Control And Speculation Are The Main Ingredients In Jordan Peele’s 'Nope' Movie
Peele held the mirror up to a showboating society.
by Sharice B.
July 27, 2022 at 5:54 pm
Like clockwork, Jordan Peele has gifted horror fans another gem. However, for this project, the scares and jumps came in an unlikely genre within the horror/thriller realm — science fiction. Much like Peele’s Get Out and Us, more than one viewing would aid in processing what one witnessed. And Nope is no different, being Peele’s most complex work laced with several questions and theories that have arisen since its July 22 release. Many audience members have reported leaving the theater asking themselves, “What exactly did I just watch?”
What did we just watch?
If you’re familiar with Peele’s work thus far, then you’re privy to how he prefers to leave us to conjure up theories as to why he showed or didn’t show certain information. When my 4DX chair stopped rattling and the credits rolled, I left with theories to last me until the next Jordan Peele project.
Society Does Everything for Show
Peele held the mirror up to a showboating society. He went as far as opening the film with a Bible scripture to set things off:
“And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a spectacle.” – Nahum 3:6
Social media has made it easy to observe other people’s lives, especially our favorite celebrities. Even voyeurism is at an all-time high due to the easy accessibility into others’ bedrooms. Content creators can make a living by allowing strangers to peek into their worlds.
The character OJ Haywood, played by Daniel Kaluuya, was the most detached from everyday speculation. He owns a flip phone in the 2020s for goodness sake. OJ couldn’t care less about Instagram, or felt the need to watch the trailer for a film that used one of his father’s horses during production. He just needed to make calls and maybe text from time to time.
Compared to his younger sister, Emerald Haywood, played by Keke Palmer, her main hustle was aiming to be a spectacle (i.e. acting, singing, dancing, etc). Emerald’s obsession with showcasing to the world intensified when a UFO (or UAP, rather) made its appearance. The extraterrestrial sighting prompted her to convince her brother to head to the local Fry’s and purchase a surveillance kit in hopes of catching the entity on camera — the “Oprah Winfrey” worthy shot.
During the camera testing scene, a slouching OJ appeared to be frightened by the ogling eyes staring at him, when beginning the safety meeting with the crew, keeping eye contact at a minimum. It was only right to have OJ figure out that direct eye contact with the UFO he and Emerald nicknamed Jean Jacket, would seal any spectator’s horrific fate.
OJ’s name alone brought back horrid memories for Bonnie Clayton, an actress he met on a film set. (The Haywoods own horses that are used in TV and film projects.) “Your name is … OJ?” Clayton shivered at the mention of the cursed initials.
The OJ Simpson case was the most, if not the top, speculated pop culture event of the ‘90s. The chase alone was something for the books and hard to take your eyes off of. Peele even went as far as to remake the infamous car chase scene later on in the film during the Jean Jacket vs. OJ showdown. Everyone involved in that case monetized off it being entertainment’s main spectacle for nearly a year.
Society as a whole has an obsession with monetizing spectacles or becoming spectacles for monetary gain, no matter what the observation’s root may be. Jean Jacket was everyone’s spectacle project. The Ricky “Jupe” Park character, played by Steven Yeun, was an excellent embodiment of how capitalism can and often has forced those that have endured trauma to gain something for their troubles. With money and fame comes power and control. This leads me to my second theory.
We Cannot Control What’s Not Meant to Be Controlled: Gordy Explained
Jupe was a child actor, a spectacle himself. Children are already a malleable class, but being a child actor takes it up a notch. A generous percentage of our favorite child actors are no longer in entertainment for an array of reasons. Next to being abused and violated for years, ex-child actors have confessed in later interviews that they no longer wanted to be controlled. We have even heard stories about certain talents “going crazy,” or “throwing tantrums.” And that’s what happened on the Gordy’s Home! set. The continuous balloon popping was most likely the last straw for the chimpanzee to snap the way he did.
The Gordy’s Home! massacre in Nope is deemed by many as the most disturbing scene in the film. Peele strategically placed a slice of it at the beginning of the film and eventually gave us the big show during the midpoint. Of course, if you’ve seen the film, then you know what transpired. Aside from Gordy literally going ape s**t, two prominent aspects in that scene were that young Jupe was the only unharmed survivor from that set and the upright shoe that carried a speck of blood.
At a glance, the shoe being upright would force anyone to look up at what was causing the shoe to be perched up in the manner that it was. But Jupe did not do that. He was so engulfed with the shoe, that Gordy doing one last sweep around the studio for more victims went unnoticed until the two made indirect eye contact through a sheer sheet that hung over the table Jupe was hiding under.
After surviving a traumatic ordeal, Jupe remained in the spotlight, took over the theme park, Jupiter’s Claim — which was based on the film that served as his breakout role — and created an eerie museum that housed artifacts from the tragic day, including the upright shoe. Though the sole reason for Gordy not mauling Jupe was because he didn’t look him in the eye, perhaps Jupe believed he had some sort of control over the chimp. Like many who handle animals for audience entertainment, he had a cocky belief that he was special.
Later on, Jupe’s delusion and Gordy’s disdain for eye contact connect with why Jean Jacket feasts. Jupe believed he could tame and control animals and, in this case, an alien entity — the bad miracle. When it was revealed that Jupe was indeed using horses to feed Jean Jacket the entire time, I knew that his delayed fate was on its way.
Jupe’s new attraction, the Star Lasso Experience at Jupiter’s Claim, was the reflection of just how crazed humanity is when it comes to controlling animals, oftentimes putting others in danger. At some point in the film, the filmmaking character, Antlers Holst, made a remark about the famed Siegfried and Roy. In 2003, one half of the duo, Roy, was attacked by their white tiger Mantacore during a show. You can’t predict how wild animals are going to behave, no matter how “trained” they may be. Much like a wild animal, surely a monstrous alien life cannot be tamed for long either.
When we witness animal attacks, words of sympathy are rarely expressed. Comments on viral videos are filled with “that’s what you get” or lectures on giving animals space and how humanity shouldn’t get to decide which animals can be free while others are controlled and made a spectacle. In Nope, characters were always invading animals’ and each others’ spaces.
Jean Jacket being nested behind the cloud that never moved was its space. The entity was summoned by Jupe who used animals to control another species that he deemed as unworthy of space and respect. While most would run away from Jean Jacket once discovered, Jupe’s greed caused him to use yet another strange occurrence to control and capitalize off of.
Theories aside, I enjoyed Nope, and that’s no surprise. Peele delivered again. While I head back to the theater for two more viewings, let me know what were your Nope theories? What messages and themes are you “looking up”?