NOPE and tuning out the noise
One understated takeaway from Jordan Peele's latest horror-thriller
Spoiler(s) warning: This post is a reflection on NOPE by Jordan Peele
"I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle." (Nahum 3:6)
This verse, plucked from The Book of Nahum (the seventh book of the 12 minor prophets of the Hebrew Bible) is used to open the latest horror-thriller, NOPE, by Hollywood mega-director, Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us). By the end, you’ll almost certainly be scratching your head trying to connect the dots between its thematic opening and the strange story that unfolds.
A killer monkey, money falling from the sky, horse trainers, UFO sightings, and oh, the UFO is actually a living organism that eats things…what does it all mean?
This Is The Way is not a film review page, so we’re not going to try and do that. What we do actually do here is look at great art and extract a takeaway or message from that art on how we should live. So here it is….
Don’t look at it. Don’t look up. Keep your eyes on the road.
With NOPE, this movie is imploring us to not engage with the gross spectacle of mass media and the morbid entertainment that defines life in America today. I’m not just talking about skateboard wipeout videos on YouTube or Coyote Peterson being voluntarily bitten by rattlesnakes for video views. No, I’m talking about the so-called news too, this fountain of information being produced by corporate media operations, curiously designed to run 24 hrs a day and always keep us guessing what is next.
Breaking news this, breaking news that, new revelations, new details come to light….have you stopped to wonder why the media covers the January 6th congressional hearings first and foremost as “primetime” news events? Why does Morning Joe on MSNBC have likable rock music that plays at the start & end of every segment? You should ask questions like this. The answer is that they don’t want you to change the channel.
In NOPE you’ve got this rabidly hungry UFO stalking a family on the rural outskirts of Los Angeles, gobbling up people and carrying them around after the fact…you can hear the blood-curdling screams of its victims still inside the beast as it flies around and descends for new prey. It’s horrific. Occasionally the beast sheds debris and raw material from its meals. Loose change, paper clips, giant metal horses…you name it. All of this and more begs its future victims to be fascinated by it and to want to see it for themselves.
Turns out, this is a death sentence.
If you’ve never read Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985) by Neil Postman, now is a good time to grab it from the bookstore or Amazon. It’s the key to understanding what NOPE is observing.
“When news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result. And in saying that the television news show entertains but does not inform, I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed.”
In the movie, we see this cinematographer watching this video of a Tiger battling a Python…..
It’s a gray area, right? It’s “educational” or informative…if you love nature and animals. We tell ourselves that, of course. But there’s something NOPE wanted to argue, which was that there are other unspoken reasons you might watch this. That being….the brawl is entertaining. We want to look at this because it’s certainly more stimulating than paying our bills or diligently responding to work emails.
What videos are you watching that blur the lines between informed and entertained? Street brawls at political rallies….rioting and street violence from the unrest in 2020…protestors clashing on college campuses…a supercut of wild comments made on last night’s airing of Laura Ingraham, Don Lemon or Ari Melber?
You are feeding the beast. With every click, with every 10-20 seconds watched. Don’t for one moment think you’re not. It is chewing you up and spitting you out.
Participants who engaged with more than six hours of media coverage per day were nine times more likely to also experience symptoms of high acute stress than those who only watched a minimal amount of news (ABC News)
Don’t be deceived by the masses saying you need to be “informed” first and foremost. You have duties to tend to and mouths to feed. When you’ve crushed it at that, then you can let in some white noise from the crazy world beyond.
Go see NOPE
There are not many movies like it right now. It’s an odd film, but it leaves you thinking. That’s my favorite kind of movie.
I’ll leave you with this final quote by Neil Postman.
“We have seen enough by now to know that technological changes in our modes of communication are even more ideology-laden than changes in our modes of transportation. Introduce the alphabet to a culture and you change its cognitive habits, its social relations, its notions of community, history and religion. Introduce the printing press with movable type, and you do the same. Introduce speed-of-light transmission of images (TV, internet) and you make a cultural revolution. Without a vote. Without polemics. Without guerrilla resistance. Here is ideology, pure if not serene. Here is ideology without words, and all the more powerful for their absence. All that is required to make it stick is a population that devoutly believes in the inevitability of progress.”
Not everything we do is progress.
Have a good week. This is the way.