VALDEZ: Peele’s “Us” comments on our human nature

Opinion Column: The Power of An Open Mind

Over spring break, I intended to let my brain rest as much as possible. After two months of constant assignments and exams, it was time to relax. There were two rules I imposed upon myself: do not do homework of any kind and do not do anything stressful.

Unfortunately, Jordan Peele’s new movie “Us” completely destroyed any chance I had of following the second rule. I had read the synopsis before watching it, so I knew it was going to be a wild experience. That being said, I am not easily freaked out by films, so I assumed I would easily get through it.

Boy, was I wrong. Without spoiling anything, I will tell you this: If you are looking for a light, easy-to-digest movie, this is not the one for you. With constant jump scares, bloody violence and creepy-looking characters, it had me sweating a bit. There was one thing, though, that separated it from any other film I had ever seen. The villains looked like the good guys!

Clearly, Peele likes to make movies that make you think critically about society. “Get Out” was a thought-provoking perspective on racial dynamics in America and was impressive for his debut. But “Us” was entirely different. Personally, I interpreted it as a representation of humans: Everyone has a good and bad side. My dad said it was a metaphor for “people fighting their inner demons,” and I could not agree more. 

The basic premise of the movie is that a family of four is attacked at their vacation house, and each attacker resembles one of them. The mother in the attacking family looks like the mother in the innocent family, and so on. The violent scenes literally resembled people fighting clones of themselves. It begged the question: Why would Peele make the film this way?

The whole movie made me think of someone fighting off the urge to do something they know they should not be doing. For example, let us say a college student has an essay due soon, and they have not started. They could easily plagiarize to get the assignment done faster, but they know it is morally wrong. Not only that, it could end up backfiring on them. If they get caught, they could fail the class and possibly get suspended or expelled. This internal debate is what Peele symbolizes through his freaky-looking villains and resilient protagonists. 

The brilliance of the movie is that the concept can be applied to an infinite amount of real-world situations. A former drug user constantly fighting the urge to relapse, or a university considering taking a bribe to admit a student into the school. Every minute of every day, there is constantly someone in this kind of dilemma. Surely, you have gone through plenty of them as well. The main question is, do you give into the side of you that you know is wrong? 

I will be the first admit that I have done so before. I am pretty sure that most people do at some point in their lives. After all, humans are imperfect beings. Sometimes, we make the choice that others would frown upon. Rather than be ashamed, though, I believe the best thing to do is to learn from mistakes. Whatever it was, accept that you made the wrong choice and move on. Promise yourself that next time, you will listen to the part of you that wants to do the right thing.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which side you want to present to people. If you make too many bad choices in public, you could end up ruining your reputation. Even if you do not get exposed right away, it could happen at any point. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein come to mind. I am sure they both have good sides to them, but they were not strong enough to fight their horrifying impulses. Now, their bad sides will be what they are remembered for.

Thankfully, though, there are plenty of people who will be remembered for their good deeds and inspiring actions. From Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, to Martin Luther King Jr. risking his life to deliver his “I have a dream” speech, the list goes on. You would be naïve to think that they were perfect human beings who made the right choice in every situation of their lives. 

The difference between good and bad people, though, is that the good people have the strength to fight off the side of them that wants to make the wrong choice. Which type of person will you be remembered as?

Josh Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring   in journalism and media studies and minoring in creative writing. His   column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” runs on alternate Thursdays.


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