Jordan Peele talks Michael Jackson — the allegory of “Us”

Us dir. Jordan Peele 2019

Jordan Peele's new film Us has made the director's stance on the Michael Jackson controversy clear.

Jordan Peele is one of the biggest names in Hollywood right now. He blazed onto the scene in 2017 with his intelligent and entertaining directorial feature debut, Get Out. The film was celebrated by audiences and critics alike, quickly becoming one of the most admirably received debut efforts in recent years; perhaps even more importantly, one of the most respected horror films of the decade. 

Far from becoming a one-hit wonder, Peele has returned to both satisfy and disturb audiences with sophomore effort Us. It follows a family on vacation who are suddenly targeted by mysterious doppelgängers; what does it all mean though? The rising filmmaker is widely known for his creative exploration of themes of race within the horror genre and here he decides to continue that analysis with his second feature. Critics have hailed it as another stellar and provocative work, but there really is so much to unpack. 

As reported by NME, Lupita Nyong'o's character is seen as a child in 1986 wearing a Michael Jackson Thriller T-shirt. Of course, Jackson passed away in 2009 but has since become increasingly controversial in the wake of victims coming forward to unveil their experiences with the performer. The recent documentary - Leaving Neverland - has resulted in many radio stations pulling the artist's music and many celebrities denouncing him as a disturbing villain.

With more and more stepping forward to deliver their hot takes on Jackson, Peele has done so subtly. In conversation with the publication, Peele discusses the T-shirt's inclusion: “I didn’t know that this documentary was coming out, but in many ways, the duality of Michael Jackson has been well documented,” he admits. “There’s this murky area when it comes to the specifics of his all story and all that. I think it addresses this idea of the shadow self and when we talk about the collective shadow self, which is what this film is about. It involves an ability for us to ignore the truth and the darker side of ourselves.”

It's certainly an interestingly thought-out reference and definitely deserves its place within the frame. If anything, this just goes to show how attuned Peele is to reality's relationship with horror, recently exploring a career that startlingly blurs the two. As this reference suggests, there is so much to take away from Us

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