“Us” addresses poverty, homelessness, and the hungry

Prepare to never want to look in a mirror again. With the release of Us, Jordan Peele messes with viewers’ brains and making everyone think about his possible metaphor within this film. SXSW 2019 hosted the films world premiere where Peele and the cast made an appearance. Following the film, Peele talks about his perspective on our fear of ‘the other’ without taking a look at ourselves first. According to Deadline, Peele talks about how “we are all about pointing the finger” to those who may not look like us or to those with different political or other views than us. “Maybe the evil is us,” Peele states. Does he mean us as is the U.S.?

Peele tells the story of a family of four, the Wilsons, who are on a much-needed vacation. Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is the wife and mother of the family with a dark and traumatic past. It begins by showing us her past at a carnival along the boardwalk. She wanders off into a funhouse and finds herself looking at not just a crowd of her reflection but her very real doppelgänger.

During their vacation, they find themselves at the exact same boardwalk where she had this traumatic experience as a child. Weird coincidences keep happening and things keep “lining up” as said by Adelaide in the film. She believes her doppelgänger is trying to find her and out to get her and maybe even her family. Later in the film, we find out that there is a whole world underneath them that they were unaware of. Each person has a look-alike or a version of themselves considered part of the ‘other.’ Their group is called the Tethered.

Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in Us is outstanding. I can imagine it would have been a very difficult role to play considering she had to alternate from the average human living up in the real world to a completely different woman who has almost no knowledge of societal norms and what the world is like up above her. In preparation for the making of this film alone, Peele asked her to watch several horror films. In her interview with Rolling Stone she said, “I had to focus quite intensely because every time I had to be fully in one character and also kind of having the out-of-body experience of taking notes for when I would play the other.”

One unusual theme in the film is the use of the Hands Across America benefit held in 1986. The benefit was to help the homeless and hungry and people in poverty. This allowed people who donated to stand in a human chain across the United States for 15 minutes. I believe that Peele included this benefit not only to spread awareness but to also bring light to the fact that many of these small donations were simply to create a feeling of belonging and the ‘I’m a good person’ feeling by helping the ‘others’ that they fear or maybe ignore. This group of people, the hungry and homeless, are represented in the film by the Tethered. In other words, maybe Peele is telling his audience to open our eyes to what our country really suffers.

SCSU student Giselle Hernandez thought that the inclusion of Hands Across America in the film was great. “I always saw pictures around of the logo with the people holding hands as a kid,” she said. “No matter what’s going on, it just shows that we have to remember that we could be in a different situation than we are in right now and that we should be grateful for what we have. Also to help one another. How [Us] included kind of the history of that benefit was helpful and just shows that we can still attempt to create a better world for everyone.” I explained to her how it has been said that during that benefit, many just donated to be included in the line and didn’t necessarily care about the benefit itself. Hernandez replied, “Even if they didn’t care the money still went somewhere to help people, and they still knew generally why they stood in line and who it was helping. So I guess they didn’t necessarily need to care even though it helps a lot more if you do.” 

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