Delving Into Character Names And Their Meanings From Jordan Peele's 'Us'
Hopefully you read TK’s excellent review, went to see Us, and traded theories with Roxana in her spoiler-filled discussion about the film. If like me, you still cannot stop thinking about Jordan Peele’s exquisitely crafted and terrifying horror movie about duality, symmetry, and complex social issues, you’re still eager to dissect it.
I can’t stop going over the names chosen for the characters.
According to numerous baby name sites and Wikipedia, the name Adelaide means “noble” or “nobility.” In 1830, a German princess Adelaide married King William IV of Britain and became known as such a loving and good queen that Australia named a city after her.
In Us, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is referred to as meeting her prince by Red (also Nyong’o) in the story she tells of her own life with the Tethered.
Obviously the color of the uniforms chosen in the uprising of the Tethered, Red is more than that. Red is the color of anger, of danger and urgency. Red is the residue of crying for hours at a time, leaving its tint behind on the whites of eyes and the pink rims of the eyelids. Red is blood and violence.
Assuming Gabe (Winston Duke) is the shortened version of Gabriel, the name is pulled from Hebrew meaning “strong man.” It was also the name of an archangel that delivered messages for God.
The duality of Gabe and Abraham is still tearing at the edges of my mind. Abraham was a biblical figure chosen by God to father Ishmael and Isaac when he and his wife were far past childbearing ages. The Jewish and Muslim faiths each consider Abraham as establishing their religions through the birth of his two sons; Ishmael for the Muslim faith and Isaac for the Jewish faith.
The name Abraham also means “father of many.”
Red’s daughter Umbrae (Shahadi Wright Joseph) is named for the darkest part of a shadow. It comes from the Latin word for shadow and may also refer to a spectral image or ghost. Umbrae can also mean a constant companion or accompaniment of someone.
In stark contrast to the name of her Tethered counterpart, the Wilson’s oldest daughter has a name that means “dawn” or “aurora.” Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) is the light, the dawn, a phenomenon of electricity changing the sky with multi-colored streaks. She’s the furthest from the dark.
Red’s son Pluto (Evan Alex) was born to love fire and his name is often used interchangeably with Hades, ruler of the Underworld. Pluto is the Roman god of death and one of his servants in the Underworld is Nix (Lindsey Tyler), the Greek goddess of darkness and night; mother to the ferryman of the Underworld.
Nix is also a moon orbiting the planet Pluto. Io (Becca Tyler) is the fifth moon of Jupiter and was a princess in love with Zeus in Greek mythology. Io was changed into a heifer by Zeus to hide her from his wife, Hera.
While Red’s son is named for the Roman god of death, Adelaide chose the name Jason for her progeny. Jason means “healer” in Greek, another example of the shared souls Red mentioned; those above hold the positive while the Tethered hold the negative.
Ophelia is the Google Assistant/Amazon Echo surrogate in the Tyler beach house. The name is best known as the love interest slowly driven insane by Hamlet in William Shakespeare’s play. However, the name Ophelia means “help” in Greek.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the names in play in Us, but these stuck out to me when researching Peele’s choices for character names. I believe we will be unpeeling the layers of Us for some time to come.
Header Image Source: Universal Pictures