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Jordan Peele’s Us ignited the box office this weekend, making it the biggest debut for an original horror film—and the biggest debut for a film led by a Black woman. That’s a lot of firsts, but Us also requires second (and third) viewings to sort out all the subtext and Easter eggs. Fan theories and memes abound, of course. But one theory tries to untangle the relationship between Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her son Jason (Evan Alex). (Spoilers ahead, obviously.)
In the film, Adelaide and Jason seem to have a bond—one she doesn’t share with husband Gabe (Winston Duke) or daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). When the family meets their “tethered” in the first act—their slightly altered doppelgängers—only Jason’s double, Pluto, seems to refrain from violence. Instead, they mirror each other’s actions, and Pluto reveals to Jason that he wears his mask to hide a badly burned face. A theory posted to Reddit suggests that, like Adelaide and Red (her double), Jason and Pluto switched places, but more recently.
The theory is supported by a few plot points: The family had previously vacationed at the beach house the year before and when Jason returns he can’t perform his lighter trick (though, as the theory suggests, Pluto was performing it, over and over). Jason was digging a tunnel at the beach, and we know the tethered “live” underground. In the third act, Jason is able to kill Pluto by mirroring his walk into a fire. When he and his mother are both underground after Red kidnaps him, he witnesses her kill Red and emit the guttural sound of the tethered. On the ride away from Santa Cruz, Jason gives his mother a suspicious look, suggesting he knows something is up. But this theory posits that the glance is more knowing, and it goes both ways. Which, of course, could be a reference to the end of the “Thriller” video.
If Jason was swapped only one year ago, how was the tethered version able to learn language so quickly, when they’re shown as pre-verbal? Was Red teaching him in the facility? Or was he swapped much earlier, and that’s why Pluto crawls instead of walks? One commenter asserted that the two boys weren’t swapped; because Jason is part tethered, he’s just a bit more socially awkward, and more attuned, like Adelaide:
The reason Adelaide cares so much when the tethered children die, is because she feels a familiarity to them — They resemble her children and somewhere deep inside she knows what it is like to be a tethered, so each time they are close to death she is emotional.
A theory referenced by Vulture about the rabbit Jason liberated from the underground facility gives a bit more credence to the idea that he and Adelaide are the tethered versions:
I remember thinking about the single rabbit on Jason’s lap at the end believing it was connected to Adelaide getting out and it was her rabbit showing she had escaped, but I had noticed when she was chasing after Red in Merlin’s Forest when she opened the door a rabbit ran out. That rabbit and the one on Jason’s lap would make it two for the entirety of the movie. If these rabbits symbolize the tethered in anyway that would mean two people had escaped, Adelaide and Pluto.
There are many other theories about Us bubbling over on Reddit, and this one is kind of a stretch of the imagination, but after the SXSW debut of the film, Peele said he wanted to get people talking about it. It’s our time now.
- Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ is already a meme gold mine
- Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ is an ambitious horror film that takes a while to digest
H/T A.V. Club
Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.