25 March 2019

We Need To Talk About Us

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Usually when you leave the cinema and the person you're with says that they want to talk “about us” it means that you shouldn't have hidden your dick at the bottom of the popcorn box. With Jordan Peele's latest movie Us though, the very fact that most people will be leaving the cinema and saying “we need to talk about Us”, is pretty much what makes it so brilliant. Us is a Rorschach test of a movie in that it gives enough for you to know that there's a subtext but not so much that the subtext is branded onto your bollocks and obvious for everyone to see. It's the kind of movie that'll live on because everybody will have their own theory as to what it's actually about with 'duality' being the only thing that I suspect that we'll all agree on. The film seems obsessed with the idea that one single thing can hold two opposing meanings or ideals with the broader message being that we can be our own worst enemies. So when you're leaving the cinema and the person you're with says, “we need to talk about us”, there's always the chance that they mean, “I'd like to talk about the themes of the film we've just seen”, whist at the same time also meaning, “plus you're dumped for putting your dick in the popcorn box”.

Us begins in the mid-'80s with a young girl winning a Michael Jackson T-shirt at one of those boardwalk carnival things and for me, this was key to interpreting one of the themes of the film. From here, the little girl gets lost, ends up alone in a funhouse, and finds herself face to face with what she perceives to be an evil replica of her exact self. I actually saw my own doppelgänger in a public bathroom a few years back however instead of feeling fear I found myself highly aroused and considering turning gay until realising that I was the slightly better looking of the both of us and determined therefore that I was completely out of his league. When the little girl grows up into Lupita Nyong'o, she and her family find themselves back in that exact spot that she'd been as a child but with the doppelgänger having now also returned with exact replicas of her entire family. Rather than my cheerful experience of seeing my look-a-like and realising that I'm unquestionably better looking than at least one other human on this planet, what Nyongo and her family experience is somewhat less pleasant. Wearing matching red uniforms, expressing limited ability for small talk, and hellbent on stabbing Nyong'o and her family with a pair of scissors, the doubles are like trainee barbers with a massive fucking attitude problem. They also live underground and live on a diet of raw rabbit which is pretty much how I imagine Trump and the Tories assume poor people survive the winters. 

I mention that fat bloated piss-bag of a president and our own Government of champagne quaffing fucktrumpets because right now it seems that the world has gone to actual shit. This has caused people to read Us in multiple ways with one popular theory being that the emergence of the doubles represents the rise of the hard-right that had lived amongst us all along. Others, however, see the film as a comment on the class system with Nyong'o's family representing those that live in privilege at the expense of the suppression of the doubles who obviously symbolise those less fortunate. The film also constantly makes reference to that 'Hands Across America' thing which was a charitable event from the mid-'80s in which a load of well-meaning people achieved fuck all but made themselves feel better about poverty in the process. Because of this, it plays really well into the theme of the film of duality with the event being both a symbol of humanity coming together to do good whilst also representing what some people call, 'a failed American experiment'. There's definitely a lot more to be said about that last phrase and how it plays into Us but that would be a rabbit hole of spoilers and I loved this film so much that I wouldn't want to ruin a single fucking second of it for anybody. This duality that Hands Across America has is also where Michael Jackson comes into this film for me with some people holding him up to an almost God-like status and others seeing him as being nothing more than an opportunistic and devious child-molester.

Coincidentally, this film has been released at the exact same time that the Leaving Neverland documentary has aired around the world causing Jackson's reputation to once again come under fire. Having watched the documentary and then gone online to see the response it seems that most people have fallen into one of two camps. Either they think “I heard a sad story in a documentary and so Jackson is a monster”, or they think “There's no way that Jackson could be a monster because I love Thriller”. Personally, I haven't any idea about Jackson's guilt although if I had no clue as to who he was and you showed me a photo of him then I reckon my brain would probably fucking scream the word “nonce”. Throughout the whole debate though it seemed to escape peoples imagination that it might be possible for somebody to be capable of both immense evil and yet still be able to provide such joy to the world. It also seems almost daily too now that a celebrity will be outed as having been a 'monster' whether it be Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, or even the 'who hit who?' Punch And Judy marriage of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. In Us, Lupita Nyong'o and her family play both the main characters and their psychotic doubles in a not too subtle metaphor about our monsters having familiar faces. It's also worth noting that, like Nyong'o was aware of her double since her childhood, we've all known about the Jackson allegations since the '90s but chosen to ignore this monstrous duality allowing it to fester and re-emerge years later like the smell in a fart-soaked cushion.

Also, I know a guy that once thought a double cheeseburger was called a double cheeseburger because it was a single burger but with double cheese on it. According to an online IQ test, he's also about average intelligence which is fucking worrying but completely expected because our species is fucking thick. We like things simple and the idea that somebody is either a good-y or a badd-y is easier to accept that the simple fact that everybody, including ourselves, are all just different shades of grey. This becomes particularly apparent as Us goes on and Nyong'o and her family respond to their doppelgängers with equal brutality to the point that you might start to question if either side is more evil than the other or if that darkness is something inside of both parties. Although there's obviously no defence for a celebrity that has abused anybody in real life, the twitter mob does seem a little out of control these days with it passionately destroying the lives and careers of people for even the smallest of comments. In the way that you might start to question the violent retaliation of the family in Us, I sometimes wonder if some individuals of the twitter mob act with this righteous indignation to distract from the fact that they're not completely perfect either. Kind of like Jackson donating to children's charities before abusing them when he manages to get them home alone. Or maybe the little girl at the start of Us simply won a Michael Jackson T-shirt on the boardwalk because that was the year Thriller came out and I've simply read way to fucking much into it. Whatever. 

Whether Peele intended the entire film to be a comment on Michael Jackson, celebrity culture, and our own three dimensionality as human beings is irrelevant. In fact it goes back to my original point that the genius of the film is to give you enough subtext to chew on without it being rammed down your throat like a night at the Neverland Ranch. I'm sure that there will be a million more people with a million better and more in-depth analysis of the film in relation to our society than the morality of a freaky-faced pop-star and any other number of dull celebrities. I'm also sure that Us is the kind of movie that's so layered with meaning that we'll still be finding ideas and easter eggs in it for years to come. Regardless of whatever the whole thing might be about too, it's also worth saying that it's a really, really great horror movie on top of that. It's incredibly cineliterate whether it's riffing on The Shining, The Birds, or Jaws. In fact, there's one scene at the beach in which one of the kids is wearing a Jaws T-shirt like a psychopath as if to remind everybody not to have fun in the sea because they could all die a gruesome fucking death at any second. Whether you find it scary will obviously be down to your tolerance of scary films although it managed to make the cinema I was in scream over and over again. Although it was a room of mostly young girls who were seeing it with just the one guy and so I guess there's always a chance that they were screaming as he went along the row in an effort to find that one girl that might appreciate his dick in the popcorn box trick. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time. 

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