- Jordan Peele’s new film “Us” was a huge box office success, but left many moviegoers wondering what it all means.
- Several theories have emerged about the film including one that suggests the movie is about American classism.
- Another theory looks at the number 11 and how it represents duality.
Following is a full transcript of this video:
– There’s a family in our driveway.
Alana: Jordan Peele broke a box office record for his newest horror film, “Us.” Now, the film centers around an all-American family trying to escape their vengeful doppelgängers. And, in true Peele fashion, the film is definitely more than meets the eye. Here are some of the top Easter eggs you might have missed and, warning, major spoilers ahead!
The most obvious theme is probably the one of duality. Bloodthirsty clones attack the Wilsons and other Americans throughout the film. Even before the doubles attack, we’re introduced to the Tyler twins. The house of mirrors, it’s a portal between two worlds. Scissors, the weapon of choice for The Tethered, are two blades connected by one screw, and The Tethered are described as shadows of their more privileged counterparts.
But there’s one major Easter egg that sticks out, and it goes a lot deeper than you think. 11:11, two spiritually significant numbers that mirror each other. 11:11 was seen numerous times throughout the movie. We saw it first on the homeless man’s sign at the fair in Adelaide’s flashback, which reads Jeremiah 11:11, alluding to the biblical scripture. Later on, the Tethered version of the man has “1111” gouged in his forehead. Young Adelaide’s “Thriller” shirt that her dad wins for her is prize number 11:11.
As the Wilsons settle in to their vacation home, the number 11 pops up everywhere. Like when Gabe’s watching the Giants game, the score is tied 11-11, and when Adelaide is tucking Jason in at night, the clock, it’s 11:11. Let’s take a closer look at what this number means.
The Jeremiah 11:11 verse is about God bringing wrath to a group of people that won’t be able to escape. But the number 11 itself might be even more interesting. Aside from the biblical meaning, 11:11 has other spiritual significance. In numerology, the number 11 represents the twin flame. Twin flames, not to be confused with soulmates, is the belief that everyone has a spiritual doppelgänger. Twin flames may appear different on the outside and have different personalities based on upbringing, but at their core, they’re the same. Eleven also represents a spiritual gateway or portal into the spirit world. It’s meaningful that in “Us,” 11s are shown right before we see The Tethered come through their world into ours.
This can also be seen in many pop culture references. For example, the ’80s-set Netflix series “Stranger Things” emphasizes Eleven’s role in connecting and severing two alternate but parallel worlds, and Peele uses ’80s pop culture continuously throughout “Us.”
People born between the years 1960 and 1980 are known as Generation X. Now, popular nicknames for this group include the “lost” or “forgotten” generation, mainly in part because they’re perceived as being stuck in the shadows of the generations that came before and after them. So it only seems fitting that most of the pop culture references in “Us” are from the ’80s.
The names of the VHS tapes seen at the beginning of the film are huge Easter eggs. “The Man With Two Brains” is an old Steven Martin comedy and obviously plays on the theme of duality. “C.H.U.D.” is a movie about monsters that come out of a sewer, similar to where The Tethered come from. “The Right Stuff” is a movie about a government program that included animal experimentation and resulted in human death. Red tells Adelaide that The Tethered were created as a result of a government experiment gone wrong. And “The Goonies” is a comedy about a group of kids who go on an underground treasure hunt and face dangerous obstacles. In addition to the VHS tapes, “The Goonies” is referenced in Easter eggs throughout the movie. In “Us,” Red says, “It’s our time up here.” This mirrors the “Goonies” line, “Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here.”
And the fast-food spot in “Us,” Copperpot’s, seems like the perfect play on the “Goonies” character Chester Copperpot…
– “It is Chester Copperpot.”
Alana: …a scavenger hunter that went missing and eventually died while trying to find the underground treasure. This could reference the true Adelaide’s ultimate fate. Another iconic film that Peele confirmed as an influence is “The Lost Boys,” a horror comedy about two California brothers who fight a gang of vampires.
– “If you’re a Martian.”
– “Or a vampire.”
Alana: In fact, all of the Santa Cruz beach scenes in “Us” were filmed at the exact same amusement park featured in “The Lost Boys.” The parents in the beginning of “Us” actually reference that something is being filmed at the carousel, and there’s a scene in “The Lost Boys” filmed at the carousel. Vulture also points out some “Nightmare on Elm Street” Easter eggs…
Alana: …like Pluto’s melted face, which looks strikingly similar to Freddie Krueger’s, the iconic brown glove, and the battle scenes in the boiler room. Finally, nothing says duality like the references to “The Shining.”
– “Here’s Johnny!”
Alana: Gabe uses a baseball bat for defense just like Shelley Duvall’s character, Wendy.
– “I’m not gonna hurt ya.”
– “Stay away from me.”
Alana: And after being injured, Gabe’s limp looks a lot like Jack’s. And of course, the creepy Tyler twins.
– “Come play with us, Danny.”
Alana: Finally, the board game Guess Who is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the twist ending. The pop culture references and overall plot bring home one of the biggest themes of the movie: the dangers of classism and inequality.
The Tethered are literally described as shadows of the people above, forced to live out the actions and the will of the privileged. In the film, the only thing stopping The Tethered from moving up was a downward-moving escalator. Escalators are often symbols of how moving up is easy when privileged. This shows how the inverse can trap you.
Synonyms for “tethered” include “restraint,” “leash,” and “chain,” which is why many have noticed the parallels to the prison industrial complex. This is seen in their jumpsuits and their lack of ability to choose for themselves. Like The Tethered, many of America’s incarcerated don’t have the opportunity to vote and rely on the actions of those privileged enough to do so.
It’s important to note that The Tethered say that they’re human beings genetically, only they’ve been handed unfortunate circumstances. The act of mimicking is also an important aspect. The Tethered pretend to do everything from riding rides to playing games to raising families, following those above without any actual payoff. Mimicking plays into our obsession with consumerism without the means to keep up with the Joneses. Peele doubles down on this theme with his characters. Gabe, for example, represents middle class privilege from his collegiate shirt, his obsession with consumerism, and his out-of-touch-with-reality dialogue. Adelaide’s true identity signifies that The Tethered aren’t traditional monsters but just like our protagonists without the same opportunity. It’s the ultimate depiction of nature versus nurture, which is what makes this film so unsettling.
Using metaphors and pop culture references, Peele shines light on how terrifying inequality can really be and how, in the right circumstances, anyone can become their own worst nightmare. Any Easter eggs we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below.