US movie and The American Subconscious
Jordan Peele's follow up movie to Get Out, was a hit. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend you do. It is about Adelaide Wilson, a black woman on a vacation trip with her upper class black family. In their beach house, she is forced to face her past when four strangers show up at the front lawn, except they are not really strangers but grotesque replicas of her four family members. Adelaide and her family are forced to face these beings who are determined to take over their lives.
First of all, I must commend Peele for portraying black people as mainstream characters in a horror movie. I must also commend him for using darker skinned blacks, not light skinned or racially ambiguous ones even though Peele himelf is biracial and married to a white woman. It shows his understanding of the struggles darker hued people experience being portrayed on screen.
Now the juice! US is different from Peele's first movie, Get Out, though they are both thrillers and share the theme of revealing the subconscious. In US, The Wilsons are an upper class family who have disconnected from the rest of the black community. In fact you can say they are out of touch with mainstream black culture. For example there is a scene in the car when Mr. Wilson is bumping to Duo Luniz's 1995 hip-hop hit, I got Five On It. The kids in the back seat are convinced it is about drugs, as the lyrics clearly suggest. Mr. Wilson is however in denial, suggesting it is about something else. Adelaide turns around from the front seat and begins snapping her fingers in an attempt to encourage the kids to bump their heads to the rhythm. The only problem is, she's off key...an early sign of her disconnect with the culture. In another scene, when their "doublegangers" appear on their front lawn, Mr. Wilson shows up with a baseball bat. At first he tries to reason with them in his regular speaking voice but when they don't show signs of leaving, he starts speaking colloquially. He goes "gangsta," on them, revealing his real side. This real side could only come out under duress revealing the reality that often times money changes people. Throughout the movie we see that the doublegangers are in fact their shadow selves, and by the middle of the movie, the whole city is filled with doublegangers. These doublegangers hold hands reminiscent of an American heal the world type campaign that was promoted in the 80's. The 80's campaign was of course designed to show America as a nation of racial equality, generosity, and love. But the doublegangers in the movie reflect a darker side of this idea. It reflects America as it truly is, a nation with unresolved traumas and problems.
The doublegangers dwell in underground tunnels. Peele makes it a point to reveal in the beginning of the movie that there are several tunnels in existence in America and that some of these tunnels are in fact mysterious. In my opinion, these tunnels are symbols of the people, systems and ideas that are trampled upon and suppressed to attain the American dream. These tunnels could also represent a more sinister reality connected to the occult, but that is another topic for another day.
There are many other symbols in this movie such as the movie's reference to rabbits. These rabbits evoke the concept of the rabbit hole in Lewis Caroll's Alice In Wonderland where Alice falls into and encounters peculiar creatures. Again, it is all about the subconscious and the areas of ourselves we are often afraid to face, confront and transform. I believe it is part of Peele's agenda to peel off (no pun intended) the layers of America's consciousness to reveal the America that we don't often like to discuss; the America that is racist, elitist, hypocritical; the America that is built on the backs of others and loves to bury its past. In fact, the subject of cloning is brought up in the movie which makes me think that Peele may be suggesting this to be a reality in America. I honestly look forward to where he is going to take us next.
By Ebele Chizea.