* For this week, I am going to share my “takeaway” from Jordan Peele’s 2019 American psychological horror film, Us, which we covered for the 19th episode of our podcast. You can check it out if you would like to hear more about the movie itself and any plot points that you’re curious about or if you would like to hear our conversation that develops a variety of themes throughout. I hope you enjoy thinking critically about the content! Feel free to comment, share any thoughts, or leave information on whatever movies you would like to hear about in the future!
Plot summary: “Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.”
This film is so rich with symbolism and themes that it’s hard to write a short blog post about all that the it holds within, so if you can’t stomach a suspenseful movie (similar to an M. Night Shyamalan film), you can listen in on our conversation on the podcast to get a deeper look. Regardless, if you have no knowledge of what the movie contains, it will be very hard for you to appreciate the depth and nuance of any takeaways.
However, I can’t help but want to share my thoughts about the spiritual take on this film. It’s an incredible story that leans so effectively into the duality of each person’s inner-life that I would almost guess it were a Christian movie in the first place. And as it leans into the horror/thriller/suspense genre, it ‘ups-the-ante’ in order to gain our attention and show the necessity of contemplating these deeper themes.
Without focusing too much on the details of the film, the story revolves around a battle between two aspects of the same person – one is above-ground and the other is below-ground. In nearly every way, they are identical except for a few details.
The above-ground version of the person is what we see when looking at any of the people in our circles. They are the typical American family and dress in everyday clothing. They are relatable and ordinary.
In contrast, the below-ground version of the person is always dressed in a red jumpsuit with a single driving glove and oftentimes, they carry a pair of large, golden scissors. There are details about their physical appearance that are unsettling and menacing, and yet they are undoubtedly a twin of their above-ground counterpart. They are violent. They are bent on “untethering” themselves from their twin above-ground. In other words, they are bent on destroying the other version so that they will be the only to remain, possibly retaining the single soul that both entities share.
I know this is very confusing, but metaphors and allegories often are when one is unable to see it fleshed out for themselves. However, the allegory is incredibly powerful because it calls back to the confrontation between the spirit and the flesh within each of us. Romans 7:15-20 comes to mind –
15 For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 However, if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, that the Law is good. 17 But now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.
Are you following!? Maybe not? Perhaps Paul is struggling to convey the inner-conflict that is so hard to put to words, just as this film is attempting to do. He gives us a view into how hard it is, even for someone as dedicated as himself to the things of God, when we do the things we don’t want to do – the things that we know are good and right and just. It’s so easy for us not to do the things we want to because we’re weak. Yes, we all find ourselves with this flesh-drive within ourselves that is predisposed to sin.
However, God’s glory is what comes to the forefront when we’ve been gifted the Spirit of God. As we do our good works here on this earth, it is not to earn salvation and it is not simply to benefit mankind. It is to show gratitude to the One who created all things and gave us His Life. Though, like Paul, we do not do this perfectly, God does choose to use us to do good in the world in His name and by His Spirit.
So this film can show us, in the real world and in a dramatized and very sobering way, what the fight between the flesh and the Spirit looks like within each of us. Peele so beautifully, in this secular movie, is presenting that life is about an internal fight between the good and evil and whichever is stronger will win out. But for those who know Him, Jesus has won the war on the cross and the flesh will ultimately lose. In Romans 6:14 and 2 Corinthians 2:14, we read that “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace… thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
When this battle between good and evil happens without the power of God, it ends like the movie. Incredibly ambiguous with a massive sense of discomfort that this fight is not over. But when Jesus has won the war, there is no ambiguity and we can actually have peace.
I’m sorry that this blog post might fall incredibly short because I can’t adequately convey the artistry that went in to this bit of story-telling. But, in the least, we can see how – yes – even the horror genre (and perhaps especially the horror genre) can illustrate how threatening the darkness can be and how desperately we need the light. We can critically engage the entertainment industry and see that Christians and non-Christians alike have this calling within ourselves to tell the same stories. To desire that good ultimately wins. To seek out opportunities to celebrate when light shines through the haze of fear and we find the security we seek in the end. Us is just one more of these films and it teaches us how to understand the complexity of the fight between good and evil, even when it occurs within ourselves because we all need a Savior to rescue us in the end.
You can find our podcast at the following link: https://behindthesilverscreen.buzzsprout.com/
Love you all,