It’s a few weeks now since I went to see Jordan Peele’s movie Us and I can’t get it out of my head. Like all good horror, it served to unsettle me on both a visceral level and through what it had to say. It kept coming back to me, layers of meaning unfolding and I honestly can’t think of another horror movie in recent years that has felt so satisfyingly complete.
Although I’ve read a lot of fascinating words about what this movie has to say about trauma, most powerful to me was its take on privilege (and class.) And I’m a sucker for anything that can speak intelligently about class. I kept asking myself about each of the choices in the film, and what they could mean, because every choice did seem to have meaning to me. Why did Red speak with that rasping, constricted voice? Because it is literally harder for those without privilege to have a voice, have a say, and to be heard. (And Red is only able to speak at all because of who she was originally.) Both son Jason and his counterpart Pluto love fire, but why is Pluto scarred when Jason isn’t? Because those with privilege can transcend their mistakes, their dalliances with danger, but those without privilege often carry the consequences of their mistakes with them for the rest of their lives, and danger is always more dangerous to those without. The escalator is always heading down, pushing those at the bottom back into their place, ensuring they cannot rise. Those born into poverty are like puppets, moving to the whims of those in power (literally dancing to their tune, as Red does.) Every aspect of their lives is dictated by people they cannot see, and everything done those in power as an affect on the ones at the bottom. As Red says at the end, the tethered seem so like their counterparts and yet worlds separate them.
It was heartbreaking, and terrifying, and that final image, of the chain of tethered holding hands across the countryside, will stay with me for a long time.