Talented screen-writer and actor, Jordan Peele, just debuted his new movie Us in theaters last week and the box office went crazy. Jordan Peele is fairly new to the horror movie scene but has come in strong from his 2017 presentation of Get Out which grossed $255 million dollars with a $4.5 million dollar budget. Ever since Get Out, Peele’s fans have been anticipating his newest horror film.
While I consider myself one of these fans, I do feel like this anticipation took somewhat of a negative effect on viewers. With Get Out being the predecessor for this film, it is assumed that Jordan Peele embeds all of his movies with hidden messages or anecdotes for the viewer to compare with real life societal problems. Unfortunately for me, this idea took away from the overall plot of the movie. I spent the entirety of the film looking for a deeper meaning hidden between the lines, which may or may not have existed. There’s really no way to solve this problem, because after a great film like Get Out how could I go in with no expectations? However in the same breath, anticipating a deeper meaning made me over-analyze every part of the plot. Could Jordan Peele create a film with no underlying message? If so, would we still try to find a message within the film?
This brings me to some of the stories that we read in Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of African American History. Many of the authors that we came across had a unique style of writing and placed intricacies within their poems and stories that required deeper interpretation. After reading a few of the pieces in this anthology, I developed an expectation that there was an underlying meaning in each of the works and because of this I began to notice that I was no longer reading the piece thoroughly in its essence because I was more in search of a deeper meaning. What I took from this realization is that while I want to understand the message that the author is relaying, it is still important to observe the vehicle by which they are providing the message. For me this means sometimes re-reading or re-watching a work. The first time for a general understanding and the second time for a deeper interpretation.
Peele’s film is definitely something that I will have to re-watch now, especially considering that I missed so much of the plot because I was focussed on grasping the concepts that the blogs assured me I would capture. Peele himself said, “This movie’s about maybe the monster is you. It’s about us, looking at ourselves as individuals and as a group.” Of course after this statement the blogs went crazy with “understandings” of racism and conspiracy, but did Peele’s true message get through, or did the ideas of the viewers blind them from the deeper understanding that was intended by Peele.
The idea of holding expectation to Peele’s films and having to re-watch the films in order to understand his message brings the idea of repetition to mind. James A. Snead discusses the overall nature of repetition and specifically the repetition of culture by saying:
“Apart from revealing or secreting the repetitions of material existence, a third response is possible: to own that repetition has occurred but that, given a “quality of difference” compared to what has come before, it has become not exactly a “repetition,” but rather a “progression,” if positive, or a “regression,” if negative.”
I truly believe that this quote is meaningful in regards to the viewers holding expectation to Peele’s films. Ultimately as viewers we need to understand that while we may expect a repeated theme or meaning in his films, we need to also respect that there is individuality in each of his works that make them different. A progression, if positive, and a regression if negative.