One of the best parts of watching a Jordan Peele film is spending countless hours dissecting it — looking for eggs, hidden meanings in t-shirts and items on the set that are not in focus and even trying to find a larger meaning behind the obvious.And much like Peele’s debut, Get Out, his fans have already taken to Twitter sharing spoilers (and yes, there’s plenty if you keep reading so you’ve been warned) and theories about what the screenwriter and director was really trying to say with Us.
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Sure, Peele told ESSENCE that the film, which centers on a Black family who heads to their familial beach town where they’re confronted by their angry doppelgängers, was about “the fear of the outsider” in America, “and the fact that our suppressed demons look like us.” But we know that’s not all.
The Oscar winner also told us, when asked, that we were “right” to believe that the film also tackles the prison industrial system. It’s a theme Peele has been grappling with since Get Out.
“This movie is about all that we tuck down into the recesses of our society and fail to acknowledge; all of those that suffer on the other side of the privileges we have,” Peele began. “In many ways, as you know from Get Out, I feel that that applies to the prison industrial system.”
Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures
He continued that it also applies to other systems. “From where we get our sneakers, the person we pass on the street, the countries that we fail to support. There’s a lot to sift through, which is why it’s a fascinating topic for me.”
Think about it: when Red returns to the beachside funhouse where she originally switched with Adelaide as a pony-tail wearing, candy apple-loving little girl, she leads viewers down escalators that lead to the abandoned tunnels that are apparently underneath us. Mind you, the Untethered have already fled to hunt their human counterparts, wearing red jumpsuits no less. Peele said that’s a huge hint.
“There’s a reason my tethered family wear jumpsuits, right?” he asked, rhetorically.
In this windowless underworld, we see dank salmon pink hallways that resemble any penitentiary, with those harsh overhead lights that become unbearable after a couple of hours. All you see are doors and doors flanking a long hallway. In a flashback, each door shows us the Untethered trapped inside pretend activities, while another door shows bunnies trapped inside actual cages — like tiny little jail cells. This is another clue, Peele said.
Perhaps the rabbits are inside of the cells individually as if they’re in solitary confinement because they’re the creatures who lack the most human emotion.
“There’s something very lacking in a rabbit’s capability to empathize. You look into their eyes; it’s not like looking at a puppy,” he said. “These seem like dumber animals that if they were bigger they you would eat you. There’s something extremely cold about a rabbit when you look up close.”
But if you think Us is only about the prison system, think again. Peele said he doesn’t want to betray his film by whittling it down to one theme. In fact, he created the film with “sparking conversation in mind,” he said.
“Privilege happens in so many different ways, and there’s so many ways to analyze it,” he explained. “It’s something that can be looked at through many different lenses itself.”
“In its core, this movie’s about our failure to point our finger at ourselves,” Peele added.
Us, which smashed expectations raking in more than $70 million at the box office last weekend, is in theaters now.