Do we need to get out of the U.S.? Boy, do I want to.
And boy, do I have some questions and theories.
Does anyone (in the film) realize that Adelaide is actually a Tethered?
I think Kitty’s doppelgänger realizes it in the bedroom, and that’s why she spares her life. I think Jason realizes it when he witnesses his “mom” stabbing one of the twins. He’s seeing a different side to her, or rather, just a completely different version of her.
Is Jason actually his Tethered at the end of the film?
Adelaide gives Jason a soft smile in the car, and this introduces the plot twist: Adelaide and her Tethered switched places years ago.
But what got me the most about that final scene was the way he looked at her and then slipped his mask over his face.
Did Jason also switch places with his Tethered? Or does he just know the truth about his mom? Do they both know that they are the Tethered and they’re keeping it a secret from the rest of their family?
Us used a lot of metaphors and threw in plenty of easter eggs and symbols and double meanings, but the one most of all was the obvious: we are our own worst enemies, with our insecurities, our fears, our jealousy, our rage. I mean, think about it. The worst of who we are or who we could become is hidden inside of us. Right?