Jordan Peele, comedy writer turned to horror, released his latest film on March 22, “Us.”
In February 2017, Peele released his first dabbling in the horror genre, “Get Out.” This film quickly set high standards for the new writer, producer and director.
It also showed moviegoers everywhere that Peele’s films weren’t going to be as simple as the others in his newfound genre. There is nothing cookie-cutter about these films in the slightest; they are soaked in hidden social commentary.
Horror has long been host to social commentary; it’s a genre that explores our fears, but it goes much deeper than surface-level fear. Horror gives audiences and creators a chance to delve into why it is that we fear what we do, the psychology and embedded societal norms that lead to these fears.
Peele took his chance to preach, embracing the genre.
“Get Out” set the stage for Peele’s pulpit, covering controversies such as the sexualization of the African American, systemic racism and white feminism.
After “Get Out” astonished audiences with its success not only in the realm of social commentary, but also as a horror film, Peele knew he could take it even further.
“Us” centers on an African American family, a normal family with normal family problems and successes. A husband, a wife, a teenage daughter and a young son.
The family is vacationing at Adelaide’s (the mother) old home; it’s a quaint, lakefront home decorated with paintings from Adelaide’s childhood.
The family is friends with a wealthy white family that vacations in the same area they do. A mother, a father and twin girls, the family seemingly argues nonstop.
And each of them has a doppelganger, an exact carbon copy of themselves, just as every other human in the United States of America. These copies have lived underground for years and years.
And these copies, the Tethered, they call themselves, are sick and tired of being forgotten.
The no. 1 question every character seems to have in this film is pretty reasonable: Who are they?
The answer is one of the best lines in the film.
“We are Americans.”
Enter the social commentary.
Peele has said that we, as a nation, are our own worst enemy. This film has taken that statement and personified it, and it is truly terrifying.
Taking every single human in the nation, copying them exactly and dehumanizing that clone, it brings about a level of self-reflection most are not comfortable with.
Peele has removed the sensible speech(and I use the word sensible very loosely here, the language they use in the film is entirely a developed language, just not to our ears) and given them this chaotic, almost uncivilized manner. To our eyes, they would be savages, monsters.
But they are us.
They are Americans.
They are divided against themselves and they are ready to fight because of it, despite the pain and havoc it will wreak across the nation.
The Tethered are hungry for their time in the sun, just as the many divisions in the United States are. Political parties are at odds, races and ethnicities are at odds, genders are at odds – the division is seemingly ceaseless.
The worst part is that the infinite amount of schisms in our nation have been bred by the very people who make up this nation. We have truly become our own worst enemy, fighting our own reflections.
Peele also hides small yet extraordinary symbols within “Us.” An escalator that only goes down represents the impossibility to rise out of poverty. Americans’ self-awareness of their appalling state is shown in the son’s awareness of his mother’s true origins.
Our own monstrosity that we hide deep within ourselves is displayed in the murderous nature of the Tethered. The most horrid thoughts that we never let leave our tongue show themselves when our very primal nature is embodied in a clone of ourselves.
Peele has taken the genre of horror and given it new, higher standards and I am excited to watch him bring society’s issues into the foreground, combating them and working to crush the problems of the world.