Jordan Peele’s “Us” not only kept me on the edge of my seat but also puzzling over what this movie was really about.
And then it hit me. It was right in our faces the entire time.
“Us” is about the duality of Michael Jackson’s personality: The man and the monster.
This blog is not here to determine the guilt or innocence of Michael Jackson. However, Jordan Peele lays a trail of breadcrumbs that even Hansel and Gretel could follow.
In a recent interview, Mr. Peele says that “This movie’s about maybe the monster is you.” What he doesn’t say is that monster is revealed through the person of Michael Jackson.
Let me break it down for you.
Early in the film, the young Adelaide Wilson is given a Thriller t-shirt by her father at the Santa Cruz boardwalk. This firmly establishes the presence of Michael Jackson in the film.
The monsters are all wearing red jump suits, reminiscent of Jackson’s signature red outfit in the Thriller music video.
One of MJ’s monster hits was “Man in the Mirror,” clearly referenced through the mirror sequence in the fun house. Michael sang “I'm starting with the man in the mirror… I'm asking him to change his ways.” But did he?
The Home Alone Connection
The movie Home Alone was a great source of humor in the film. But there’s nothing funny about MJ’s apparent obsession with the young star of the movie - Macauley Culkin - back in the 1980s. Macauley has admitted that he slept in the same bed with MJ, although he denies that he was ever sexually abused.
And it goes even a level deeper. When the family arrives at their cabin, you can see a VHS copy of the movie C.H.U.D. on the shelf. In the movie C.H.U.D., creatures inhabit the sewers of New York City. The movie stars Daniel Stern, who was played one of the Wet Bandits alongside Joe Pesci in – you guessed it – Home Alone.
The Number 11
A very scary dude holding a sign with Jeremiah 11:11 written on it provides a lasting image from Us. In case you haven’t looked it up, here’s the text from the Bible: “Therefore this is what the Lord says: 'I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.’ ” (NIV).
Sure – that’s pretty straightforward and doggone frightening, right?
But the Number 11 has a direct correlation to Macauley Culkin. The child star was 11 years old when Jackson’s obsession was in full swing. Macauley starred in Michael Jackson’s “Black & White” music video in 1991 – the year he turned 11.
Jordan Peele’s use of the number of 11 was masterful, but even more so when we see how he links it back to Michael’s obsession with children.
Rabbits have routinely been used for medical experiments for many years. And of course, they breed prodigiously. And it would be easy to connect those dots with the use of rabbits in Us.
However, watch Michael Jackson’s music video “Speed Trap” (Moonwalker), in which Michael transforms into a digital rabbit. What Jordan Peele is telling us here is that Michael could transform between the seemingly benign bunny to a monster more rapidly that a bunny can reproduce.
Hands Across America
I really puzzled over the whole “Hands Across America” reference to the movie until I did some further reading. And there it was on Wikipedia and other online sources.
Yes, Michael Jackson participated in the 1986 event in Youngstown, Ohio.
You have to wonder if Jordan Peele delighted in the name of the city where Michael Jackson made his Hands Across America appearance.