“Us” written by the new king of suspense, Jordan Peele, is a chilling story about a family embarking on a dark journey to Santa Cruz as unexplainable situations start to arise upon their arrival to the boardwalk. There are many theories about the overall meaning to the movie, but could the underlying message be a warning to the United States to take care of our homeless hunger crisis?
One of the many recurring references in the movie is Hands Across America. The main action that symbolized the movement was for people to hold hands literally across the country to stop hunger. Ken Kragen, the creator of Hands Across America as well as We Are The World commented on the inspiration of the event on the Oprah show saying, “...it’s time for America: we gotta do something here. It’s nice to take care of the rest of the world, but we’ve got our own problems here to deal with.” Held on May 25th, 1986, a recorded 6.5 million people linked hands. People paid 10 dollars to be part of the human chain. They gave 15 million to charities that help fight homelessness.
According to statistics given by Endhomelessness.org, in California alone, 129,972 people experienced homelessness last year. That’s 33 people for 10,000 people in the general population. Within the top 10 states with high homeless rates, California places at number 1 while Illinois places tenth with 10,643 homeless people. In terms of the hungry, one in six children is facing hunger in the U.S. The federal poverty level was $25,750 for a family of four last year, and more than 12 million children live in food insecure homes, according to No Kid Hungry. Hunger and homelessness are often intertwined, making it harder for people living in the streets to get the help that they need.
The supposed villains of the movie, the tethered, represent a group of people that have been forgotten and placed underground while their originals lived above them. Red speaks to Adelaide about how the tethered chose her to be their leader, to lead them to their freedom. In the movie, there is a man with a piece of cardboard that says Jerimiah 11:11. This bible verse from the old testament chapter, it says “Therefore thus saith the Lord, behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.”
Essentially, they are disenfranchised, having to survive off of raw rabbit and never talking. It’s the blind leading the blind. Red had humanized her fellow tethered, by stating that they and those living above had the same anatomy that did the same things the body does. We have fingers, toes, we feel and we bleed.
As the family is driving away along the highway, the tethered are shown holding hands in a line, side by side, over hills and valleys, being filmed from above by news helicopters. It can be inferred that they do the gesture to mock the initiative of Hands Across America, as Peele says about the event, “Hands Across America was this idea of America optimism and hope, and Ronald Reagan--style-we-can-get-things-done-if-we-just-holds-hands. It’s a great gesture,but you can’t actually cure hunger and all that.” The result is in the tethered taking the power into their hands to earn their freedom and live in the outside world.
People can only take so much before they lash out. Our country has had homeless and hungry people for a long time. There are those that are struggling to survive, whether young or old, male or female or non-binary. It’s important that we are aware of our privileges, the roofs over our head, the clothes on our backs, and the food on our plates. You never know who is willing to do anything to take your place above ground.