"Us" - A movie about privilege, the influence of environment and where our compassion lives
First : There’s probably a light spoiler or 2.
Yesterday I finally got out to see Jordan Peele’s latest film.
It’s hard to spoil a movie for me. So, despite hearing all the theories linking Us to Get Out, and watching reviews, I experienced something else.
After seeing it for myself, it dawned on me that it’s difficult for most of us to watch a movie like this without linking it to the political climate and Peele’s previous work. Much like a singer’s follow up project, people kind of expect a part 2.
In my view, this movie explored the privileges we all take for granted, what we fear existing within us, and the incredible influence environment has on shaping our lives.
The Tethered felt like a reality check personified.
Everyone had a Tether, which felt like an important detail as this concept transcended race, and class.
It felt like Jordan Peele was promoting compassion and gratitude while giving us a closer look at what privilege is.
The themes of privilege and gratitude are hammered home with subtlety in the moments when Gabe’s excitement is peppered with his envy every time he thinks of what his more well to do friend Josh is able to buy - the back up generator, the new car. He even seems to experience Josh’s purchases as a personal attack.
Even in the the thick of it, after the drama that unfolded at the Tyler residence, the only thing that makes Gabe perk up about leaving that house is when their daughter Zora says “we can take the car.”
There’s also the moment on the beach where Adelaide is talking to Kitty.
Kitty takes off her shades to reveal that she had a bit of work done. Again, there was this subtext of envy/jealousy when she says to Adelaide something like, “of course you don’t need anything”.
She then goes on to ask Adelaide about her former life as a dancer. Kitty then goes on to say she could’ve been a famous actress herself, but the kids were born.
Each line Kitty delivered was laced with a certain dissatisfaction, aspiration and regret. Despite everything she had, she seemed to feel like she had nothing and she blamed everything else for it, even resenting her husband.
Kitty and Josh have all the upgrades, all the material things, but they seem to despise each other. Kitty loves her drinks and Josh loves his toys.
Now for the compassion bit.
Looking back on the film, this family seemed pretty normal, until they were faced by their shadow selves. I interpreted the shadow/Tethered as the darkness laying dormant within us - ready to be activated.
We see two examples of how who we are and how we interact with our reality is situational.
In the case of the Wilsons, they went from fearing their Tethers to full on survival mode. It was kill or be killed, which made them all more alike to me. Both families were trying to survive and their suffering was caused by each other’s existence.
I became aware that it was really about who we as an audience could relate to more. Right or wrong that is always who we root for. The movie allows us to experience our own privilege and offers some insight into how we can be blinded by it later once the plot twist is revealed.
Learning what really happened to Adelaide in the house of mirrors was a great moment in cementing the need for compassion, the importance of environment and the power of privilege.
Being exposed to a different life changed her completely, and we felt she was “one of us”.
It was easy for us to villainize the one we identified as other, but even that felt strange once we realized who really lost in this story.
This film played with our perception, as well as who we align with and why.
We can become so convinced of who’s right and who’s wrong, but there’s often more to the story.