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Jordan Peele's third movie Nope premiered in theaters last Friday, and it's already taken over both the box office and the internet. This time around, the acclaimed filmmaker has created a thrilling flick pitting brother-sister horse trainers (played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) against a mysterious UFO. While the alien encounter is the throughline of the film, the most terrifying sequence of Nope actually involves Steven Yeun's Ricky "Jupe" Park, a fake '90s sitcom, and a mysterious chimp.
The Gordy's Home! incident is a huge part of Nope, so much that Peele dropped the fake series' opening credits on Twitter during the film's opening weekend. It also has huge thematic connections to the alien, and the movie's overall theme of modern spectacle culture. Read on for our breakdown of the attack.
pic.twitter.com/gGH6OrtwFWJuly 24, 2022
What is 'Gordy's Home!'?
In the Nope universe, Gordy's Home! is the in-universe sitcom that former child star Jupe appeared in, following his breakout role in the film Kid Sheriff. (He now runs Jupiter's Claim (opens in new tab), a Western theme park based on the film.) Per the opening credits (seen above), the show seems to be about a chimp who went to space and now lives with a female astronaut and her family, becoming best friends with Jupe's character. The clips show a bumbling dad, a mom who balances cooking and cleaning with working as a literal astronaut(!), a teen daughter, and a skateboarding son who spends nights gazing at the stars with Gordy. (For those wondering, the theme song is Gowan’s 1985 jingle "(You’re a) Strange Animal.")
What happened on the 'Gordy's Home!' set?
The short-lived sitcom was abruptly cancelled after an incident that became infamous, spawning a Mad magazine cover and an SNL sketch staring Chris Kattan as Gordy. As we see in Nope, the chimp playing Gordy became violent while the show was filming a birthday episode (a bunch of balloons were released and eventually popped, with the loud noises setting the chimp off). The cast members were brutally mauled during the attack, with only Jupe getting out unscathed. Years later, the theme park owner maintains a hidden room full of memorabilia, and charges for fans to see (or spend the night among) the souvenirs.
Nope shows the attack twice, once as the film's opening scene and again around halfway through. In the second sequence, we learn that we've been seeing the attack from Jupe's point of view, as he hides under the table we see in the opening credits. The table also has a sheer table cloth draping over the side, so Jupe doesn't look straight at the chimp as it turns toward him. As the chimp approaches Jupe, instead of attacking the actor, it gives him an exploding fist bump, which was their trademark greeting on the show. (The chimp is then shot, ending the attack.)
What happens at Jupiter's Claim?
Throughout the film, Jupe has been planning a new attraction at Jupiter's Claim, the Star Lasso Experience. At the show's debut, we learn that the former child star has also taken notice of the alien hiding in the clouds above Agua Dulce. He tells the crowd that he's been luring in (a.k.a. feeding) the alien with the horses he bought from OJ (Kaluuya) after his father's death. Jupe believes that he's made a connection with the alien, and he plans to lure it out with the horse Lucky to show the crowd and, we assume, become famous again.
It immediately becomes clear that Jupe was wrong about whatever peaceful connection he thought he'd made with the alien (which OJ and Emerald (Palmer) nickname Jean Jacket). When Lucky refuses to leave the glass enclosure and get sucked into the sky from afar, Jean Jacket comes right up to Jupiter's Claim. At one point in the film, we learn that the alien spares people who do not look directly at it, possibly seeing direct eyesight as antagonistic. When it descends on the crowd, all looking up in awe at the spectacle, Jean Jacket responds by sucking them all up into its throat (chamber? esophagus?). Jupe, his family, and the park goers are stuck screaming as Jean Jacket flies over to the Haywoods' home, where the screaming stops and blood flows out of the alien like rainfall.
How does 'Gordy's Home!' connect to the alien?
Gordy's attack and the UFO-shaped creature are the two spectacles of the film, a important term which is first mentioned in its Biblical epigraph: "I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle" (Nahum 3:6). The films' Hollywood-adjacent characters want to exploit both of the non-humans and receive fame/infamy and fortune. Everyone from OJ and Emerald, to cinematographer Antlers (Michael Wincott), to the TMZ cameraman wants to capture Jean Jacket on film and sell the image. Jupe has been profiting from Gordy for years, either through notoriety or actual money at his little museum.
It's also clear that Jupe at least subconsciously thought he hadn't been mauled by Gordy because he formed some sort of connection with the chimp. The Star Lasso Experience was his attempt to recreate Gordy's Home! on a larger scale, and live off that fame like he's been using Jupiter's Claim to suck out whatever notoriety he had from Kid Sheriff. He obviously hasn't fully processed the 1997 incident (hence describing it to OJ and Emerald through the SNL sketch), so he never realized the more likely reason why he was spared: he didn't look Gordy in the eye.
In classic Peele fashion, there's also a huge visual clue linking Jean Jacket and Gordy in Jupe's mind. Earlier in the film, OJ encounters a group of "aliens" hiding in the horses' barn, who turn out to be Jupe's kids in costumes. He later sells the costumes and other merch, which are based on what he assumes the aliens, which he names "the Viewers" to look like. (He hasn't realized that Jean Jacket isn't a UFO containing aliens but one big alien.) Jupe's "Viewers" have furry, upright bodies, that could be called ape-like. In an even cooler detail a fan spotted on Twitter, the heads of the costumes look an awful lot like the cameras from the Gordy's Home! set.
Did an incident like 'Gordy's Home!' happen in real life?
So far Internet sleuths haven't found a record of a chimpanzee attack on a TV or film production set. However, there is a notorious incident of a chimp that was raised in a home and later mauled a woman. Per the LA Times (opens in new tab), Travis the chimpanzee was sold to Connecticut couple Sandra and Jerome Herold in 1995, and the couple raised him to "wear clothes, drink wine, eat at the dinner table and sleep in bed with them."
In 2009, Travis mauled the Herolds' family friend Charla Nash in a shocking attack that may have been triggered by Nash holding a red Elmo doll. Nash was blinded and her face, nose, lips and hands were severely injured. In Nope, we also learn that Jupe's co-star Mary Jo Elliot survived the Gordy's Home! attack and sustained similar facial injuries. (She's the disfigured face shown briefly in the trailer.) Later in 2009, Nash made an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show (opens in new tab), and wore a similar veil as seen on Mary Jo.
What about that standing shoe?
There's one detail of the second Gordy's Home! sequence that's ripe for fan theories. In the scene remembered by Jupe, he zeroes in on one of Mary Jo's tennis shoes, which is mysteriously standing upright next to her mangled body. He even kept the shoe over the years, as it shows up in his little museum. The physics-defying shoe isn't mentioned or seen again after the second Gordy scene, so there's a question of why that specific, gravity-defying shot made it into Nope.
Here's two interesting possible takes. First, the shoe standing upright defies science, meaning aliens could be involved, meaning Gordy had an encounter with aliens at some point and that factored into him snapping. This is mostly a cool sci-fi shot in the dark; the character Gordy went to space but we know nothing about the chimp playing him, not even if he had a separate name. It definitely falls in line with the people who are theorizing that the government knew about Jean Jacket, either through covering up the deaths (Agua Dulce being a blur on Google Maps and the Jupiter's Claim disappearance getting blamed on a flash flood) or releasing Jean Jacket into the desert to feed.
A second take is that Jupe's memory isn't reliable. The Gordy sequences are seen mostly through Jupe's eyes, and the shoe is specifically shown through his point of view. We could be seeing that he misremembered the shoe standing upright, and later claimed the shoe as some sort of token. If that's true, he could also have misremembered Gordy giving him the fist bump. It would be a heart-wrenching twist, that there was never actually a moment where Gordy "spared" him, and whatever meaning he gave to the incident, subconscious or not, came from a false memory.
Again, these are total fan theories, but if the second one happens to be right, Peele can feel free to let us know in some way. In the meantime, I'll be headed back to the theater to find more Easter eggs.
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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