First of all, I would like to thank Analiese for her post, specifically because I did not draw the connection between the movie being called “Us” and the U.S. This was something I overlooked on my mission to watch a Jordan Peele movie without carrying expectations of repetitiveness, like I wrote about in my last blog post on anticipation. There are probably plenty of small clues I overlooked in the Peele film. Anyway, I would like to discuss the brilliant comparison of “Us” to “Big Machine.” Both works deal with inner meanings and workings that really do apply to the overall status of American capitalist society. A concept that I think, as college students, we often have the privilege to overlook, even when it is put directly in our line of vision.
I believe that Jordan Peele and Victor LaValle were headed in the same direction when writing the stories that are embedded in both works. Like Analiese mentioned in her post, “those of a lower social class tend to be ignored and cast away, unless something significant happens that can draw the rest of society’s attention.” I both agree and disagree with this point based on LaValle’s storyline of Ricky Rice’s family relationship to the Washerwomen cult. It seems that in some cases, mainstream society is able to display an entire economic class or social group on a worldwide scale and still ignore the problems within it. In many cases, this is represented by a negative light that is cast over a group of people, like the Washerwomen and their followers, that leads to society shunning them or judging them without even addressing the issues that are faced by the people within that group. Ricky Rice speaks about this when he says that the people in his neighborhood were quick to judge the way that his father bought new cars every year while him and his sister were dressed poorly, yet never offered a winter sweater to either of them.
“People used to snap on my father, how could he buy a new car when Daphne and I wore the same clothes for years? But were their hearts really bleeding for the kiddies? None of those concerned citizens ever slipped me a winter sweater. Their worry for the children only masked a patient hostility.” (pg.128)
I particularly like the statement “their worry for the children only masked a patient hostility” because I think it embodies what American philanthropy stands for, providing enough aid and concern that the country as whole is represented positively, but simply to fend off the homeless and underrepresented so that they don’t become a burden to upper class society. I think this is a perfect example of American society choosing what issues get addressed for the purposes of true improvement and which get addressed for the purpose of hiding the truth.
The movie “Us” also highlights the idea of ignoring the underrepresented. The tethered were neglected in an underground, abandoned experimentation center, but interestingly enough they are forced to mimic the actions of the people above ground. This is an interesting concept because are the underrepresented in the U.S. expected to conduct themselves in the same way that the privileged do? Well yes, of course they are and examples of this are shown everyday on the news. Crimes committed by groups of people who are stripped and desolate of resources are highlighted for the crimes they commit “against” the legal system, which is ultimately designed for privileged society. Even though they are not starting from the same platform as the people who are making the laws, they are still expected to willingly abide by them and if they do not, they are imprisoned, hence mass incarceration, and in result suppressing the “patient hostility” of the upper class. I think Jordan Peele captured this idea well by highlighting the way that the family above ground continues to ask their tethered versions “what do you want from us?” It is almost as if they believed that by giving them something material that could sustain them for a short period of time, they would be able to redeem themselves of the inequality that was endured by the tethered for years. That pretty much sums up capitalism as a system.
I also find it interesting that while the majority of the aboveground family is unaware of who the tethered are, it is hinted at the end that one member of the family knew the entire time. This is representative of the way that some members of society are blinded by their privilege, but others are well aware of it and choose to ignore inequality so as long as it doesn’t infringe on their quality of life.
Another important point that I took from this movie was in relation to the beginning of the semester when the class was discussing Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild. I had to carefully assess what I considered to be “human.” Throughout the movie, the tethered are made out to be barbaric and speak a different language than the families they are conflicting with, but does that make them non-humans? Would we like to believe they are not human simply because they are different than the aboveground family? I think that the movie is designed for us to look at them as “other” just the same as some people may look at the homeless or not formally educated people as other. In reality, they are the same as the rest of society, just lacking the resources that some afforded.
Ultimately, both “Us” and “Big Machine” are loaded with deep insight into the making of American society and its ideals. While of course they don’t encompass the feelings of all people in the country, they demonstrate a strong depiction of the majority versus the minority. Both of these works leave me to question what a more effective way of helping people who fall below the poverty line would be, and how this help can be of a sustainable nature as opposed to just appeasing the rich and “masking a patient hostility.”