Early by Jordan Peele We, young Adelaide sees a man holding a sign reading “Jeremiah 11:11” on a torn piece of cardboard just before he comes across his own young lookalike. The biblical passage then becomes a recurring motif throughout the film. We see it again when Gabe watches the baseball, the announcer says “we’re tied at 11:11”. Afterwards, Jason points out that Adelaide’s bedroom clock reads 11:11 p.m. We also see 11:11 subtly depicted in a Black Flag t-shirt worn by one of the Tyler twins in the form of four blocks.
When Adelaide returns to the beach in Santa Cruz as an adult, she sees the same man who held the cardboard sign dead and pushed into an ambulance. As Peele explained about We, “There is a double meaning to everything… This film is about duality.” This type of duality is represented visually with the mirror image of 11:11. But, beyond that, the idea works thematically with We also.
So what does this specific Bible verse mean? In the King James Bible, the verse reads:
“Therefore thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will bring upon them evil from which they cannot escape; and if they cry unto me, I will not hearken to them.”
As one fan on Reddit pointed out, this could be interpreted in two ways: “Evil is the attaches, who come for humanity, unable to escape. OR Evil is the needless suffering that the attaches have to endure for the good of mankind.”
This parallel interpretation evokes the theme of duality in the film. And the latter interpretation is more likely to be the one worth focusing on.
It is helpful to know a little about Jeremiah’s background. Here is a passage from the Encyclopedia Brittanica:
During the reign of Josiah, after his call, Jeremiah preached to the people of Jerusalem and warned them against the sin of apostasy. Recalling the prophecies of the 8th-century Israelite prophet Hosea, Jeremiah rebuked the Judeans for prostituting themselves with other gods and urged them to repent. He prophesied that the enemies of the north would be Yahweh’s instruments of judgment on the apostate land and that Jerusalem would suffer the fate of a rejected harlot. The idolatry and immorality of the Judeans would inevitably lead to their destruction. Due to the looming threat from the north, Jeremiah warned the people to flee from the coming wrath.
In other words, Jeremiah often prophesied a certain fate for the worship of false idols. It sounds a bit like how Adelaide’s doppelgänger Red believes she’s being tested by God to lead the Tethered of Fate. The story of Jeremiah in the Bible also coincides with the exile of the Jews to Babylon, which resembles the exile of the Attaches underground.
As the Reddit user theorizes, severing the bond between those on the surface and the Tethered could be that test:
Even though Us is an eyesore and the attaches have been portrayed as vicious villains, not once have we seen one of Red’s family members try to kill his counterpart with serious intent. To me, it was more like they were ‘playing’ with them until the very end, knowing full well that they themselves would have to die to complete God’s test. The bond between them had to be broken somehow and you won’t kill, will you?
Another reading of this reference could be the worship of false idols. In his first speech, Red explains how a girl on the surface received the gifts, while the girl below received nothing. Specifically in the scenes with the Tyler family (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker), we see them dying among their riches, almost as if it were penance for their worship of the false idol of wealth.
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Or, as a YouTube outage postulates, it could be more about the second half of this Bible verse, which reads, “and though they cry to me, I will not listen to them.” It might have something to do with the Tethered not being heard by God. As the video theorizes, “maybe that’s why when they finally get their revenge, they attack their victims’ throats right around the voice box.”
What is more likely is that this reference to Jeremiah 11:11 is a combination of all of these theories – that the Tethered represented the exiled part of the land whose voices were never heard. The red symbolized Jeremiah, the prophet who wanted to save Jerusalem from the destruction of the sins of those on the surface who sent the Attachés into exile.
It’s also interesting to think about this conclusion in the context of the big twist. Given the blurring of who’s tethered and who’s not — i.e. Adelaide and Red’s change as children — it’s open to interpretation as to who, exactly, this bible verse applies. It also ties in, quite nicely, with the recurring motif of Hands Across America, which highlights this country’s struggle to care for the forgotten people who suffer beneath the surface of the United States.
It’s also worth noting, if you haven’t noticed, that We could also literally be US
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