Arts, Column

Keller: The Meaning Behind That Scene in Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’

Jordan Peele’s Nope came out on July 22, and there’s one scene I still can’t get out of my head. 

The film follows the story of a brother and sister who manage a horse farm outside of L.A. that also happens to have extraterrestrial life hovering above it in the sky. With this strange combination, it was tough to know what to expect. 

In his third movie, Peele delivered the audience his wildest take on reality yet. 

Not just horror and not just psychological thriller, Nope really has it all. With killer performances from actors Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, Peele creates scenes to make his audience laugh, shout in frustration, and, most importantly, leave the theater asking “What exactly did I just watch?” 

While the movie as a whole leaves a lot open to interpretation, audience members—myself included—are most likely asking about a very specific scene. For people who have seen it, you understand. For all others, leave now and head to the theaters where Nope is still playing before reading on. This is officially a spoiler alert.

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Now for the scene in question. Throughout the course of the movie, Peele threads in a tale of a young chimpanzee named Gordy who goes wild on the set of a sitcom some time in the past, brutally murdering some of its cast and leaving others severely injured. All but one cast member makes it out untouched. 

Ricky Park (Steven Yeun), is a cast member on the sitcom, as many probably picked up on. Miraculously, though, he walks away from the whole disaster unscathed. 

Why does Ricky make it out at all? Why is this scene necessary to add in the middle of the storyline of the ranch? 

These are only a few of the many questions that many people have been asking since Nope hit theaters in July, and hopefully this column will provide one of the multiple possible answers to those questions. 

To me, the answer lies in the floating shoe in the middle of the room. For more context, while the chimpanzee begins his rage, a shoe somehow flies up in the air and lands on its toe, standing straight up as if it were dangling by invisible thread. There is obviously a one-in-a-million chance of it landing this way, and the movement draws the attention of the audience amid all the chaos around it. 

But this strange shoe phenomenon is the reason why Ricky survives the chimpanzee’s attack. The rest of the cast is focused on the murderous chimp running around set, and they make the mistake of looking the chimp in the eyes, which ultimately triggers him to attack them. 

All while that is going on, Ricky never pays attention to the chimp because he is so focused on the shoe. Ricky poses no threat, and as a result, the chimp never goes after him. 

Some could say that it’s Ricky’s hiding spot under the dining table that saves him from the attack, but that wouldn’t explain why the chimp doesn’t attack Ricky once he finds him. It all comes down to Ricky’s hyperfixation on this shoe that ends up being his saving grace. 

A common idea that runs throughout the movie is the act of not looking the monster in the eye. It’s what enables OJ (Kaluuya) and Emerald (Palmer) to defeat the alien in the end of the film, and it’s what keeps Ricky from being brutalized by the chimpanzee. 

If you’re able to divert your gaze from the obvious and the spectacle, then you’ll be saved. A murderous chimpanzee and an alien in the sky may seem impossible to look away from, but the people that do are the ones that are alive to tell about it. 

But why is all of this necessary in the grand scheme of the film? Besides providing backstory for the characters on the farm and adding to the film’s themes, it also tells the tale of someone who is tragically mistaken. 

Ricky may have survived the chimpanzee attack because of the spectacle of the shoe, but he gets the wrong idea from the whole thing. Ricky seems to believe he is the only one able to tame Gordy. When Gordy goes in for a fist bump after the attacks, Ricky feels a sense of superiority. 

All of this shows up later in Ricky’s life. Flashing forward to present day, Ricky believes he can be the one to tame the alien. He runs the daily shows for visitors who come to the farm, creating a spectacle out of the presence of the alien and his own taming power. He believes he can be the one to domesticate an alien. 

His idea goes completely wrong, though, as the alien ends up consuming Ricky and the entire audience at one of his shows. Ricky’s fatal mistake is that he looks the monster in the eyes. What he didn’t do when he was young he does do as an adult, ultimately leading to his death. 

The whole story of Nope is a tale of caution. It’s a worldwide warning to not get caught up in the spectacles of life. If you do get lured in, you can be easily blinded and end up paying the ultimate price. 

September 18, 2022
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FlICKR GALLERY
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