The existence of the Tethered and their tunnels is a bit of a mystery in Us. Here’s everything we know about why the government created them.
The Tethered are the tragic villains of Jordan Peele’s Us, but their presence in the film goes deeper than just creating conflict against Adelaide and her family — The Tethered represent a disturbing level of government corruption.
Us follows Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family as they take what should have been a relaxing trip to their beach house. One night, a group of menacing strangers descends upon their house. The strangers reveal themselves to be exact copies of Adelaide and her family, who are determined to kill every member of the family and take their places in the world.
Red, Adelaide’s double, reveals that her people – known as the Tethered – are the result of a failed government experiment. The Tethered were forced to live in underground tunnels in the shadows of their above-ground counterparts. The events of Us see the Tethered fed up with their situation and looking to take their place above ground. However, the reason they ended up in the tunnels was all thanks to a selfish act of greed and corruption.
The Tethered are the result of a botched experiment in cloning. The government mastered the physical act of cloning, but it’s speculated that they could not figure out how to replicate a soul. In order to hide their failure, the government sentenced the Tethered to a life underground. Since they are clones who share a soul with their counterparts, they are still tethered to them. The Tethered are then, in essence, doomed to live a darker and emptier version of the lives their counterparts get to enjoy.
Little is known as to why the US government wanted to clone its citizens. It was a way for the underground people to control their above-ground twins, but the movie never divulges why exactly the government felt the need to rule over the country with such a heavy hand. Us is a movie full of hidden meanings, but one thing that is clear is in regard to the horror movie’s blatant metaphor for classism. The people above ground represent the wealthy, and those below ground represent people who are living below the poverty line. Society favors the wealthy, so in a way, the poor will always live in their shadow.
With more money comes more power. The government creating the Tethered meant that they could likely, somehow, limit their wealth. With that, the government could alter society in the way that they want. Peele cleverly keeps those motives under wraps, because the element of mystery makes the movie even scarier. Us’s twist ending, which reveals that Adelaide and her double, Red, switched places years ago, adds an interesting wrinkle to this plan. With her double leading the revolution for the Tethered to take their place above ground, the government’s dirty secret will finally be exposed. The events of the movie will likely lead to a complete upheaval of society as people know it, which can be witnessed by the movie’s ending shot of The Tethered hand-in-hand. It’s a nice bookend to Us’s message of classism — the only way to end that behavior is to completely change the way society treats those that are different than them.
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