Us is a movie rich in texture and layered meanings. One that is still being deciphered endlessly. But even with all the observations, theories, and hot takes, there are some less blatant, but ultra important symbols in Us movie you may not have explored yet.
Here, (much like his first film), imagery is key and every detail, done with intention. Including many hidden (and more obvious) easter egg sprinkled throughout. But it’s the deeper symbolism, woven finely into the story, that gives the film its heart and works to (somewhat) tie everything together.
This is a movie where multiple viewing is encouraged. Next time, armed with new knowledge, or perspective, you can return to the story seeking out the signs. Discovering new treasures and symbols is Us movie is party what makes it such a special journey in film.
This article contains lots of spoilers*
11 less blatant but poignant symbols in Us movie:
1. That beach frisbee. Many have mentioned the frisbee’s early appearance as an important coincidence. In fact, you can read much more into it than that. When the frisbee lands on the spotted beach towel, it lands perfectly on a dot. One circle covers the other like a shadow. It’s also a call out to the terror lurking below, but beyond that we can even extract a deeper meaning. The frisbee represents a mobile thing that is free to fly around, while the dot where it lands is stagnant and unmoving. This is a perfect parallel to the tethered and those who walk free. In Us, almost everything, from siblings, to scissors, the time, mirrored images, and more addresses the notion of duality.
2. Michael Jackson’s thriller. In 1986, young Adelaide sports a Thriller t- shirt her father wins for her at the boardwalk. This is yet another reference to doubles. Peele has mentioned Jackson’s thriller video, where he famously turns from high school boy to monster as one of his inspirations. There are other underlying ideas here that relate to our hidden, darker sides, but we’ll leave that alone.
3. The Lost Boys double meaning. Peele hid the 1987 cult classic inside Us in more ways than one. For starters, the Santa Cruz boardwalk setting. In ’86 Adelaide’s mother addresses this trivia at one point, mentioning that they’re filming ‘a movie’ nearby. But there is another takeaway from the usage of Lost Boys beyond just easter eggs. Once again, like so many symbols in Us movie, this represents a two sided theme. Vampires, who are essentially blood thirsty twins of themselves.
4. Fashion choices. All the symbols in Us movie mean something, and the wardrobe choices are no exception. Right down to the placement of Jason’s Jaws shirt. Besides being hugely inspired by Spielberg’s classic there are other clear parallels to a movie where terror lurks just below the surface.
Later, Zora sports a short sleeve sweatshirt that reads Tho, which just so happens to mean rabbit in Vietnamese.
And of course there is the monochromatic style of the Tethered. A dark red utilitarian style jump suit that’s functional and fitted. In contrast, Adelaide also wears a uniform look, but it’s loose and off white. A color, it can be argued, that is the palette of choice for femme fatales in film. This adds an interesting layer, considering the fact that Adelaide is technically the true villainess. By the end of the film though, the white is no longer pure, having been stained and blood soaked.
5. The scissors. Scissors play a key role in Us. While it’s never explained how Red obtained quantities of the gorgeous, golden scissors, their presence is deeply significant. Like many of the symbols in Us movie, they too portray an idea of duality. Two separate yet identical pieces that attach in the middle to form one greater being, or tool. It’s also worth noting the handles themselves resemble large bunny ears, a similarity that Peele noted when speaking to the Guardian.
6. Spiders. During the home invasion, a spider crawls across the table, and a similar shadowed shape lurks nearby. This symbolism comes full circle at the end of the movie. Adelaide has overcome Red, and in her final breaths, Red begins to whistle, mimicking young Adelaide in the fun house that night in ’86.
Upon closer inspection, the song Red’s whistling is actually the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Why this is significant can be found within the lyrics of the old poem. A spider, stuck in a pipe climbs his way up into the world despite his odds. This is an allegory for both Red and Adelaide. Red saw an opportunity, switched places with the young girl, and effectively clawed her way to the top, and into a real life. Adelaide on the other hand, condemned to a life below with the tethered also (after decades) found her way back up through the spout. In this case, the spout is a well lit but very mysterious escalator.
7. Jason’s final emotions. Through the film Jason struggles to express himself, a parallel to his mother who also early on, mentions troubles with communicating. Jason and his mom share an important bond. One that, in the end, leads Adelaide down into the tunnels to rescue him from Red. In the film’s final moments when Adelaide’s epiphany comes to light, (that SHE is in fact Red, and not the real Adelaide) we see Jason both observe and simultaneously understand her internal dialogue. Just like his mom, he too seems to know.
However, while this moment has been examined (is Adelaide just remembering the truth, or did she know it all along? Personally, I think the latter) there’s a earlier moment that speaks to Jason’s understanding of the truth. After killing Red, Adelaide saves him, but Jason doesn’t seem to feel safe, despite being back in his mom’s arms. When she goes to interlock fingers with him (an act we watched the two engage in earlier) he doesn’t move willingly, so she essentially forces his hand, urging him to feel safe. In retrospect, this moment seems to imply that not only was Jason weary of his mother, he already knew her true identity.
8. Adelaide’s instincts. Adelaide’s number one concern is the safety of her children. Yet, when reacting to the death of both Pluto, and Umbrae she expresses a vulnerability that feels meaningful. These are the evil doppelgängers of her own kids and yet there is a clear connection between Adelaide and the tethered children.
9. I got 5 on it. The song has seen a resurgence since its prominence in Us, and its haunting sounds are the perfect melody to get in your head. But the song’s placement is quite deliberate. Not only for tone, but the lyrics. I got five on it literally refers to two people essentially splitting something in two and sharing it, (in this case, not a soul or spirit, but a dime bag).
10. The color red. The color red has long been seen to personify power, and it’s usage throughout Us is pertinent. Our first introduction to it comes in the film’s opening flashback. Young Adelaide carries a blood red candy apple through the boardwalk. Shortly after, we’re taken to the current day where grown up Adelaide and her family are heading back to the beach. While they all down food, she instead munches on a strawberry. Again, a subtle tie in with the bold color.
Lastly, back to those jumpsuits. Red dons the dark colored one piece evoking a strong presence. In the daylight, she expertly camouflages herself with a nearby red car in order to kidnap Jason. This moment is is one of the most beautiful, and brilliantly depicted scenes in the whole film.
11. Zora’s conspiracy comment. In the earliest scenes of the film while the Wilson family drive to the beach, daughter Zora tells everyone that the government is “putting fluoride in the water”. It’s a small, subtle comment, which can be chalked up to the intense mind of a teenage girl. Later, we can note its darker undertones and foreshadowing.
What images or symbols in Us movie are your favorite?