Based on promotional material alone, it’s safe to assume that no one went into Jordan Peele’s house. nope with “mad chimpanzee” written on their bingo cards. And still…
Peel’s terrific summer blockbuster celebrates the sci-fi genre while also challenging viewers to confront, as the director put it in a recent interview, our shared spectacle addiction. Daniel Kaluuya plays O.J. Heywood, a quiet but observant horse trainer who, along with his sister Emerald (the gorgeous Keke Palmer), fights to save the family’s horse farm from financial devastation. Steven Yen plays Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park, the owner of a nearby theme park who can’t wait to buy a ranch.
OJ and Em’s golden ticket could be a UFO (yes, you read that right) that keeps flying in the sky above their land. If the siblings can get a good enough shot to get on TV, they think they can make it big enough to save the ranch.
None of this, however, explains why the film opens with a chimpanzee sitting next to what appears to be a dead body, or why this chimpanzee turns out to be the film’s most tragic figure.
From the killed deer at the beginning Get out armies of rabbits living among the tethered Us-and now these chimpanzees are animals – a recurring motif in Peel’s work. When asked about those touches in a recent interview with DC’s Fox 5, the director remarked that animals can be “a reminder of how we feel about anything that doesn’t count as human.”
“Animals are trapped in real terror,” Peel said. “In a way, they symbolize something very bad in us. This is what my films are about. About how bad we are.”
This thematic thread felt rather thin in the first two Peel films, but nope makes it brutally harsh.
As a child, actor Ricky, also known as Jupe, appeared on a short-lived sitcom called Gordy’s house. (Count: Full house vibrations.) However, “Gordy” was not a human boy, but a living chimpanzee. During the scene at the birthday party, a bursting balloon causes a hairy primate to have a violent and murderous seizure. In his dark office, Ricky tells OJ and Em the version of the story that aired on Saturday night lifestarring the “undeniable” Chris Kattan, with unsettling glee.
But just like the sanitized vision of the wild, wild west that Ricky sells on the outside, SNL version House of Gordy the massacre leaves aside the real dark part of the story. We see it in a wordless flashback: after 8-year-old Ricky bloodied two fellow cast members in front of him, the chimpanzee wanders towards the child star. However, instead of attacking, Gordy performs the human gesture of love he was taught in a recurring episode of the show, an explosive first strike.
As a frightened Ricky raises his fist to meet Gordy, someone shoots at the monkey, spattering the boy’s face with blood.
Despite what our horror movie monsters so often tell us, closeness between humans and animals tends to be more dangerous for so-called “beasts”. Stories of dolphins and other sea creatures dying at the hands of selfie-hungry tourists who pick them up from the water are all too common, and that rules out all the animals we hunt for sport. Even with the best of intentions, humanity tends to anthropomorphize animals at its own risk.
The chimpanzee, a creature that has dazzled scientists and the public with its “human” behavior, is the perfect medium to convey this message.
When I saw Gordy reach for Ricky’s hand only to get shot, I found myself crying – a reaction I must admit I didn’t quite expect from a movie that, judging by the trailers, looked like more light adventure with UFO. But this scene is devastating: a chimpanzee who has been kept captive away from his habitat, isolated from his species, and trained all his life to behave like a human for fun, extends his hand in one last gesture, which he used to think of as “friendly” but in fact actually does not understand. Then they shot him.
“What even gave us the right to put it on this soundstage?”
What even gave us the right to put it on this soundstage? The moment overflows nopea complete indictment of humanity in one tragic shot.
There is some irony in that nope– a film that actively criticizes the assumption of humanity that our interests are higher than the interests of animals – is compared with Jaws. Valerie Taylor, a turtleneck who worked alongside her husband on the film’s shark scenes, has since expressed regret over the panic the film caused among holidaymakers. (The reality is that human contact with a shark is statistically worse for sharks than for us; they remain at greater risk than humans due to fishing.)
Aside from the actual death of the chimpanzee “Gordy”, the real tragedy of his fate lies in Jupe’s complete inability to process it. As a theme park owner, the former child actor is still completely dependent on spectacle to make a buck. And apparently, surviving a chimpanzee attack on set only convinced him that he could similarly charm an alien species, bend it to his will, and milk it for profit.
Even Jupe’s former co-star, who wears a scarf over her face to hide her injury from a chimpanzee attack, can’t miss the show. As the sheer fabric billows in the wind, revealing her scarred face and milky eyes looking skyward with a mixture of fear and wonder, viewers must come face to face with one of humanity’s darkest realities: we just never know when to say enough is enough. .
#built #gruesome #tragic #scene #chimpanzee