In the growing panopticon of our human experience, viewership is everything. Jordan Peele plays with this idea in his horror flick titled “Nope.” Peele focuses on the concept of viewership through the lens of ‘spectacles,’ best summarized by the Bible verse Nahum 3:6, which Peele uses as his opening line. Peele utilizes familiar storytelling methods to capture a unique, multi-faceted perspective on the stark consequences of a true spectacle and those involved.
Unlike Peele’s other productions, “Nope” breaks into six novel-like chapters: Nope, Ghost, Clover, Gordy, and Jean Jacket. Each chapter reveals a piece of the spectacle, often with a nonhuman animal at the center. Peele’s use of animal imagery is heightened in “Nope” compared to others because unlike “Us” and “Get Out,” “Nope” centers itself around the horses and how they’re used as a living vehicle, or in the case of Haywood’s Hollywood Horses, a prop.
Our relationships with other animals speak volumes as to the topics of viewership and spectacles. After all, other animals have been used as entertainment since the birth of media, as Peele openly calls to with his use of Eadweard Muybridge’s late 19th century “movie” of a black jockey riding a horse. OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) Haywood are proud descendants of the iconic but unknown jockey, tying the main characters to the very first referenced spectacle. However, prestige doesn’t pay the bills as OJ considers selling shares to his neighbor, Rick “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), who runs a sideshow act in the nearby nowhere, California. “Jupe” is a former sitcom child star who witnessed his own spectacle named Gordy. To me, Gordy represents the most interesting piece of the puzzle as the second-referenced spectacle. He behaves like the opening act for the main show and allows for immediate insight into Peele’s message and plot direction. Gordy stands as a chilling embodiment of how people change when they realize they’re being watched and how that change can be performative or—quite brutally—honest.
Through his crafty use of suspense and startling efficiency at building tension, Jordan Peele excels at disturbing his audience. Is this the alien film we all expected? Nope. However, I would argue the message is clear that “Nope” is a project built for the creator, and his version of the alien horror genre has a lot to say about humanity.
People love a spectacle, but we have a hard time looking away from something horrible, and there are consequences that come with that. Peele explores our capacity to witness and enjoy violence, often at the expense of other animals, while forcing you to contemplate the abduction of your worst nightmare—one that occurs only when you look at it. (So much for facing your fears). The inability to look a threat in the eye is especially terrifying to creatures like us, who depend on what we see. “Nope” did strike a chord, leaving me disturbed and anxious for a few days while Gordy’s eye contact played over and over in my head. Will this movie haunt my dreams? Again, see the title for my answer. However, will I think about this movie for years to come, chasing the high it left me with? Yep.
At four years old, R.F. Greer wrote, directed, and starred in her first film titled, “Princess Asleep.” Since then, she has been a storyteller of many colors, honing her skills at North East School of the Arts in San Antonio, TX, and earning the Co-Editor position of their literary magazine “After Midnight” before graduating. In a gap year, Rhiannon wrote two feature films, maintained a website, and recorded poetry. In college, she was published in the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s literary magazine “Phoenix” and her book of poetry, “The Habit of Breaking Routine,” on Amazon Kindle. At the same time, she continues to earn her bachelor’s in Psychology and work full-time.