the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Alex Goodman ’25
As someone who does not generally watch horror movies and gets scared easily, I had my fingers crossed going into “Nope.” I was extremely excited about a new Jordan Peele film, given that he’s been one of my favorite directors since “Get Out.” But I was worried he was going in the same direction as “Us” (I still get goosebumps and chills thinking about the Tethered). The trailer did not help either, much of it was filled with dark skies, running characters and ominous shots. However, the ambiance seemed like an alien thriller, so I watched it. I’m glad I did — it is more “Men in Black” meeting “Jaws” than anything else.
“Nope,” set in Santa Clarita, Calif., follows the Haywood sibling duo, Otis Jr. (OJ), played by Daniel Kaluuya and Emerald, played by Keke Palmer. (Fun Fact: this would be Daniel Kaluuya’s second time starring in a Jordan Peele film, the first being “Get Out.”) The duo recently inherited the family’s horse-handling business after their father died in a freak accident. To keep the business running, the father struck a deal with Ricky Park, a neighboring child actor turned owner of Jupiter’s Claim theme park. OJ continues to uphold the arrangement, unaware of Park’s true intentions. After a close encounter with an unknown flying object, Otis’ fear turns into a newfound opportunity. With the help of his sister Emerald, tech salesperson Angel Torres and cinematographer Antlers Holst, Otis tries to document the UFO, which they name Jean Jacket. However, unbeknownst to them, the quartet will end up fighting for their lives.
Off the bat, Peele’s attention to detail is insane. Everything, even minute details, is included for a reason. For example, some of the characters’ names tie back to their purpose in the plot. Emerald, Otis’ sister, distracts Jean Jacket to save her brother. The tech installer Angel’s name parallels the role of a guardian angel, an all-knowing and protective entity, keeping the siblings safe via the cameras he installs, which is how he is all-knowing. Antlers, which are coincidently part of a deer, is known for his videos of aliens. He, unfortunately, dies trying to videotape Jean Jacket. He was enthralled by the UFO and disregarded his safety which left him stranded, similar to a deer in headlights. But this is nothing compared to the real point of the film: humanity’s obsession with spectacle.
Halfway through the film, Peele places a scene entitled “Gordy.” It takes place on a television set for a show entitled “Gordy’s Home.” The cast, including Ricky Park, are gathered around a monkey named Gordy to celebrate his birthday. Everything is going well, but the popping of a balloon causes Gordy to go berserk, violently beating and disfiguring his co-workers. The scene is shown through the perspective of child Ricky, who is hiding underneath a table. Although the audience has a limited view of what’s happening, we still feel a sense of dread and terror — using sound to signal what’s happening. We hear balloons popping and the thuds of Gordy hitting his costars' bodies, which creates an atmosphere of horror. The most important part of this section comes when Gordy is face to face with Ricky. Gordy stares at Ricky through a tablecloth, but instead of harming him, Gordy sticks his hand out. Ricky starts to reach toward him until an unseen gunman shoots Gordy in the head. The scene ends with an unsettling image of Ricky covered with Gordy’s blood.
But why did Peele include this massacre? I think the answer comes from the adult version of Ricky. Ricky is eerily obsessed with “Gordy’s Home” or with Gordy himself. He has embraced Gordy and even has a special room dedicated to the show filled with memorabilia. However, when Angel asks him about what transpired, it seems like he can’t truly explain and instead mentions how SNL made a skit about it. He thinks he’s special for surviving the massacre, although Gordy couldn’t see him. This eventually leads to Ricky’s demise since he applies this same logic with Jean Jacket and ends up digested in the alien’s stomach. SNL profits off the spectacle with Gordy without contacting Ricky or the other surviving actor. Ricky profits off the spectacle with Gordy without truly digesting it himself. He tries to create another spectacle with Jean Jacket but fails and dies instead.
Otis and Angel try to chase a spectacle too. They want to document Jean Jacket to prove that aliens exist. They think that this will give them fame and money, something they both desperately need. However, as the movie progresses, they slowly realize how fruitless their chase is. The climax of the movie comes when OJ tosses aside filming Jean Jacket to protect his sister. Peele shows that spectacle is dangerous and should be approached with caution. It can be all-consuming. After we finish the movie, hopefully, we become more like Otis than Ricky.
Does this apply to real life? I think it does. Take Logan Paul. He is most infamously known for filming a dead body in a suicide forest. Isn’t it ironic that he was the first to criticize Peele because “No one would be this dumb to risk their lives to film content”? I think Jordan Peele is criticizing people like him. I think he’s criticizing all of us. The people who go put themselves in harm's way for “fun.” The people who film those they think are “weird.” Peele is asking us to put our well-being and humanity before fame, to think before we act. Or maybe he just made this movie for fun. I don’t know, go watch it and tell me what you think.