The scariest scene of Nope, Jordan Peele’s new film recently released, is not about aliens or building tension between human beings. It is an unexpected moment compared to the center of the film, which is shown to us at the beginning and then in a chilling central sequence. We are obviously talking about Gordy, the chimpanzee star of a fictional sitcom called Gordy’s Home.
During the filming of an episode, the animal unexpectedly attacked the people on the set, including the actors. Among them too Ricky “Jupe” Park, who was the youngest of the cast members. Only he got out unscathed. He became convinced that he had developed a particular bond with Gordy, who seems to have sensed his fear or his innocence and did not hit him. This was shortly before being shot down. Park will do the same thing with “the cloud”. He will try in her way to tame her, to make her an unmissable show. It is just an illusion. The film will not reveal the reasons why Gordy’s killing spree stopped but it is certain that the bond has not been recreated with the creature in the sky. She cannot be tamed.
The most realistic moment in Nope
Nope begins with this unsettling image. The cameras capture abandoned violence, and therefore in an objective way. The massacre of Gordy, we will understand later in the film, has however become a morbid fact. Magazines have talked about it, amplified it and consequently normalized it. They made reality show. They told it by speculating about it, making a parody of it. Ricky Park also found a way to make money from the trauma he went through. He has kept all the objects in a private museum, open only to morbid tourists.
It is the most realistic choice of Nope, a film that continues as the story of a science fiction obsession, that of capturing not a monster but the proof of its existence and, even more, of perfect photography. But what does Gordy have to do with all the rest?
There is a very strong thematic parallelism. The indomitable nature, which cannot be trained except by leaving it in its favored environment. The man in this changes position. He feels he is the master, in a position of control, and instead finds himself weak. And then show business comes into play for both Gordy and the cloud. Peele describes it as an almost mystical and hypnotic force that leads to meaningless things. The characters risk their lives for no reason (if not the gain), they force their hand to the extreme.
However, the outbreak of violence on the television set is so realistic and impacting on the viewer also because it is strongly inspired by a true story.
The true story that inspired Nope
In 1995 a Sandra and Jerome Harold purchased a chimpanzee named Travis, born just three days old, from the Missouri Chimpanzee Sanctuary. They paid him $ 50,000 (the same amount that visitors paid to spend a night in Gordy’s museum).
The couple raised Travis as a human. A very strong bond was created and the animal developed a strong intelligence. He slept with the couple, brushed his teeth, played with other human beings, knew how to use television and loved watching photos on the computer. He was raised as a son. He became a local celebrity, followed the Harolds in daily activities, appeared in commercials and advertisements.
In October 2003 there was a first accident. Travis was in the car and was hit by an object thrown by a passer-by. He got out of the vehicle and chased the man. He had to intervene the police, but no complaint was filed. However, the fact led to the approval of a law for the possession of animals which came into force in 2009.
It was in that year that the tragedy happened. On February 19, a friend of the Herolds, Charla Nash, was attacked by her chimpanzee who beat her savagely, injuring her face and limbs. Sandra Herold tried to stop him unsuccessfully, when the police arrived the animal was shot down.
A parallelism with the survivors
Mary Jo Elliott’s character in Nope remembers survivor Charla Nash. The woman was disfigured in the face, lost her hands, nose, eyes and lips. In November 2009, the woman appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in one historical interview. She showed up covered in a black veil, very similar to the one she had worn her counterpart in the film.
Although there has never been a television show like Gordy’s Home, the parallels to Travis’ true story are many. Jordan Peele’s inspiration, however, seems to be not so much on the fact itself, but on the media reactions that he has triggered, on the spasmodic search for horror. In fact, it is no coincidence that Emerald Haywood looks for the whole filmOprah Shot, the perfect shot to go on television, make big bucks, and become famous. At any cost.