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If you’re confused about Jordan Peele’s Us, you’re not alone. The horror film, which made more $70 million in its opening weekend, has become one of the most talked-about movies of 2019, and it’s for a good reason. The movie explores a lot of important and relevant themes wrapped up in a terrifying story. Here, the hidden meanings of Us are explained. Anyone who has seen Peele’s directorial debut, 2017’s Get Out, knows that the director isn’t one for subtlety. Hidden in between scares and violent kill scenes are clues toward future plot points, and Us is no exception.
But before we dive into the hidden meanings of Us, let’s first go over what the film is about. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen Us, click out now.) The film follows the Thomas family, Adelaide and Gabe and their two children Jason and Zora, as they vacation in Santa Cruz, California. While at their vacation home, a mysterious family shows up in their driveway. The family turns out to be their doppelgängers set on killing and torturing them. The movie explores a secret underground world, where identical versions of those above ground are forced to re-create the actions of their counterparts. According to fans and film critics, the film also offers commentary on politics in the United States through its hidden meanings and symbols. Learn about the hidden meanings you may have missed, ahead.
Us Also Refers to the U.S.
In an interview with Yahoo, Peele confirmed that the title Us is a reference to the United States (whose acronym is U.S.) and its current state. “There’s a duality to everything,” Peele said. “This movie is about duality. There’s no choice that I’m not trying to layer. This state of the country inspired me. We’re a country that’s afraid of the outsider; we’re afraid of the other, whether that’s in our border or outside of our border.” This is also referenced in the film when the Thomas family ask who the Tethered are and Red replies, “We’re Americans.” Many believe that this quote and the title are metaphors for immigration in the United States and how the above-ground people view the Tethered as “other” (in an us-versus-them way), even though they’ve been there all along. The U.S. is also referenced in the film’s inclusion of the 1986 campaign “Hands Across America”, which urged people to form a human chain across the United States for charity.
When Adelaide Snaps Off-Rhythm
At the start of the film, Adelaide tells Jason to “get in rhythm” and starts snapping to Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It.” If viewers watch closely, they will see that Adelaide isn’t snapping exactly to the beat. The moment is the film’s first nod that Adelaide is actualy a Tethered (which is revealed at the end.) As explained in the movie, the Tethered are forced to re-create the movements of their above-ground counterparts, but the movements are always a little offer, and Adelaide’s off-rhythm snapping could be an example of that. Some fans have also theorized that the song Adelaide snaps to, “I Got 5 On it”, could be another clue to the Tethered. The song talks about having half of a dime, while his friend has the other half—another reference to duality in the film.
Why Only Red Can Speak
Unlike the other Tethered, who communicate with guttural-like noises, only Red can speak. It’s our first clue that she’s not like the other Tethered. We later learn that Red wasn’t actually born a Tethered. She was born above ground and was switched by the fake Adelaide when she wandered into the mirror room when she was a kid. This is why she can speak, because she learned how to in her few years above ground. Viewers will also notice that Red’s voice is low and hoarse, which could be because she hasn’t used her voice to speak in years since she was above ground.
The Significance of Jason’s Ambulance Toy
Jason uses a toy ambulance car to keep a closet door open in his family’s summer home. Without it, the door automatically locks and traps him inside. We see this when Zora kicks the toy ambulance and traps Jason inside and when Jason does the same himself to trap Pluto. The toy parallels with the the ambulance the Thomas family uses to escape the Tethered at the end of the movie. Both ambulances provide the characters a fast way to escape.
The Significance of the Tethered Children’s Names
The Tethered versions of Jason and Zora are named Pluto and Umbrae respectively. Pluto is a reference to Pluto, the Roman God of the Underworld. It also could be a reference to the planet Pluto, which is the planet that receives the least amount of sunlight—another reference to the underground world the Tethered come from. Umbrae is the plural form of umbra, which refers to the darkest part of a shadow. The name is a nod to how Red described her family as the shadow versions of the Thomas family.
What’s with the 11:11 References?
One of the more obvious clues of the film, 11:11 first appears when young Adelaide passes by a homeless man with a cardboard with with the Bible verse Jeremiah 11:11, which 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.” The verse teases the chaos to come. 11:11 is also referenced in the time that Adelaide sees on the clock in Jason’s room right before the Tethered appear at their house, as well as on the black flag T-shirt the tethered version of the homeless man, who is named Jeremiah (according to IMDb wears. The number 11:11 could also be a reference to the theme of duality throughout the film.
Why Red Whistles “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” Before She Dies
Before she dies, Red whistles “Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, which causes Adelaine to wrap her handcuffs around her neck and choke her. As viewers remember, “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” was the tune that was stuck in young Adelaide’s head as she wandered into the mirror maze, where she was switched with Red. The tune was whistled to remind fake Adelaide of her past and that she was actually born underground and assumed the identity of real Adelaide when they switched. Spiders are also referenced in the movie when Adelaide watches a real spider crawl past a plastic one, which also suggests the theme of duality.
The Significance of the Candy Apple
Young Adelaide’s candy apple is the last thing we see before she wanders into the mirror maze. Not only is the apple’s bright red color an example of the significance of red in the movie (it could be why Red is named red and why she chooses red jumpsuits as the Tethered’s uniform), but it could also be a reference to Snow White who eats a candy apple before she falls asleep. In Us‘s case, Adelaide eats a candle apple before she’s choked by her twin. The Snow White reference continues with the mirror maze, which could be a nod toward the Evil Queen’s “Mirror Mirror” quote an use of a mirror to spy on Snow White. The apple could also be a reference Eve from Adam and Eve, who eats an apple before she’s expelled from the Garden of Eden. In Us‘s case, Adelaide eats the apple before she’s expelled from the above-ground world after Red switches places with her.
The Murder Weapons Are a Reference to Class
A lot of Us deals with privilege and the above-ground people’s privilege over their Tethered counterparts. This privilege is referenced in the murder weapons the Thomas family uses to kill the Tethered—an iron, geode art, a golf club, a luxury car and a boat, which are all symbols of upper-middle-class status.
Why the Tethered Use Scissors as Weapons
It should be obvious but the reason the Tethered use scissors as their weapons of choice is likely a reference to how they want to “cut ties” with their above-ground counterparts and untether themselves. This is seen in one of the end scenes of the movie where Red cuts two paper dolls apart.
The Significance of Rabbits
The film opens with a scene of dozens of rabbits in cages. By the end of the movie, the rabbits are out and wandering the underground. The rabbits are an obvious symbol for the Tethered who are trapped underground but make it above ground by the end of the movie. But the rabbits could also have another meaning. Rabbits have long been used as test subjects in labs. The United States also has a history of using poor populations to do medical tests and experiments on, according to Yahoo. The rabbits could be another reference to the film’s theme of privilege and under privilege.
The Significance of Adelaide Struggling to Talk
When Adelaide is on the beach with Kitty, she tells her that she sometimes struggles to make conversation. In that moment, viewers believe that Adelaide is simply shy or is uninterested in what Kitty has to say, but the moment is actually a clue that Adelaide may not be who we think she is. Later in the film, as Adelaide talks to Gabe about her experience with the Tethered, she stutters and also has speech problems. That moment, as well as her conversation with Kitty are clues that Adelaide was born a Tethered and not above ground. The Tethered communicate with guttural noises, and when fake Adelaide switches with the real Adelaide as children, she was mute for a long time because of her inability to communicate in English. Likewise, there’s a lot of fixation on the throat in the movie. When fake Adelaide switches with real Adelaide, she first chokes her to the point of passing out. When fake Adelaide kills red at the end of the movie, she chokes her with her handcuffs.