Overanalyzing Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’

From Michael Jackson to Eyeglasses, even the smallest props have meanings.

Lucas Chae 🌳
8 min readApr 4, 2019

Feel free to listen to the Original Score as you read for a heightened experience.

*Contains Spoilers*

One of the most anticipated horror films in history is finally here. Jordan Peele’s Us claimed the title for the biggest opening weekend for an original horror movie at $70.3 million, and rightfully so.

Saturated colors— Neon lights, the ocean, forests, fire, blood gushing out from the slit of Elisabeth Moss’s throat —were horrendous joys to the eyes. Even the smallest details like the way doppelgängers walk (and Zora’s insanely creepy smile) gave pleasant discomfort throughout the movie.

Us hits a home run with the soundtrack, from a genius horror adaption of ‘I got 5 on it’ to a chilling original song ‘anthem’. One Youtube comment said “this song creeps me out to an unexplainable level but at the very same time it’s kind of addictive and I want to listen to it over and over again”

After watching it twice, and some discussions with friends, I felt like we have dissected some of the most important themes of the movie; some already discussed in other reviews, some we have not read anywhere else.

1. Jason and Pluto: The Most Successful Specimens.


It’s pretty clear that the doppelgängers share each other’s traits. Cloned Josh is still a jokester, cloned Zora is still a runner, cloned Adelaide is still a fighter. But nobody is as synchronized as Jason and Pluto. They copy each other’s movements and they’re the only ones who seem to “understand” each other.

The clone controlling the original

But most importantly, it seemed like the failed government project’s goal — to have the clones control the originals on the surface — might have been achieved with Pluto and Jason. Pluto wears a sack on his face to hide his burn scars. Jason also wears a mask, for no apparent reason at all. The most plausible explanation is that Pluto’s habit of covering up his face has influenced Jason to wear a mask. Another promising evidence is that Jason builds a tunnel at the beach instead of a much more common sand castle. Coincidence? I think not. It is likely that Pluto’s knowledge of an underground tunnel affected Jason to be inclined to build a similar structure. Following this theory, it explains why they seem to be in more sync than others: the telepathic interaction works both ways between the two boys.


Does Jason know Adelaide is a tethered?

The telepathic connection further explains Jason’s nonchalant behavior to shriek-inducing situations. Jason was the first to spot the clones outside of the house yet he reacted completely aloof with the famous line “There’s a family in our driveway”. His blank facial expression as he witnesses his mother smashing another human’s head was more than bizarre. Jason looking at Adelaide in the final scene probably depicts that Jason, who subconsciously shares Pluto’s knowledge, is aware that Adelaide is actually a clone.

2. Kitty Tyler’s Clone (Dahlia) Cutting Her Own Face.


After Dahlia slashes Kitty’s throat, she goes up to the bedroom and starts putting makeup on. But when Adelaide (chained to the bedframe) makes a noise, Dahlia jumps to her, presses down her cold scissor blades on Adelaide’s face and stares at her for a moment. She then goes back to the mirror, and starts cutting down her own face.

The Tethered Mind

In an earlier scene, Kitty Tyler confesses to getting a plastic surgery. So it’s pretty clear that Dahlia was trying to give herself a plastic surgery using her scissors. But what triggered her in that bedroom, to suddenly ramp up her beauty procedure from putting on makeup to cutting her face?

While Adelaide is held at a scissors-point, the two exchange a deep glance. In some way, the proximity and the “intimacy” reminded me of the short conversation Kitty and Adelaide had on the beach regarding Kitty’s plastic surgery.


Although not as much as Jason and Pluto, we can assume that the minds of all the doppelgängers are tethered (at least in one way) since the clones seemed to already know the lives of the real ones meticulously. Dahlia was probably aware of the conversation between Kitty and Adelaide on the beach, and got reminded of it when she saw Adelaide’s face up close, triggering her to remember the plastic surgery Kitty had received. Seeing Adelaide’s face up close and remembering the conversation was like an epiphany for (equally insecure) Dahlia to fix her face.

3. Subterranean, or Subconscious?

The clones living underground can represent so many things, but my favorite theory is that the embody the subconscious mind and emotions. The clones are characterized by their raw and animalistic behavior. They are also incapable of speech, and tends to show the raw emotion itself. There’s a scene of Dahlia silently crying and laughing like a mime. I thought the picture was really powerful as I saw it as a representation of something very troubling: happiness, tragedy, ecstasy, depression, bipolar. They felt like true deep subconscious emotions that people tend to avoid talking about, thus the inaudible audio.


This theory was also inspired by Sia’s music video Big Girl’s Cry, where Maddie Ziegler makes overly dramatic faces, controlled by the hands behind her head without much voluntary will of her own. It looked like her minds were being controlled by deep disturbing thoughts.

4. Michael Jackson and Duality

The outfit, the lighting, the makeup; the similarities are uncanny. Left: Epic Records — Right: Universal

As Peele says it himself in an interview with Mashable, “Michael Jackson is probably the patron saint of duality”. The very obvious reference to MJ when young Adelaide wears a Thriller t-shirt lays ground for the theme of duality. Just like in Us, Thriller has monsters coming out from underground, and of course the Zombie MJ wears a full red costume just like the Red family. Wearing a half glove on the right hand, looking like two different people (vitiligo), and being alleged of abuse while being a keeper of peace and hope all perfectly add up to the theme of duality.

Just some other smaller things that represent duality,

  • Scissors: Scissors are two blades, tethered together. To make things more interesting, the handles are literally two identical heads that leaning on each other, similar to the Rorschach test-like ink blot in the movie poster.
  • Red frisbee and the shadows: some more obvious depiction of duality. ‘Red’ frisbee replacing the perfectly sized dots, and the shadows of all four family members walking on the beach (the hub) were quite mesmerizing.
  • 11:11: How can we go on without talking about this most prominent feature regarding duality? Apart from the obvious biblical reference, the number also shows syntactic symmetry and appear on the digital clock, live football score from the TV, and on the top of the ambulance.
  • The twins: two identical twins and another pair of identical clones of themselves? I don’t think any more explanation is needed.

5. Eyeglasses — Another Duality and Forgetfulness


The theme of being blinded and forgetful is one of the biggest aspects of the movie, and it is often shown in Gabe’s (Winston Duke) character. He is a chill, fun, and goofy dad who likes to take things less seriously. He is also physically characterized by his poor vision, unable to see clearly when Abraham takes Gabe’s glasses off.


When the family is confronted by their clones in the living room, Gabe does not seem to grasp the fact that they are sitting in front of their clones. Even when the (suspiciously) intuitive Adelaide tries to reason with Gabe , he continues to act blinded. He has a poor vision not just physically, but mentally as well. He represents the people who are presented with clear information yet still is deceived by their close mindedness, just as Zora says “Nobody cares about the end of the world anymore”

But digging in deeper, this could be another representation of duality. In some culture people with near-sightedness, whether physically or mentally, is not considered as seeing less. Instead, they’re considered as seeing things differently, in an alternative way as if their minds exist in a different kind of universe. This further supports the theme of duality as being blind and seeing differently from others can represent existing in a different world.


Adelaide on the other hand, seems to be perfectly clear of what is happening and how to deal with everything unlike Gabe. This contrasting personality adds further to the theme of duality.

However, in the end it turned out that she has been forgetful about her identity for her entire life as well (except for few flashbacks when she see bunnies or hear whistles — Bunny because she used to eat them, whistle because she sang it when she was switched). It represents all the smart people who want to be informed but are affected by information that is inaccurate. In the modern world, with infinite access to data, it is easy to be know and not know at the same time. Just like Red/Adelaide’s life, humans are informed/misinformed, in the shadow/light, and saint/villain at the same time — the ultimate duality in the movie were the humans ourselves.