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How to Be a Strong Black Family Man: The World According to Gabriel Wilson in Jordan Peele’s Us

There is an old Negro saying: If you want to get a black woman to shut the F up, actually listen to her! (I swear I heard my grandmother say that to my grandfather once).

I come from a long line of mouthy women married to strong black men who loved them fiercely—a dynamic I actively chose to repeat in my own marriage. Unfortunately, there remains a false belief that for black women to be strong and complex, their black male partners must be weak and simple. I am seeing an offshoot of this patriarchal bullshit in readings of Winston Duke’s character, Gabriel Wilson, in Jordan Peele’s horror film, Us. Us explores what happens when the Wilsons, a black middle-class family (with their own summer home!), are faced with their doppelgängers, or the Tethered, in a night of reckoning with the past. The challenge of the film is that each family member must confront and kill their respective doppelgänger: Adelaide/Red, Gabriel/Abraham, Zora/Umbrae and Jason/Pluto.

My dear friend, critic L. Michael Gipson told me, “It was like he [Peele] had to neuter Duke [Gabriel Wilson] to make space for Lupita [Adelaide] to be the alpha.” I believe this to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the horror genre. Horror, at its foundation, is a cultural critique—as what determines our fears is highly influenced by our cultural mores. And to survive in horror, it is necessary to break down the hierarchies that chain us, and reifying the patriarchy simply won’t do

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Tags: #culture, #film
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