Pathologies of the poor in Us (U.S.)

Since I seem to be on hiatus–here is an intelligent reading of the social criticism of Us.

Cine qua non

Spoilers ahead.

At a key plot juncture in Jordan Peele’s Us, the Wilsons – headed by Adelaide and
Gabe – are seated alongside kids Zora and Jason, having been violently confronted
by their scissors-wielding doppelgängers. Responding to the natural question of
who are you/what do you want, Adelaide’s croaky twin (titled “Red” in credits) answers:
“We are Americans.”

Without any need for explication (and there isn’t, thanks be), this line directs us to what is a foundationally American story – the story of a vilified “underclass” (this time, in the very literal sense of the word) and the cultural narratives of individual merit and pathology that have been propped up to justify that position. Hands Across America, a Reagan-era campaign launched in 1986 to address national hunger and homelessness through non-profit fundraising and awareness, is featured in the film’s opening shot – a publicity stunt at odds with…

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