Justus is Nope’s greatest tragedy and one of the film’s most difficult themes

Jordan Peeles nope it’s probably about a lot of different things. The main characters are all obsessed with fame, whether they have it and don’t want it, seek it as a means to an unrelated end, or crave it for its own sake. They all pursue a mystery without considering the consequences – pursued by a UFO that is clearly abducting animals and humans, they work to bring other people proof of its existence, but without considering the possible costs. As critics have pointed out, this serves as a handy metaphor for everything from irresponsible journalism to click-hungry social media stars trying to commodify every aspect of life. There are a number of ongoing themes nopefrom the burden of the unknowable to the obsession with spectacle that dominates modern culture.

Another theme that runs through the film is the different ways people deal with and process tragedy. The main characters all struggle with tragedies that define them. OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) struggles with the slow financial ruin of his family’s farm and the death of his beloved father. His sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) navigates her estrangement from her father and her own failure to portray him as she forges a successful, independent Hollywood career.

Angel (Brandon Perea) isn’t as well defined, but he’s clearly hungry for some kind of meaning or direction, and sees his dead-end job at a large rural electronics store as a failure he needs to escape from. And cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) has all the fame he desires, but he’s unsatisfied and bitter. in the nopelife has let everyone down to the point where they see a menacing alien predator as an opportunity for change rather than the deadly threat it really is.

But the biggest tragedy in nope, the one defining the theme is former child star Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun). Justus shares many things with his fellow UFO hunters, from his thwarted ambitions to the game face he puts on his disappointments. But he’s the only one of them who spends the film lying to himself and other people in really important ways. And he is the only one who turns his personal tragedy into a collective, catastrophic one.

[Ed. note: Major spoilers ahead for Nope.]


Photo: Universal Pictures

Some viewers have been frustrated by the lack of clearly drawn connections between Just’s childhood trauma on the set of a 1990s family sitcom Gordy’s home and events related to the UFO. In flashbacks, Peele shows how the series’ main character, a chimp named Gordy, was startled on set by a series of popping balloons and viciously attacked several of his human co-stars. Jupiter was unharmed but frozen in fear as the bloodied chimpanzee mutilated and mauled others in front of him. For added trauma, as Gordy calmed down and gently approached Jupiter and offered a friendly punch, a late arriving rescuer shot Gordy to death and spattered Jupiter with the chimp’s blood.

The way Juste’s past influences his present may feel obscure because he never sets out his motivations in a clear monologue. He’s too paralyzed with fear to speak in the flashback scenes, and too cool and controlled in the present to reveal much to the outside world. But it’s clear that the events of the show left an indelible mark on him. In quiet moments, he’ll stare into space and replay that trauma in his head while telling everyone he’s fine. He plays the past lightly and shows visitors his Gordy’s home Memorabilia and compliments to the Saturday nightlife Skit about the chimp attacks, but Peele gives the audience a glimpse of the echoing chaos in his mind and how little it fits his calm surface.

We know Justus has built a comfortable, positive adult life for himself: he appears to be a genuinely good and generous partner and father, and his wife and three children are enthusiastic participants in the shows at his small, western-style amusement park. But we also know that he’s a skilled liar, able to smile in OJ’s face and casually agree that OJ can eventually buy back the well-trained horses he sold Jupe to keep his ranch financially stable – although Justus fed these horses to the UFO. Justus was a child actor, and he seems to have kept his pretending skills alive.

And ultimately, he uses those abilities to have dozens of people killed in horribly painful and grotesque ways, including himself, his entire family, his former ones Gordy’s home Crush and co-star, and a few dozen strangers unfortunate enough to get into his theme park. It’s up to the audience to decide if Just’s childhood tragedy with Gordy made him feel untouchable because he came through it safely, so he’s willing to set bait to lure a gigantic, mysterious monster into making it eats animals living in his backyard.

It’s just as possible that the same childhood trauma has him eerily fascinated by deadly, unpredictable animals and the power they represent, and that the way he courts the UFO is destined to fuel his interrupted fist bump with Gordy parallelize – he grasps at something capable of tremendous damage and making connections where others would not dare. It’s possible that he sees himself as bold and daring rather than charmed. It’s even possible that both of these things are true.

The ambiguity of Justu’s relationship with the UFO and the way it connects to the events surrounding Gordy all return to this theme, which deals with tragedy and trauma. Trauma survivors can externalize their experiences in a thousand ways, from processing through therapy and discussion to passing them on to the next generation, but still it’s largely an internal process that everyone handles differently. in the nope, OJ keeps his traumas inside and joins a dangerous quest to document the UFO without discussing how he feels about it. Emerald discusses her trauma and tries to offload the blame from OJ for his part in it. Angel sneaks into other people’s lives to try and steal their fame; Antlers sets out alone to seek a gratification he doesn’t want to share with anyone.


Image: Universal Pictures

But Jupiter turns his into a one-sided relationship with an alien creature who doesn’t care about him and sees him only as a source of food – and eventually as food himself. He’s so tainted by a past tragedy that he jumps straight into a larger one — killing dozens in the process. It’s obvious he can’t talk about his pain the way Emerald can – even in the midst of a flashback to the past, he tells his wife that he’s fine and that everything is going well. It’s obvious he doesn’t want to share it with other people, except in a form he’s remodeled and tightly controlled transformed into something entirely different: a tame little museum version of his past, with all the confusion and horror that’s combed away and neatly replaced by small glass cases.

But it’s also obvious that everyone in nope, he carries with him the bloodiest, wildest and most abrupt trauma and the one that is least irreversible. OJ might eventually save the ranch; Emerald may never be able to reconnect with her father, but at least she can reconnect with the brother who emulates him so much and with the ranch that bound them all. Angel can find his way out of his impasse; Antlers seems to be taking control and grabbing exactly what he wanted. But Jupiter can’t bring Gordy back. The best he can do is control and reshape the narrative surrounding Gordy – and turn to another dangerous creature to show how, despite its potential for violence, it can be controlled and nurtured.

And because he makes these decisions, Justus is the only one of them nopeProtagonist of who cuts off all his options, transfers his trauma to the people he loves and dies knowing how his choices went wrong. He’s not exactly a villain, certainly not compared to the actual killer in nope. But it is the film’s greatest tragedy. He’s a silent witness to a terrifying moment who chooses to keep quiet about it — and makes it a whole lot worse in the process. nope contains many messages about the price of glory and the dangers of pursuing it. But one of her strongest messages is that denying and embracing trauma never has a positive or beneficial outcome. It’s far more likely to erupt and even expand, even by people with the best intentions of keeping it under wraps.

https://www.polygon.com/23287433/nope-explained-jordan-peele-themes-fame-trauma-tragedy Justus is Nope’s greatest tragedy and one of the film’s most difficult themes

Charles Jones

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