Steven Yeun and Daniel Kaluuya in Nope

Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’ Highlights the Joys and the Danger of Living in the Past

Seeing Jordan Peele’s Nope was exactly the experience I wanted it to be. With each new Jordan Peele movie, we’re confronted with a horror film that dives deeper into the themes Peele is presenting for us, and while Nope was probably the least scary to me, it was the one that I think I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. And one of the aspects of Nope that really stuck out to me was the connection to past success that ran throughout the film. Some was heavy-handed, like the entire theme park of Jupiter’s Claim being themed around the good ol’ wild west, but it bleeds into the film’s characters, as well.

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So much of this story is linked back to these characters either holding on to something they’ve lost or still being brought down by things that happened and not working through it, and while it works out in the end for some characters, there are issues with the desire to continue to celebrate things from your past and losing your hope for the future.

Let’s get into Nope and the themes of the past present throughout the film. Spoilers for Jordan Peele’s Nope lie ahead.

Haywood Hollywood Horses

Nope features the owners of Haywood Hollywood Horses trying to keep their ranch alive and dealing with a murderous alien creature—which they want to capture footage of in order to make money. The first thing we really learn about Haywood Hollywood Horses in the movie is that they’ve had “skin in the game” from the start of making movies, because the man photographed on a horse that counts as the first motion picture was Otis Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood’s (Keke Palmer) great great great grandfather—and those old Hollywood connections are part of the allure of the safety speech they give before film shoots.

Pair that with OJ’s own desire to keep the ranch going because it was important to his father, Otis (played by Keith David), and the proprietors of Haywood Hollywood Horses are stuck in their own past (mainly because of OJ wanting to keep the ranch) and keeping that dream alive instead of recognizing what needs to be done to move on for their own benefit. But OJ’s desire to find ways to keep the ranch going is also what ends up saving the entire world. He’s not just going to abandon the ranch, and in that, he’s determined to continue to go back and take care of the horses. And it forces Angel and Emerald to also stay with him, and a plan is formed to take on the alien beast.

The Scorpion King

Another positive of returning to the past, oddly enough, comes from the 2002 movie The Scorpion King. We learn throughout Nope that Haywood Hollywood Horses was hired to work on the Dwayne Johnson movie in 2001, and Emerald shares a story about how she was supposed to train her first horse, Jean Jacket, but because of the job, she didn’t get to train him, and she saw as OJ was training him with their father in order to be in the movie. It’s clearly something that Emerald isn’t over, and her anger over it does bleed into their plan when she seems to recognize that it’s her time to train the “beast” after them.

While it seems to be a bit of a joke that the movie they were training Jean Jacket for was The Scorpion King, it does lead to OJ wearing his bright orange crew hoodie from the movie when they’re trying to carry out their plan against the beast that Emerald names “Jean Jacket,” as well. Pair that with OJ being on a horse like the Haywood history, and it is as if their own connection to the past helps both OJ and Emerald move forward and become successful, outside of their mission in that moment.

Kid Sheriff and Gordy’s Home

On the flip side of the positives is Ricky “Jupe” Park. The owner of Jupiter’s Claim was a child actor and someone who is clinging to that part of his life. His office is filled with “Kid Sheriff” merch in his main space, only to reveal that he has an entire room dedicated to Gordy’s Home!, a short-lived sitcom that resulted in a massacre by the main star, Gordy—a chimp who doesn’t like when balloons pop, to put it lightly. His desire to keep living in this past and searching for that same kind of fame he had as a child results in him trying to find a way to profit from the alien coming after them, even after he learns just how aggressive the alien is.

Emerald and OJ’s plan was originally to record the alien to put the footage out there and make money from it, but they kept coming back to protect their ranch, and it is the opposite of Ricky’s story, which is based around Jupiter’s Claim trying to use the alien to their advantage without knowing what they’re doing. Ricky’s obsession with his fame and glory leads to him thinking he can use the alien to wow audiences and bring crowds into his park, and it results in a blood bath instead.

Nope is in theaters now and is a must-see from Jordan Peele!

(featured image: Universal Pictures)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.