Why Jordan Peele’s US Movie has Inequality Written all Over It

Theme song from the US movie

Any literary fanatic knows that the technique of recurrent motifs in a work of art be it literary or visual is a way of sending home an idea.

Motif – In a literary work, a motif can be seen as an image, sound, action, or other figure that has a symbolic significance, and contributes toward the development of a theme. … In a literary piece, a motif is a recurrent image, idea, or symbol that develops or explains a theme, while a theme is a central idea or message.

The Image of the Bunny

The movie opens with a shot that enlargens as viewers are brought from the image of the pink eye of a bunny to a larger frame containing a good number of bunnies all stuck apathetically behind the iron mesh of individual cages they are kept in.

Question – So how does a bunny connect with the idea of inequality?

Answer – All the bunnies are white, and stuck either inside the cages they are assigned or freely wandering in the rabbit hole in which the minions ( whose doppelgangers are up above on the earth are located ). The color white is a symbol of innocence, and purity. The bunnies are victims of their situation, are powerless and incapable of doing anything except wander. The use of an even color for all the bunnies symbolises the sameness of all the bunnies, their sameness does not only stop at their color, their sameness is seen in their collective lot; they are all trapped in the rabbit hole or the cages. At some point, we are unable to quite distinguish between the bunnies and the doppelgangers that remain in the underworld with the bunnies, who represents who? do the bunnies represent the puppetted humans or do the puppetted humans become an extension of the bunnies?

A bunny is an animal that can connotatively be linked with docility, apathy and indifference. Ever seen a bunny eating mindlessly? They eat as though they do not even care about the food itself; I’m yet to encounter a bunny that has been aggressive or that has tried to exit its circumstances or act in any kind of proactive way. In the same vein, a rabbit hole denotatively defines as a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself. ( credit Google ) The puppetted humans are trapped in an underground area with the rabbits; this underground area which is nestled beneath a lone house on a beach is a place of chaos, brainless and idiotic repetition and confusion. The tethered remain down the rabbit hole and for the rest of their lives, are subjected to only doing exactly what their copies do on earth. The camera shows us many a person that simply repeats exactly what their earthly copy does without a will to stop or break out of it. The people trapped in here seem to be a part of an entire calculated system that is designed to keep them there; the cages of the bunnies are a larger symbol of the prison of a carbon copy life these people are subjected to. The bunnies in their own terms also hop around the area without any particular direction or purpose in mind. This repetitive system and bubble that these beings are trapped in mirror a system that is designed to keep people below and hopeless. The people like these bunnies being the puppets they are will forever be unable to leave the shackles of their situation ( cages/rabbit hole). Which is why when they get the chance to leave their circumstances, they come out with a lot of little bit of contempt to trade places with their alter egos who by living their lives have subjected these minions to suffering.

Aimless bunnies in the rabbit hole

A Reversal that is Born out of Contempt

To start quite tragically, the people on earth who by living their daily lives deprive the tethered of will and choice do not even know of the existence of their suffering doppelgangers. The tethered – The very name of the alter egos indicate a deprivation of will. To be tethered translates into being tied or bound to a thing or person out of compulsion. Adelaide’s tethered often describes herself as the shadow of Adelaide. How then can a person separate themselves from their shadow? It is the impossibility of this separation that irks the tethered and makes them exact revenge on the earthlings because as we see, the very existence of the earthlings guarantees an endless suffering for the tethered. In Red’s ( Adelaide’s alter ego’s) narration of her life, we see a binary that is deeply soiled with inequality. While Adelaide enjoys a warm bed and gifts and love, Red barely lives, enduring what she is dealt which is the exact opposite of what Adelaide enjoys. The first thing that gives a brash indication of the stark message Peele wishes to send across comes through when Adelaide asks Red who the tethered are; to this question, Red answers, ‘We are Americans’. This answer begs many questions, if they are Americans, and humans at the core of everything, why do they get a different treatment from the other Americans who live freely? Let’s not forget that the protagonist as well as their friends are middle to upper middle class families who can afford a vacation, a vacation home, a yacht and other luxuries. Gabe is college educated from his overly apparent alumnus Howard sweater and his taste for the finer things in life which pushes him onto an unhealthy need to rub shoulders with his wealthy White friend whose wife is as vain as a peacock. These are a cohort of people whose concerns exceed the mundane and painful lot of living as a puppet ( which is the fate of the Reds so to speak).

Also interesting is the fact that the movie commences with the obvious message of a humanitarian organization ( Hands across America ) that is known for its 1986 protest of a people connected hand in hand in a solidarity statement to end poverty, homelessness and hunger. In the US movie, it is no longer regular people that hold hands, it is the Reds that hold hands perhaps to protest inequality. After all, what is the aim of standing in solidarity and unison with connected hands if not to support each other? The imagery of this human connectedness is cast in such dramatic irony when we realize that Peele’s characters are everything but connected. Like in modern society, they remain apart and far from connected while one group suffers and another ‘lives’

Follow theAffickyPodcast for an extensive conversation on what the movie meant for us 🙂

Author: Efua R. Armstrong

Efua is from Ghana and wants to use compelling writing to influence minds in the areas of gender and sexuality as well as socio-cultural issues unfolding in the African continent. While sitting through a speech by a professor at Kenyon College, I agreed with the idea that the limitations of the human mind aren't necessarily burdens but gifts! I couldn't agree more! I am curious and love to process and reexamine information. I also have absolutely no restraints in admitting that I don't have all the answers or that I am still thinking about something. I feel this is the beauty of life; we do not have all the answers, but we should not stop asking questions! Go ahead and leave me a message!

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