The Precarity of Black Motherhood

By: Tao Leigh Goffe ,  Boston Review
August 9, 2019

In Jordan Peele’s latest film Us, which follows on the success of his 2017 hit Get Out, an affluent black family has its home invaded by sinister doppelgängers—a sort of literalization of W.E.B. Du Bois’s noion of black “double consciousness.” Perhaps Peele even had in mind Du Bois’s famous sentence: “One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

In Us, the country is under siege by evil body doubles who have emerged from an underground world. Among the doppelgänger “family” invading the protagonists’ home, the only double who can speak is Red, who is identical to the family’s mother, Adelaide (both are played by Lupita Nyong’o). Red describes to Adelaide how Adelaide’s life choices forced Red to do the same in a disjointed mimesis. Red was forced to “breed” with a brute, Abe, the double of Adelaide’s loving husband, Gabe (Winston Duke). When Adelaide gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), Red gave birth to the maniacal Umbrae. Adelaide’s son Jason (Evan Alex), born by hospital Cesarean, was mirrored by Red’s Pluto, who had to be cut from her unaided. Now Red wants her own life. Bearing a large pair of golden scissors, she has emerged from the doubles’ underground home not only to cut the cord connecting her to Adelaide, but also to take everything that Adelaide has, including her perfect family. As we eventually come to understand, Red wants revenge because she was, in fact, the original Adelaide, swapped as a child during a visit to a carnival house of mirrors.

Read the entire article in the Boston Review

Professor Tao Leigh Goffe