All the References and Easter Eggs in Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’

Jordan Peele’s third film, Nope, premiered in theaters last Friday, and spoilers are already raging on Twitter. The sci-fi cowboy epic starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun is simpler than We and get out, offering what Peele called “the great American UFO story”. Of course, knowing Peele (and America), there are still tons of pop culture references to uncover and hidden meanings ripe for public interpretation. Below is our breakdown of the bigger details in Nope.

Show (Nahum 3:6)

The film begins with a biblical quote from the Old Testament: “I will throw on you abominable dirt, I will make you vile and I will make you a spectacle.” The term spectacle is a one-word summary for the entire movie, and it’s one of the only deeper meanings that Peele revealed in the film’s draw. In a fandango interview, the filmmaker even shared that he wrote the film at a time when a return to cinema was in question, so he wanted to think big.

“I wrote it at a time when we were a bit worried about the future of cinema,” he said. “So the first thing I knew was that I wanted to create a show. I wanted to create something that audiences should come and see.”

The alien monster at the center of the film is an immense sight, one that you can’t help but watch (even if watching leads to your immediate demise). Capturing such a spectacle on film is an integral part of modern show business, whether the subject matter is real (documentary) or contrived (based on fiction).

It is also part of TMZcore business model: continuing tabloid culture by turning every celebrity sighting into a spectacle (hence the TMZ cameraman who introduces himself). Emerald’s (Palmer) and OJ’s (Kaluuya) mission to film the alien becomes an allegory of Hollywood in general and how the industry exploits most of those involved to keep up with show business culture. The story of Jupe (Yeun) is another powerful example.

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Gordy’s house!

The massacre on the set of the sitcom Skirt, Gordy’s House!, is the most unsettling sequence in the film, and it draws on some real-life references. While there’s been no real on-set incident involving a chimpanzee attack (at least no fans have found yet), people have been mutilated and sustained injuries similar to those seen on the costar of Skirt, Mary Jo. In 2009, a famous chimpanzee named Travis mutilated Charla Nash, a longtime friend of his owner; when she revealed her injuries on The Oprah Winfrey Show, she wore a hat and veil similar to what Mary Jo wears on the day of the Jupiter’s Claim attack.

Peele also shared the opening credits of Gordy’s house! this weekend, and the show itself is filled with space references. In the sitcom, Gordy appears to be a chimpanzee who went to space and now lives with an astronaut and his family, the Houstons. One shot shows Skirt and Gordy looking up at the sky through a telescope, and another shows Skirt hiding under a certain table. There’s even a historical connection in Gordy’s name. In 1958, a squirrel monkey named Gordo was launched aboard a US Army rocket called the Jupiter IRBM AM-13.

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By the time of the film, Jupe appears to have unprocessed trauma from the massacre, but he’s also profiting from it through money and infamy. He recounts the incident to OJ and Emerald recalling a SNL sketch where Chris Kattan plays Gordy. (In real life, Kattan plays an ape-like persona in a series of skits called “Mr. Peepers.”) He also has a hidden room filled with memorabilia and shows it to fans for a fee.

His reaction to the alien is also informed by his experience with Gordy. Instead of fearing the alien, he believes he has formed some kind of bond with him and “tames” him by feeding him OJ’s horses in preparation for his big show. Maybe he thinks the alien favors him because Gordy spared him during his childhood attack.

There’s even a direct comparison between the alien and Gordy. During the on-set massacre, Jupe hides silently under a tablecloth-covered table, so that he doesn’t look directly at Gordy during their final punch. That silence and lack of eye contact is probably what spared him; this is the same behavior that OJ and Emerald use to evade the alien’s attacks.

While this is probably lost on Jupe, as he amplifies his voice and looks directly at the alien during the show, it seems he subconsciously connects the alien encounter and the massacre, as his alien costumes resemble the cameras of the whole of Gordy’s house! He tried to take advantage of the alien, like he took advantage of Gordy, and ended up in a rain of blood.

The horse in motion

During Emerald’s speech on set, she mentions what can be considered the first batch of motion pictures: a series of cabinet cards featuring a man on horseback. The photographs taken by Eadweard Muybridge in 1878 are known as horse in motion, and Emerald claims the horseman is her and OJ’s great-great-great-grandfather.

In real life, the identity of the jockey is unknown, although Muybridge has published a book about his experiments in motion photography. (Apparently he wanted to know if all four feet of a horse had left the ground at some point in its stride.) While there is some question as to whether the rider was actually black or not, there is a long history of black cowboys which has recently been explored in films like concrete cowboy and The more they fall.

Buck and the preacher

Speaking of black cowboys, Haywood’s home decor includes a poster of the 1972 western Buck and the preacher. Directed by Sidney Poitier, the film stars Poitier and Harry Belafonte as cowboys in the late 1860s who drive a train of black settler wagons from Louisiana to the volatile territories of Kansas, while fighting off raiders whites hired by plantation owners to scare passengers. South. The civil rights era saw a wave of black actors like Poitier (Dueling in Diablo), Sammy Davis Jr (Sergeants 3) and Jim Brown (Take a hard ride) starring in westerns.

Fry’s electronics

The electronics store where Angel (Brandon Perea) works is the now defunct family chain Fry’s Electronics, headquartered in San Jose, Calif., which had 31 stores in nine states when it closed in last year. Like Best Buy, the store sold everything from tech gear to home appliances; many west coast kids spent hours there while their parents bought a new refrigerator (no, just me? Okay, so). The stores were known for their themes (from Egyptian to steampunk to, yes, cowboys). Angel’s place of work, with the flying saucer sticking out of the front, was the Burbank, California branch near Hollywood.

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Oprah shot

Emerald names the elusive perfect shot she seeks after Oprah Winfrey, the media mogul who is still known today as the most iconic talk show host. Although Winfrey remains the most wanted interviewer on the small screen (see the Harry and Meghan and Adele specials for example), The Oprah Winfrey Show ceased broadcasting in 2011 after running for 25 seasons.

The Scorpion King

The childhood story which shows the complicated history between OJ, Emerald and their late father, Otis Sr. (Keith David) revolves around The Scorpion King, the 2002 Mummy spin-off starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Otis was a horse trainer on the film and he brought young OJ for the kid’s first on-set job. He also brought their horse Jean Jacket for the gig, which was supposed to be the first Emerald young horse ever trained. The snub still irritates Emerald as an adult, so before the film’s final action sequence, OJ dubs the alien Jean Jacket, showing Emerald now has the chance to tame his first animal.

The Scorpio King hoodie also has tons of meaning for OJ. He kept it for almost 20 years, and it is a symbol of his role in carrying on his father’s legacy. If you land on the “JO isn’t alive” side of the film’s ambiguous ending, he’s now wearing this hoodie as he watches Emerald, who will continue Haywood’s legacy, wherever Oprah’s shot la led.

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