The movies of today lack one thing – originality. Or perhaps, they lack even more than that. The slew of creative movies that have been released within the past decade are short of phenomenal, and with the emerging of Jordan Peele’s horror movie career, writers today are met with a new challenge to seek new and brilliant concepts that can captivate audiences.
It’s easy to say that we have been desensitized to the world of horror. The amount of people who still run up the stairs after turning off the downstairs lights can be counted on all ten fingers and all ten toes. While some of us love to emerge ourselves in the world of these movies that test our abilities to keep a straight face, others get into the more analytical side and dissect what these movies might be telling us. (More on that later)
It’d be speculation to assume that the end of creativity began with Fifty Shades of Grey. The moment I heard that this publication was a fanfiction, I knew that the line of originality had been erased and redrawn. Fanfiction has been around for over twenty years, and until now has been considered an outlet for fans to reimagine their favorite storylines in their favor. This isn’t to say that fanfiction is not a form of art, but the type of recognition it receives now can be misplaced. Even Twilight, which has been broken down by skeptics, can’t push the limits of creative work, taking characters from Anne Rice novels and other concepts from already respected vampire novels. If you haven’t heard, the newest spectacle and light in the fanfiction world is After, a Harry Styles fanfiction. While this is a fine line, it’s safe to say that this piece of work is definitely more original than Fifty Shades of Grey as it merely takes a public figure and places him in a new storyline. However, the ability to create a new character might be lost in today’s ideas of literary knowledge.
Jordan Peele is reminding us that originality by far has the ability to capture minds in ways that fictional manipulation cannot. After all, it’s these original works that inspire fanfiction and its siblings. While other films have existed with similar themes, like the 2008 film Mirrors in which a separate dimension within mirrors reveals our homicidal twins, Us is less shocking as it is revealing.
Us (if you haven’t seen it) has a couple of different meanings that we can tackle and dissect. The first, and the obvious one just from watching the trailer, is that what we fear the most might be the dark side of ourselves. On the science fiction side, this is to say that every person, good and bad, has a darker side that is, ultimately, much more terrifying. It’s like yin and yang – what we do above ground, as good as it may seem, can be reflected as actions that are the exact opposite to our darker selves.
As Red mentions in one of her first scenes, when her tether received wonderful Christmas presents, toys and sweets, her “shadow” got broken glass that cut her fingers. The tethers are the dark sides of us – the what ifs of receiving all the good in our lives.
The second and more scientific meaning behind the tethers tackles the horror of seeing our doppelgangers – people who are like us in every way except that these people really aren’t us and they’re just plain scary. Peele later revealed that this has been a long-term fear of his, and it shows to what degree in Us.
While this isn’t as much of a societal metaphor as Get Out, it still instills a new fear. Get Out reveals a very obvious fear that is prominent in the world today, but Us is almost a triggering piece of fiction that some might already consider a phobia. Much like a movie such as The Truman Show might have related to those with dissociation, Us shapes that “what if” concept that maybe there is an underground society of mindless clones of all of us, and one day we might just see them.
The power of fiction and the true power of an author lies in the ability to manipulate your audience into thinking that what they just saw might be real, and perhaps this is just a reminder of a nightmare or a dream that we simply forgot.