Why Are There So Many 11s in ‘Us’?
At the strike of 11:11, strange things start happening at the home of Adelaide and Gabe Wilson. Identical doubles of the couple and their children Zora and Jason appear in their driveway. They don’t speak. They don’t follow Gabe’s orders to leave. They wait. And wait. Then, suddenly, they strike.
That is the setup for the horrific home invasion in Us, the new film from Get Out writer/director Jordan Peele. Even before Adelaide notices the clock reads 11:11, that number has popped up all over the place in Us, and it continues to appear through the film. Before we try to understand why they’re there, let’s look at the number’s repeated uses. (SPOILERS for Us will follow.)
Besides the 11:11 PM on the clock, here are the other 11s in the movie (at least the ones I noticed):
- -When young Adelaide picks her prize at the boardwalk, she picks her Thriller shirt by number: “#11”
- -She walks past a man on the boardwalk holding a sign that reads “Jeremiah 11:11”
- -We later see that man’s double, who has 11:11 carved into his forehead.
- -The doubles’ preferred weapon is a large pair of scissors. When held open, the two blades resemble a stylized 11.
- -When the Wilson family are watching news reports about the doubles’ invasion, the TV is tuned to Channel 11.
- -The floor tiles in the doubles’ underground home are white with pairs of brown tiles. During the fight between Adelaide and Red, they look like 11s.
- -The weird couches that line the center of the hallway of the doubles’ underground home have this line that splits them down the middle horizontally. Again, from a distance during that big fight scene, they look like sideways 11s.
What They Mean
The most obvious explanation of the 11 is a visual one. The film is about an invasion of doubles (called “The Tethered”). As far as we see, every single individual has their own Tethered copy, which is basically identical to themselves with some small difference (Winston Duke’s double has a beard, for example). The notion of an individual (or 1) having an exact copy can be visually represented in the numeral 11. And if you stuck a 1 in front of a mirror — and there are so many shots of people in front of mirrors and reflections in Us — you’d also wind up with 11. Plus, with the time of 11:11 PM, the doubles get ... well, doubled.
So there’s that. There’s also the “Jeremiah 11:11” sign — which refers to an actual Bible passage. Here’s what it says, according to BibleHub.com:
Therefore, this is what the LORD says: I am going to bring calamity upon them, and they will not escape. Though they beg for mercy, I will not listen to their cries.
That passage has clear resonance with the events in Us, where horrors are unleashed upon an innocent family, and there is no obvious escape. (Even when they leave in their car at the end of the movie, we see they are headed into a huge mess of trouble just over the next hill.) And no one comes to help the Wilsons, either. They call the police, who never come. They go back to the Santa Cruz boardwalk; no one is left alive. They are totally alone.
Let’s dig even deeper. I’m not a numerology guy, but those that are have lots of theories about what the number 11 means. Numerology.com says the positive characteristics associated with the those connected to the number 11 are “instinctual, charismatic, dynamic and capable when its sights are set on a concrete goal.” That definitely sounds like Adelaide’s Tethered double Red.
The same page says 11s can be “anxious, shy, stressed, conflicted and scattered. When focus is not applied toward a goal, the 11 can be extremely self-sabotaging.” And that sounds like Adelaide in a lot of ways. It’s as if the single person described here has been cut in half, so that the positive traits are in the villain of the film, and the negative traits are in the hero.
11:11 even has its own Wikipedia entry, which claims “numerologists and New Age philosophies believe that events linked to the time 11:11 appear more often than can be explained by chance or coincidence and is an example of synchronicity. Some authors claim that seeing 11:11 on a clock is an auspicious sign.” All that fits with Us as well. Right after Adelaide sees 11:11 on the clock — which does turn out to be an auspicious sign — she tells Gabe she’s been noticing all kinds of coincidences since they arrived at their summer home.
Here’s one more far-out possibility for you. The 11th letter of the Greek alphabet is lambda, and Wikipedia also tells me that “in probability theory, lambda represents the density of occurrences within a time interval.” It’s a total stretch — one I doubt anyone involved with the film even considered — but it’s still another fun connection between the number 11 and the notion of coincidences and probability.
I suspect the intended significance behind the 11s is a combination of several of these ideas, along with others I haven’t even thought of. The nice thing about Us is that it doesn’t overtly spell out what this (or its other ambiguous symbols and ideas) definitively mean. The viewer is left to tease it out for themselves, which is the fun part of watching a mysterious, twisty thriller like this one.
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