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Us’s Jason/Pluto theory, explained and debunked

Lots of people think Us’s Jason is a Tether. He probably isn’t.

How much should we read into the connection that Jason and Pluto share?
Universal Pictures

The more we think about Jordan Peele’s Us, the more we question what we thought we knew about the movie. That’s a testament to Peele’s layered filmmaking. There are so many references in the film, as well as allegories about class, Americans’ ugly history, and ideas about nature, nurture, and humanity. And, of course, there’s that enormous twist:

spoiler, aquaman

Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is actually what’s called a Tether, a doppelganger created as part of a forgotten government experiment, who switched with her human counterpart when they were children. It changes the entire film, bringing into focus every scene, every detail that we just saw.

But what if this wasn’t the film’s only twist?

Swirling in the Us conversation is the idea that Adelaide’s son Jason is a Tether too. He, like his mom, took the place of his human — or so some fans thinks.

The idea began as a kernel on Reddit and, with the help of Us fans, has blossomed into a full-fledged conspiracy theory. It makes you reexamine the movie and Jason’s role in it. It also makes you question if this was Peele’s intention all along, or simply a testament to the remarkable power of fandom.

But we don’t fully believe it, and there’s plenty of reasons not to. We present the “Jason is Pluto” theory, and our best attempt at debunking it:

The theory: Jason and Pluto previously swapped

This theory begins with the end of the film. After Red, the real Adelaide who was locked into the Tether’s underground prison when she was a child, takes Jason (Evan Alex) during a standoff against her family’s remaining Tethers, Adelaide chases her down. She finds Jason in a locker once she’s killed Red.

After a climactic moment in which Red reveals she is actually the real Adelaide who was swapped years ago — a story that Jason might have heard too — Adelaide and Jason return to the above world, where Adelaide drives her family to safety. Jason, who has a rabbit in his hand, gives her a suspicious look before he puts on his mask and averts his eyes from her.

While you could interpret that look to be Jason is now wary of who his mother is and what she has done, Redditors theorize that it instead indicates that Jason himself has switched places with his Tether, just as his mother did. The boy known as Pluto is actually the human Jason, who swapped with Pluto sometime before the movie started.

“At the end, he has realized that his mother, at one point, has also switched bodies. She gives him a look almost like ‘I also know what you know’ and then he puts on his mask, as a symbol of the masks they will now wear for the rest of their lives,” the Redditor theorizes.

The theory spread on Reddit where fans bolstered it with evidence

The “Jason is Pluto” theory appeared on Reddit’s Fan Theories subforum on March 22, in a thread posted by a Redditor named Hoopster Ben. Hoopster posits that “the summer before the movie takes place, the boy and his ‘tethered’ also switched places,” and then has a list of four reasons why they believe that to be the case.

Two of the reasons are the looks Jason/Pluto and Red/Adelaide give each other — but those are harder to believe, considering how subjective interpreting a look can be. One of Hoopster’s stronger, more evidence-based reasons is how Jason doesn’t remember his magic trick. Hoopster theorizes that the real Jason performed the trick last summer and burned half his face off, and that his Tether, Pluto, doesn’t remember it happening.

“[Pluto] forgot the magic trick. [Jason] didn’t actually forgot the magic trick, he learned it successfully and burnt half of his face off in the process, though his tethered [Pluto] only has a slight memory of him learning the trick,” Hoopster wrote.

Presumably, the switch occurred their previous summer vacation, sometime after Jason learned the magic trick and set himself on fire, but before Pluto mirrors the “magic trick.” The switch also presumably happened in a way that the rest of Jason’s family did not notice.

The other piece of evidence mentioned is that Jason is digging tunnels at the beach (which Kitty’s obnoxious twins stomp on) instead of sandcastles, presumably indicating that he acts a little different or unconventionally (kids presumably make sandcastles), and wants to express his experience of the underground since he is a Tether.

In that original thread and subsequent others, fans posted details they picked up on that bolster this theory. Here are some of their best ideas:

  • Jason doesn’t like to eat — Jason doesn’t eat with the rest of his family when they arrive at the beach house. Adelaide, who we find out is actually her Tether, isn’t eating the food either (we see her eating strawberries, and the assumption is that she is a vegetarian because of her diet of raw rabbits in the underground). His lack of appetite could be a relic of growing up as a Tether under ground, and he’s probably not a fan of anything that reminds him of eating raw rabbit.
  • Jason’s drawing isn’t from his point of view — Adelaide sees the picture that Jason drew of the bloody man — the Tether of the man holding the Jeremiah 11:11 sign that Adelaide sees as a young girl and the entire family sees being treated at the ambulance in the present day. The picture is actually a third-person perspective as it shows Jason’s back and the Tether. This might show that it is drawn from Pluto’s point of view or how the switched Jason sees himself as not inhabiting his own body.
  • Jason’s cussing is odd — Jason says “kiss my anus” instead of “kiss my ass,” which indicates that he might be bad at picking up above-ground language.
  • Pluto is the only Tether without shears and doesn’t want to harm Jason — Pluto is the only Tether that doesn’t brandish or use his shears. He also doesn’t try to kill Jason. “Unlike all the others, Pluto doesn’t seem to want to harm Jason,” a Redditor posited. “Instead he grabs Jason’s hand to show him how to do the magic trick which Jason performs for the first time on screen.”
  • Jason was the first to notice his family’s Tethers — When his family’s doppelgangers appear, Jason is the one who realizes: “It’s us.” Fans say this may indicate that he knows a little more than he lets on and is sensitive to who the Tethers are.
  • Jason’s “control” over Pluto — In the final act of the movie, Jason “walks” Pluto into the fire and seemingly kills him. We also learn that the Tethers were created to one day control humans. No other human in the movie has this command over their Tether like this, signaling that the switched Jason is truly a Tether since he could ostensibly “control” his human.
  • Jason can no longer work the “fire” magic trick — This theory has a few variants, but the gist is that the tethered Jason can no longer “snap” his fingers effectively in order to perform his favorite fire magic trick because he’s tethered and delayed. This ties into the argument that the tethered Adelaide is snapping off-beat to “Five On It” in the car scene because she’s similarly delayed. It’s also tied to the “Jason has a bad memory/is unfamiliar with the house” thread.
  • Jason “just has trouble focusing” — On the beach, after Kitty’s twins knock down his tunnels, they comment to Zora that her brother is weird, to which she replies that he just has trouble focusing. From everything we have seen, the Tethers are focused as hell, but if you were a recently freed Tether, your disorientation might translate as a lack of focus, so this line has been mentioned frequently as a clue indicating that something is different about Jason.

Were you able to follow along with all that?

Great.

Here’s why none of it’s true

  • Jason can only control Pluto, not the other way around — The single biggest reason the “Jason is a Tether” theory falls apart is that it would fundamentally undermine too many of the established facts about the film’s world. This is because, in the scene where we see Jason deliberately exit the car and walk backward, he’s clearly able to control Pluto.

Redditors argue that a replacement Jason is somehow special — that if a replacement Jason is able to control his Un-Tether, he’s somehow an outlying example of the government project that created the Tethers to begin with.

But there’s zero evidence in the movie that anything about that project was successful — in fact, its quiet failure and burial is a huge part of the movie’s overall point. As far as we know, none of the Tethers have any ability to control any of their Un-Tethers; only the reverse is true. The Tethers’ enslavement and lack of agency is the whole reason they rebelled to begin with.

That means, in the scene where Pluto walks backward into the car, Jason is the real Jason.

But if that’s not enough to convince you, there are plenty of other logical reasons.

  • Pluto’s face really is burnt We know that Pluto’s scarring is real. We have enough evidence to understand that it’s due to his many burns received over time and caused by the delays from Jason’s playing with fire. The only way Pluto’s burns make any logical sense is that, as a Tether, Pluto couldn’t control either his own motions or the delayed reactions of the fire down below.

If Jason and Pluto swapped places, then Replacement Jason, a.k.a. Pluto, would be the one bearing all the scars. His face is unscarred, so he’s clearly the original Jason.

  • Pluto can’t control his walk backward into the fire. But the real, Un-Tether Jason could and would have — This seems self-explanatory. Pluto couldn’t control his movement into the fire, but if a swapped Jason had been ordered back into the fire, he would have been able to resist, because as the original Un-Tether, he would have been able to control his movements.
  • Pluto doesn’t speak English. Jason does — This piece of the puzzle has several implications, so let’s unpack them. We know that Red is the only one of the Tethers who can speak English; neither of her children nor her husband do. Jason is still young, but he clearly speaks English well. If Jason had been kidnapped to the underground within the last couple of years, then when he comes to the surface with the others, he would still be able to speak up and say that he’d been abducted. But he doesn’t.

So if Jason and Pluto had really switched places, they would have had to have done so long ago — at an age early enough for the Underground Jason, a.k.a. Pluto, to completely lose all his linguistic abilities and be unable to recover them in time to actually speak to anyone once he was above ground.

But this would also mean that the real Jason’s face would be unburnt, because he’d be able to control his actions and move away from the fire from that early age — meaning that all those years of facial scarring would never have happened. But they did, because the boy who’s underground is Pluto — the boy who can’t control his motions, just as he can’t speak English.

  • The movie’s whole message gets distorted if Jason is a Tether — While the “Jason is a Tether” theory is fun, it also undermines a lot of what’s richest about the movie’s symbolism. Jason’s fun magic trick results in Pluto’s horrible disfigurement because Jason is an Un-Tether and Pluto isn’t. The whole point of this revelation is to shore up Jordan Peele’s point about class and systemic inequality — specifically, how the underprivileged are all too often disproportionately and devastatingly affected by the behavior and motions of the wealthy. Since the ramifications of their actions don’t effect them, but rather the masses of people in classes below them, the wealthy often have no reason to care about the impact of their behavior on other people — just as Jason doesn’t understand until he comes face to face with what’s on the other side of his “game.”

If that fundamentally unequal dynamic shifts, then that metaphor is sullied. And examining Jason-Pluto as a metaphor for inequality is a far more meaningful, and purposeful, reading of the film than trying to spin theories about them swapping places just because it’s clever. There are moments when it’s possible to be too clever — and moments, as Jason’s final donning of his mask shows, when it’s best not to know too much.