A Place for Spoilery Us Screaming 2

I’m going to put all my screaming about this movie in the comments of this post, because it contains ATOMIC SPOILERS. If you want to read my non-spoilery short thoughts, I made a public post on Patreon about it here.

(Comment moderation has been temporarily turned off so people can talk more freely. Please no one make me regret it!)

2 thoughts on “A Place for Spoilery Us Screaming

  1. Reply Alex Mar 24,2019 14:54

    Okay, so, holy fucking shit, I don’t even know where to start. Actually, to start, maybe read Darcie Little Badger’s short post here, about Native America symbolism in the film: https://darcielittlebadger.wordpress.com/2019/03/22/the-native-american-symbolism-in-jordan-peeles-us-2019/

    And she touches on something really important in the movie, which is the question of who is American and who isn’t. When Red utters in that terrifying voice, “We are Americans,” my skin crawled. You get this thing where the locus of all the horror is hidden under a horrible mockery of Native Americans, under the banner of “find yourself.” There’s definitely this feeling of taking on the trappings of others and doing it very badly… and then the “tethered” come out and do just that to the above-ground people they replace. They ape the behaviors of those they’ve murdered, but it’s all so incredibly disjointed and wrong. So there’s that.

    I suppose the thing I want to just scream about the most, though, is the twist and the multiple ways it can be viewed. Red was the “real” person along, and Adelaide the “imposter” who took her place and built a life aboveground that Red had no choice but to mimic below. They’re both monsters. And there’s something to be said about Adelaide “stealing” Red’s life and leaving her to suffer in the tunnels, but when you see what that did to Red, you can’t necessarily blame Adelaide for doing so, in the sense that she was fighting for her own survival… kind of. It’s horrifying either way it cuts. What I find even more interesting is what Red does in her captivity, taking control of the otherwise apparently will-less tethered and leading them in a rebellion against the people who unknowingly control their lives. I have to wonder if that was in some way Adelaide’s goal all along. Because while we see she’s willing to kill some of the tethered in her own self-interest, she also doesn’t go out of her way to do so, and is upset when the tethered versions of her children are killed. Part of that could be because they look so similar, but maybe there’s also a desire there to see everyone escape as she did, in a way she couldn’t lead them into doing because she lacked the basic tools that Red had even as a child–the ability to imagine that escape was possible and so was collective action. And can you blame Red for being angry and vengeful that her life was stolen? Hell no. But I think it says intensely interesting things about her, that this was obviously so much more than just revenge on the one person who stole her life. She could have gone for that without bringing all of the tethered out of the tunnels. She saw the injustice on how all of the tethered were kept, and while on one hand she is using them in her push for vengeance, she’s also giving them a path to freedom and their own vengeance against those who control them.

    I had an inkling that something was really going on with Adelaide from the first bit about how she stopped talking after she was found in the maze. I didn’t know the extent of how horrifying it was until Red began to explain things, though. But it was always striking that Red could talk and the others couldn’t. There were a lot of other clues, I bet, which will reveal themselves on a rewatch. Like Adelaide saying that she doesn’t find talking easy.

    I saw in an article today that “hands across America” in 1986 was a campaign to end homelessness. Which makes the tethered mimicry of that really… I don’t even know. They’re an ignored and invisible population; they rise up and make a mockery of what was, presumably, an unsuccessful campaign considering that homelessness is still very much a problem. But there’s the factor that even sort of just standing there in their red suits, the people above ground find it all too easy to just kind of gloss over their existence and not notice they’re there, up until the sharp end of the scissors comes plunging down.

    There’s also a Frankenstein element to Us as well. Red tells us that the tethered were created (by the government if I remember) in an attempt to control the people above ground. In the end, it turned out to be a failed experiment; the above ground people were stronger than the tethered, and controlled them instead. (We see Jason use this very specifically to kill his own doppelganger). So there’s a definite element of the creation rising up to destroy the creator, though much more broadly in this case. The evil scientists are long gone, so rather the tethered are rising up to destroy the society that allowed them to be created in the first place. I’ve seen the tethered called “evil” in a lot of places, but I feel that oversimplifies things. Are they inherently evil, or are they twisted, irrational, and unhinged from reality because of the circumstances they’re born in and live in? Are they just completely unsocialized in a way that the people above ground are able to recognize as human, and therefore an ultimate kind of created “other”? Obviously living that life didn’t do Red any good. But other than Adelaide, the tethered never perpetrated any harm on anyone… until Red impressed her purpose upon them and led them to the surface.

    Who is American? Who is a person? Who is the real monster?

    And what is with all the rabbits?

    Those are the initial thoughts. But there is just SO MUCH in that movie.

  2. Reply A. P. Howell Mar 24,2019 18:25

    There was so much to love in this movie!

    My laundry languished in the basement last night, and after I woke up I tried to remember how many lines Jason had after they returned from the beach. (Enough, and burns don’t heal overnight, but it still caused movie anxiety well after the movie ended.) There are so many ways that’s my family. (That’s another way that it reads kind of ’80s: Black Family As Default All-American Family shouldn’t have been revolutionary when The Cosby Show aired, and it shouldn’t be revolutionary now. And yet.)

    I love that the Tethered released the rabbits, whether as a collective decision or on Red’s command. There’s really no reason to do that–they clearly weren’t planning to come back and continue to use them as a food source–except empathy for other caged creatures.

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