Despite its mere $20 million production budget, Jordan Peele’s Us has already earned an impressive $174.5 million worldwide making it one of the most successful, original horror flicks in recent years. Not only is this is a successful movie but a well thought out one as well. On top of Peele’s impeccable directing, there are cleverly placed Easter Eggs everywhere to keep viewers on their toes. With everything appearing to have some sort of meaning behind it from the title to wardrobe and background items, it isn’t a stretch to wonder if the character’s names hold some sort of significance too.
If you’ve seen the movie you know the Tethered are just like their doubles in every way. They look like them and think like them with the only real difference- you know, apart from the murderous tenancies- being their names. While we may never know how the doppelgängers got their names in the first place, it’s still interesting to look into the meaning behind them and how they differ from the names of their Earthly doubles. Let’s take a closer look.
The name Adelaide means “noble” or “nobility.” In the movie, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is referred to as meeting her “prince” by Red when she sits the Wilson’s down to tell the story of her life with the Tethered. Another interesting thing to point out is that Adelaide is also the capital of South Australia. Literally Down Under, get it? Could this be a potential hint that character we believe to be the real Adelaide is not who she appears to be?
Apart from being the color of the uniforms the Tethered wear, the name Red is a little harder to pin point. It could be a nod to the 1697 folktale Little Red Riding Hood, a story about a little girl who ventures off alone before encountering something evil that looks like a person but isn’t. It could also be more obvious than that. Red also represents anger, danger and it’s the color of blood. And there is plenty of blood in this movie.
Assuming Gabe (Winston Duke) is short for Gabriel, it could be a reference to the archangel that takes a lead role in the Annunciation where Gabriel appears on Earth to make an annoucment for God. The name also means “strong man” in Hebrew.
Meaning “father of many”, Abraham also played a role in the Annunciation as one of the recipients of the baby the archangel announced. Later, Abraham shows murderous tendencies of his own when he is told by God to murder his own child. And nearly did it. Also, “Abe” and “Gabe” rhyme. Was this on purpose? I hope so. Because it’s funny.
The Wilson’s eldest child, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), has a name of Slavic origin that means “dawn’, the furthest point from the dark.
In direct contrast to Zora, Umbrae’s name comes from the Latin word for “shadow”. Light. Dark. Pretty straight forward.
While Jason (Evan Alex) has a common name, horror fans might notice the potential nod to the villain of the Friday the 13th franchise, Jason Voorhees. Not only do they share the same name but they also share a love of hiding their faces, both wearing masks the majority of their screen time in their respective movies. Meaning “healer” in Greek, Jason’s name could also be a reference to the leader of the Argonauts who traveled too far to obtain the Golden Fleece, avoided being murdered and went toe to toe with a fire breathing bull without being burned.
Red’s son Pluto is named after the Roman god of death, Pluto of the Underworld. But there is speculation that Pluto’s name also has connections to Disney. In Disney mythology Pluto is a dog like Goofy. Despite this, Pluto doesn’t talk or walk properly. In Us we see Jason’s double Pluto crawling around on all fours, unable to make coherent sentences that could be a result of the burns on his face. This could be a reference to a 1935 Disney short called Pluto’s Judgment Day where Pluto has a nightmare of being sent to a hell that’s run by cats and then he is burned alive.
Rich housewife Kitty Tyler (Elisabeth Moss) was the mildly annoying friend of Gabe and Adelaide. She wasn’t my favorite character though I did feel a little bad when she met her demise. True crime bugs might note that Kitty’s name and manner of death (stabbed to death) is identical to a very real murder that took place in 1964.
This is when a 28-year-old woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed outside the apartment building where she lived in New York. The brutality and instances surrounding Genovese’s death were so bizarre that the incident prompted inquiries into what became known as “Genovese syndrome”, better known as the bystander effect. Like Kitty Genovese, Kitty Tyler’s cries for help went unheard before she was murdered.
Kitty’s malicious Tethered counterpart is a creepy lady by the name of Dahlia. Again, true crime fans might make the connection between this name and another real life murder victim. In 1947 Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia, was found horrifically murdered in a neighborhood in California.
In one scene of the movie we see the Tethered Dahlia playing around with Kitty’s expensive accessories and make up. At one point she applies lipstick to her mouth in messy way that makes her mouth bigger than it’s supposed to be. Kind of like a sinister grin. Without getting into too many gory details, it’s interesting to note that one of the injuries Short’s body sustained were lacerations on each side of her face. These lacerations extended from the corners of her lips almost 3 inches upwards. Kind of like a sinister grin.
Like Red, Josh Tyler’s (Tim Heidecker) name was difficult to find a concrete definition for. Assuming Josh is short for Joshua, it stems from the Hebrew name Yehoshu’a or yasha’ which means “to save”. Which doesn’t seem very fitting because, you know, Josh wasn’t saved nor was he ever sober enough to save anyone in the movie. The only connection Josh seems to fit is in the overall manner in which the Tyler family was murdered.
The entire scene has similarities to the deaths that occurred at 10050 Cielo Drive in 1969. This is where the “Manson family” brutally killed 5 people, including actress Sharon Tate, her friends Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Steven Parent and Tate’s unborn baby. This connection grows even stronger when you note the Beach Boys on in the background, the smiling creeps stabbing people and the name of Josh’s double.
It just so happens that one of the killer’s in the Tate murders was a man named Charles “Tex” Watson. Stepping away from true crime, Tex’s name could be a reference to the legendary Warner Bros. animator, Tex Avery. Avery was known for irony, sarcasm, and slapstick violence. Which are all characteristics Heidecker seems to unleash in his performance as the quiet but comical Tex.
Us is currently in theaters around the country. Check out the trailer below!
Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.
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