Jordan Peele’s US Movie Explanation – Tethers, Jeremiah 11:11 and Hands Across America
Jordan Peele is known for his incredible screen writing which has been exhibited again in his new film Us. The film is about a woman Adelaide and her family who gets attacked by the doppelgangers that are dressed in red prison clothes. The film stars Lupita Nyongo in the lead role, and tells the family tale in an extremely horrendous way.
“Basically, if you thought your 2009 trip to Torquay where your parents argued the whole time, the car broke down on the A303 and the Airbnb smelled of onions was bad, well, at least you weren’t attacked by a mysterious set of home invaders who look creepily identical to you” writes a reddit user describing how protectively safe we are.
Like Get Out, his previous film, US is full of strange imagery, symbolism, satire as it dwells deep into your psyche. It ushers in terror as it paints the picture of a world that you have not seen till now. The film might seem like a basic home invasion at first but then gets expanded to the larger scale, and makes you worry if it’s about the whole globe. Us has to be praised for many things, but layers should come first. Here are some theories explaining what the film is basically about, especially when it has many things like Tethers, Hands across America, Jeremiah 11:11 and so on.
“Red” and the Tethers:
The murderous clones that appear in the film are called as ‘Tethers’. One of the Tether, towards the end reveal that they are humans, failed results of the government experiment that has been started to create clones of people. While a majority number of people are created that way the experiment has been abandoned for some reason. These clones inhabited the abandoned tunnels, sewers, subways and undergrounds that are spread over thousands of miles in the United States. An interesting thing to observe about Us is that the director has limited the budget to $20 which is they are not shown in a large scale, but rather like a long hallway.
The whole project of doppelgangers is later revealed to be a big failure because the clones were actually supposed to control the original human beings. But in reality, it is shown that they could only replicate the bodies of the humans but not their souls. After this project has been called off, the Tethers were left to fend for themselves, as they live in the tunnel. This is why we see a lot of rabbits wandering around the tunnels and we don’t know what else lurks in this deep and dark underground. Red, the clone and the doppelganger of Adelaide is also one of them, and is shown as the leader of the Tethers. She, inspired by the Hands Across America event organizes all of the clones to fight and take the place which is above them.
Red vs. Adelaide:
This is the part of the story which is extremely brilliant because of how it is shaped from the start and is revealed in an opposite direction towards the end. In the prologue of the film, which is set in Santa Cruz beach, it is shown that an young Adelaide loiters on the beach and ends up in a mirror palace. Madison Curry, the child actor who has played this character brings a new flavour altogether to the film. While she gets into the hall of mirrors, she meets her doppelganger Red, as the mirror house is connected to the Tethers underground. On that night, Adelaide gets knocked down by her double, Red where she switches places with her.
At the beginning of the film we are shown that Adelaide’s parents are extremely terrified about her because she has changed after disappearing for 15 mins. Unlike the real Adelaide, the Red couldn’t speak and is entirely different. It is because their daughter was literally someone else. Adelaide’s parents have adopted the clone daughter Red without their knowledge but because of being above the ground, she has eventually learned how to grow up, socialize, love, get married and have a family. She has suppressed all her memories of living in the tunnels in order to seek happiness.
The real Adelaide who got handcuffed and abandoned in the tunnel with the Tethers felt all the angst. In order to survive, she has clung to her real life on the surface through dance and the Hands Across America T-shirt that she has been carrying with her. As she acts as someone with free spirit, the Tethers get influenced by her as she’s the only person among them who could actually sleep. It is interesting to see how different her actual voice is because of not being able to communicate with people for so long. The final shot of the movie is extremely chilling. The Wilsons in the film survive due to the fact that they have actually made a family with Red, who is brutal and can do anything to keep her life safe. This is why she can escape the Tethers because she knows what it takes, however the family are not sure about her.
Jordan Peele’s “Mole People”:
Jordan Peele has created an urban legend of Mole People with this film.
While documented to be homeless, living in abandoned structures — Jennifer Toth’s 1993 disputed nonfiction book The Mole People: Life In The Tunnels Beneath New York City popularized the term (itself inspired by the 1956 horror film The Mole People) — they have since become a popular trope, appearing in everything from cartoons to comic books. Episodes of Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold! and Batman: The Animated Series had “Mole people” villains.
After watching the film, it has left me with various questions, especially the ones that has surrounded the Tethers because they are just showcased as vague objects. What is this project? Where have this project started? Who organized, started and controlled it? Why is it abandoned and when is it abandoned? Why did they do anything about the Tethers after it has been abandoned? How did the clones’ mate and managed to create the exact copies of the children? All of these questions are new, unanswered but also not necessary. Peele’s idea was to make a story about the evils that reside in us so that we allow them to face us and us to face them.
Peele said that we often live in the feeling that we are the main good guy in our story and this prevents us from facing the demons. He said that his main idea in making this film is to know the demons, tell us that they are not very different from us and also that there is no big difference between good and the bad. He has put all of these elements and thoughts in the faction of the prism. But at the starting point, he has explored the xenophobia that surrounds the United States as the central idea for people to grapple the film.
Hands Across America:
In the film Red is shown to be largely inspired from the uprising that has been titled as Hands Across America. As mentioned earlier, it is a charity event that has taken place back in 1986. It is a commercial held for the charity and just when Adelaide goes to the beach, she watches this event before. The event is said to be organized by Ken Kragen, a music manager who is also known for securing the We Are the World, charity album back in 1985 with his extremely star studded skills. Hands Across America was actually a charity where millions of people have donated 10 bucks in order to get a spot in the handheld chain of humans spread across the United States. The proceeds of the charity have been donated to fight against poverty, hunger and also homelessness.
In an era before the Social Media, donating $10 to hold hands with Mickey Mouse in California, Michael Fox in Ohio, Brooke Sheilds in New York has seemed to be extremely cool to even spend an entire afternoon. President Ronald Reagan has also joined this chain despite that its his own administration which is to blame for the homelessness in America which is being endured till today. The question that you might want to ask is if a single chain has actually managed to make an impact through the United States? No! The topography of the country prevents it. The charity however has worked a way to tell that if people who have participated gets connected, that will create a big chain of Hands across America.
All told, the event was a success and was deemed by The Washington Post in 2016 as “the most Eighties thing to happen in the 1980s,” and has been referenced in everything from episodes of Seinfeld to 30 Rock to Modern Family. (My personal favorite is this bit in 2006’s Beerfest.)
A thing that has kept popping up in the film is the Bible verse, that says Jeremiah 11:11. It is a recurring motif that we see in the film and is inscribed in various scenes of the film, especially as a sign held by a person on the beach. 11:11 keeps on popping up as a visual in numbers, time through the film, focused around Adelaide. Apart from the allusion between the mirrors, twins and the 11:11 part; the verse actually says something else.
Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them.”
Taken in isolation, it’s an ominous verse that alludes to doom. It’s basically the Bible equivalent of Rorschach in Watchmen (“The world will look up and shout, ‘Save us!’ And I’ll whisper, ‘No.’”) or the Borg in Star Trek. (“Resistance is futile.”) But in the whole Book of Jeremiah, the verse emphasizes some of the themes in Us. In the Bible, the Book of Jeremiah is an Old Testament book that has nothing but bad news for the Jews in exile after Babylon. Basically, God is mighty pissed the Jews dared to practice Pagan worship and false idolatry.
While there is nothing like an authoritative godly figure in the film, the indication reads a clear perspective through Adelaide. Adelaide gets pissed that Red has shifted places with us and has taken her life above the surface. She fell in love with someone, has a family while Adelaide has to dwell in the darkness, making love to a soulless husband Abraham, giving birth to monsters in the underground. Here, Red is referred as the false idol while Adelaide is the real one but is shunned by the darkness.
There are some interesting elements that we get to see in the film. Red, who has switched places with Adelaide has decided to move forward in her normal life but then keeps making random appearances. She can’t keep her own wrath in her life at the bay and when she comes back into the beach, her dread begins. She keeps on remembering the horror of the past even when she’s the one who has caused it. Her memory of the ghoulish counterpart and how she will come to take away her life is clear making us extremely terrified. On the beach day, she becomes anxious when Jason ducks out of her vision for a while and we can also see her erupt in panic.
In a mindless conversation with her family friends Mrs. Tyler, Red also tells her that he’s not much of talkative person and that she hates talking. This is when we learn how there has been a call back to the consequences of Adelaide’s horror in the funhouse and how she has refused to talk to the parents after reuniting with them. Together, US is a film that everyone of us should watch because of all the intriguing elements it contains and also the horror ride that it takes us through by putting us in an introspection that what it these clones exist for real?