The manufactured inequality of ‘Us’—SPOILERS

  • Hands Across America” was a real effort launched in 1986, meant to raise funds to help curb homelessness and hunger. It technically failed.

  • Redlining: “a discriminatory practice in real estate, typically involving lenders that refuse to lend money or extend credit to borrowers in certain areas of town or when realtors won’t show properties to certain types of people in certain neighborhoods. Those red-lined areas are typically occupied by people in poverty or people of color, or both.”
  • In their recreation of the “Hands Across America” event the real Adelaide kept in her head all those years, the Tethered form a literal red line across America in their matching red jumpsuits, which happens to be reminiscent of the border wall meant to keep a certain class of people out of the U.S.
  • The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City was published in 1993. It’s a collection of stories about the people who lived in sewers and subway stations, and how they ended up there. author Jennifer Toth writes, “I hope this book will reverse the horrible and striking image of ‘mole people’ simply by showing what I saw and found. I hope the stories from the tunnels will bring a better understanding of the underground people. By writing their stories, I hope to dismiss the myth of animal-like underground dwellers, so that you, the reader, can come to know that mole people don’t exist beneath the surface of New York City, but people do.”
  • Red tells Adelaide, “We are people too.”
  • ‘I Got 5 On It’ was released on July 4, 1995. Key lyrics include, “I got some bucks on it, but it ain’t enough on it” and “‘Cause I’ll be damned if you get high off me for free.”
  • Jeremiah 11:11, King James Version (KJV), reads, “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” The impending evil is to be punishment for worshipping false idols. capitalism and its demagogues are false idols.
  • There are no heroes in this story. The film signals to us that we should root for Adelaide and the Wilson family because they are established as the protagonists, but the ending reminds us that we can never really trust narrators, even ourselves. there are no heroes because the story is inherently about disparity, and neither Adelaide nor Red deserved to lose. Yes, the real Red stole the real Adelaide’s life, but the real Red was also born into a world of abject trauma. We can’t blame her for wanting to escape it, but we also can’t blame the real Adelaide for wanting to return to a better life, even if that means killing for it. By duping us into rooting for Adelaide, the real Red, for the majority of the film, it makes us complicit.
  • The Tethered are a created people. They didn’t ask to exist and they don’t deserve the hand they were dealt. It’s not the fault of the people on the surface who were completely ignorant of the government cloning project, but it’s still not fair that they get to fall in love and taste delicious foods while the Tethered can only eat raw rabbit.
  • For me, it’s sad any way I look at it. I wish both Adelaide and Red, both the surface people and their Tethered clones from the underworld, could have survived, but I know that is not the reality we live in. Class warfare means unavoidable casualties as long as we live under capitalism. The system is inherently violent and intentionally creates unequal conditions in order to maintain itself. It creates people like the real Red and the real Adelaide, and Abraham, Umbrae, and Pluto, and their Tethered kin. It forces us to fight for resources, and warmth, and air, and deludes many of us into thinking that certain people only deserve so much, while others deserve everything.
  • We must also acknowledge that the real Adelaide’s anger comes from a place within her that says, “That was supposed to be you, not me. Your miserable existence, not mine.” We have to acknowledge that capitalism often prevents us from imagining a better world, one in which none of us are relegated to the sewers or thought of as belonging there.
  • The real Red’s anxiety and PTSD are still real. She’s traumatized from what she experienced as a child in the underworld, and she’s terrified about the real Adelaide coming to take what’s now hers. Capitalism creates these traumas and anxieties, over and over again, because it creates (the illusion of) scarcity, so that many of us can only partially afford necessities and things that bring us pleasure, and we also can’t afford to give anything away for free (see: ‘I Got 5 On It’ lyrics).
  • I just keep thinking about how this world often forces us to kill parts of ourselves in so many ways, and maybe sometimes killing parts of ourselves is necessary for our survival.
  • Whether you figured out the twist early on or not (I think a lot of y’all are lying tbh, and I will also add that audiences decoding an upcoming twist does not inherently negate the value of a story or how it is told, nor does it mean that you absorbed everything you were meant to), ‘Us’ is still a solid horror feature that has a wealth of opportunity for reflection and thought. there is so much more than what I have talked about here or covered in my published reviews (like the fact that it doesn’t matter whether or not the real Adelaide loves Abraham is a reflection of how countless womxn are forced to stay in loveless/abusive relationships, sometimes with children they love but never wanted, due to abject poverty exacerbated by the gender wage gap). If you’re interested in these ideas, I encourage you to visit ‘Us’ again, and see what else there is for you to take away.

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