“The shoe was another bad miracle.”
Like Peele’s previous movies, there is a lot to unpack, and he really doesn’t hold your hand in this one, leaving a lot of audience members reacting like this:
So, I took to Twitter and Reddit to round up some of the best fan theories about the themes and symbolism in the movie, as well as call-outs to details you might not have noticed on your first watch.
Alright, we know the movie is “about” an alien that looks like a spaceship but sometimes drapes, and also there is a really disturbing monkey named Gordy who kills people in a terrifying rampage that will haunt us all forever and ever, but what is this movie really about?
On Twitter, @heyitsdime has an incredible thread where they break down a lot of the themes of the movie, and one theory that really captures what’s at the core of this film (and of much of Peele’s other work) is that it’s about exploitation.
“This is a film about the relationship between entertainment and audience. Particularly how the two come to inform one another.
Throughout this film, we are nailed over the head with images of potentially violent, not-necessarily tame-able beings being filmed: Gordy, the UAP, the director watching clips of predator and prey fighting. Being drawn to the allure of spectacle makes us part of it, it chips at the division between what we consume and what we are. To consume entertainment that bastardizes its subject is also to be consumed. What we view directly informs who we are, and who we are informs what is created and what there is to be viewed. It is easy to lose sight of this divide.”
“Jordan Peele makes so many interesting points about Hollywood in this movie. TMZ getting killed out of ignorance, the director getting killed for the perfect shot, child Star getting killed by childhood trauma.
The only survivors were the animal handlers, the electric department (shoutout to Fry’s) and props if you count the plastic horse. Peele’s been in the industry a long time so it’s really interesting to see his take on all of it.”
“The UFO is us, the audience. We continue to consume no matter if it’s filmed in front of a live audience (the audience Jupe is entertaining) or if it’s from a street level blogger (the TMZ guy). The other points Peele displays is the trauma child actors are exposed to but we don’t care, we consume the end product anyway.
We also launch tirades online if the CGI isn’t realistic enough (fake horse on the ranch and cgi horse rolled in on set when Lucky doesn’t work out). I took this as a message to us as movie goers and viewers to chill out and stop demanding so much of the industry because it’s literally breaking people who are a part of it.”
“Daniel Kaluuya’s character being named OJ is what made me realize the alien was a metaphor for the monster that is the American entertainment industry.
Celebrities are like the old race horses. We, as a society, keep them around until they go crazy and then we just dispose of them. Both the alien and the entertainment industry literally chew people up and spit them out. And it only has power if you look at it/give it your attention.”
“Steven Yeun’s character observes the whole horrific spectacle with the monkey, and he fixates on a random thing— a weird detail of that clean, upright shoe. Like how he recounts the SNL story and seems to fixate on the wrong thing— how funny and great the sketch was rather than how horrifying the underlying event was.
And he has a whole room that’s a shrine to the show, like it was a positive experience. Maybe the shoe represents him focusing on the ‘wrong,’ unlikely detail and blocking out the surrounding horror?”
@heyitsdime on Twitter thinks that the shoe was another “bad miracle” and actually saved young Jupe’s life.
“To me that shoe detail was key to setting up an uneasy atmosphere. It’s such an unnerving image because it presumably got knocked off when the monkey attacked and happened to land pointing straight up, which is something that’s not impossible, but feels like a one in a million occurrence.
So it’s a great little way to make the whole scene just feel wrong. And thinking about that in context of the film as a whole, that’s kind of the circumstances leading to the father’s death— the ‘bad miracle’ of just happening to be in the wrong place when that nickel fell.”
So why, after this horrible incident, would Jupe choose to pursue another wild beast in trying to make the alien a part of his show?
“So my thought here is he remembers this horrible thing with the chimp and it was brutal and he’s kind of trying to fix that.
The chimp wanted to be his friend after the attack and he saw it die. Now he sees another violent ‘animal’ and thinks, ‘I can be the one to fix it this time.’ He does his best and fails because animals, no matter how well trained, are still animals.”
But how else do the chimp and the alien correlate?
“The chimp wore clothes and a hat because that’s what we wanted him to look like. It took off its disguise at the end and showed us its true self.
The alien took the appearance of a UFO because that’s what we wanted it to look like. It took off its disguise at the end and showed us its true self.”
Thank you for bringing up the alien! Let’s get into it. We spend a lot of the movie thinking this thing is a ship, but turns out it’s a LIVING BREATHING BEING!
“There’s a clever bit of foreshadowing during their first attempt to film the UFO and an upside down praying mantis blocks the camera. They didn’t get the shot, but they did get footage of a predatory organism descending from the sky, which is of course what the UFO turns out to be.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the significance of its transformation. Maybe it was a baby/pupa and it metamorphosed!”
“Jean Jacket (the alien) was becoming more beautiful at the end of the film as a way to lure in its prey, which must look at it before being consumed.”
@joshstrap thinks that the alien might not be an alien at all, but rather an undiscovered species on Earth!
“The ufo was shaped like a biblically accurate angel. I believe it was symbolic of the opening scripture and its behavior aligned with the promise of embarrassment and to be made a spectacle of for bad behavior.”
“A nice detail I noticed at the end was that Jean Jacket’s eye-thing resembled those old fashioned cameras with the bellows attached.”
This Twitter user even put together some pretty impressive sketches of the alien’s anatomy, helping us understand how it digested all those horses and people. *Shudders*
@OrbitalOddity tweeted this sketch of what they imagine the alien’s anatomy might look like, and I have to say, I’m sold!
@steviesoliel pointed out that the alien used its surroundings like they were its home.
And outside of the larger themes and main set pieces of the movie, people have a lot of thoughts on the small details too.
“The number 613 HAS to mean something in this movie. At some point early on in the movie, the number is referenced by Keke Palmer’s character. Later on, right before the abduction scene, Jupe says that the UFO appears at exactly 6: 13 PM.
I know this sounds nuts but I’ve been trying to find more references from the movie but I haven’t been able to yet and it’s driving me mad.”
“I was going to write you off… however, I just remembered that someone said that Gordy was loose on set for 6 minutes 13 seconds!”
“In regards to the people fighting outside the restaurant, Peele wanted you to be distracted by it. You couldn’t help but notice the fight in the background even though the camera is focusing on the main trio. We can’t help but be curious of spectacles like UFOs or chimps going on a violent rampage even if we subconsciously know it might put us in danger.”
“Their dad was killed by a nickel. The first movies viewed by general audiences were ‘Nickelodeons.'”
“There’s a scene where the director is watching footage of a tiger fighting back against a giant snake that’s trying to eat it, and I believe that the tiger represents OJ, and the snake represents the alien.
At the end, OJ is wearing bright orange and he also has two false eyes on the back of his hoodie much like a tiger has false eyes on its ears.”
@Konggodzuko caught something that I completely missed the first time; that the plush aliens of “the viewers” look suspiciously similar to the cameras in the Gordy’s Home studio.
This Twitter user, @Miap20216, noticed the clever use of the song “Exuma, The Obeah Man.”
“One of my favorite parts is that the title ‘Nope’ works on three levels.
1. It’s an acronym for ‘not of planet earth’
2. It’s the thing you say when you’re freaked out by something wild like, ‘I noped out of there,’ etc.
3. After OJ asks his sister, ‘What’s a bad miracle? They got a word for that?’ and there isn’t, so she just shrugs and says, ‘Nope.’ So in a way, the title basically means ‘bad miracle’ because that’s the answer she gave.”
Got any theories about Nope? Let us know in the comments!
Note: Some theories have been edited for length and clarity.