What Is Nope About? Jordan Peele's Cast Debunks Internet Theories

We're finally getting a little closer to "Nope," the newest horror outing from director Jordan Peele. The film stars Keke Palmer and Danuel Kaluuuya as Emerald and OJ Haywood, two siblings seeking to capture video evidence of unidentified flying objects over their family's historical movie ranch. The trailers thus far tell a seemingly complete and straightforward extraterrestrial story, and Peele's fans are excited to see what the director has in store for them.

The trick, however, is that Jordan Peele films and their ad campaigns are rarely if ever straightforward, with both "Get Out" and "Us" both having major plot pivots and story surprises that weren't spoiled by the ad campaigns. As a consequence, if you think a trailer's given the whole plot of a new Jordan Peele film ... it probably hasn't. In a new video with Vanity Fair, the cast addresses a host of fan guesses... some much more plausible than others. Here are a few of our favorites.

Is it colonialism? ...Nope?

The very first fan guess piggybacks off Peele's successes as a thoughtful, critical filmmaker, one whose films are well known for using genre trappings to tell thoughtful tales with a critical eye. The first fan question (about the 00:46 mark) guesses "Nope" is: 

gonna be more of a message about colonialism and human panic. Almost every classic alien movie is turned into 'us versus them,' a tale about how the fear of the unknown makes us turn into monsters [...] Peele is known for the social messages and metaphors, so I have a feeling maybe the aliens are coming to help us, but the real monsters we discover are people.

The question continues to posit that the aliens may be coming to help, and the real monsters are people. Immediately, Keke Palmer reacts "It's a cool movie. It ain't 'Nope,' though." Daniel Kaluuya, following the cast's similar response, reacts that the idea makes for a "cool screenplay [...] but it's not." A colonialism metaphor would fit well within Peele's intellectual trajectory, sure, but the suggestion nets perhaps the biggest "nope" responses from the cast of "Nope." As is always the case with Peele's filmography, the answer's never so simple.

Who-o-o-o-oooo-o-o-o-oooo, caught in a bad miracle

Another intriguing guess hits around the 2:07 mark. The guess posits that "I would think a 'plague' is probably a name for a bad miracle. It's mostly associated with a lot of biblical reference." It goes on to posit that "from the human perspective it would seem like a punishment, but from the alien plague perspective it would seem like an invasion." There's also talk about how biblical plagues would feel like miracles to Moses, so "whatever is coming, we could either join it or suffer from it, hence a 'bad miracle.'" It could be true here that whatever's happening, and perhaps it is indeed some sort of extraterrestrial plague or force, could be "in the eye of the beholder" in its value. Isn't that true of his prior film "Us," for example, where the Tethered's invasion may be frightening but to them it's liberation?

Palmer instantly says that the query is "interesting," noting that "that has some coding" in it. The cast laughs, giving a shout-out to the querent and saying they have the cast's "respect." Kaluuya plays it extra-cool, wrapping by saying he wants to "develop something" with the querent, but here's the thing ... gauging the cast reaction, they seem surprised and impressed. Certainly they don't say "yes, it's a plague, certainly," but the positive impression and lack of a "no" may mean there's something to the guess, even if it's not the full answer. This one's a "maybe."

Heidi-ho there, alien neighborino!

Another theory floated by the online interlocutors (at around 3:49) is that most of the townspeople are aliens, residents who may have even been there some time (and possibly forgot their origins to some degree). It even goes on to posit that the brother (Daniel Kaluuya's character) may have been the Black man on the horse in the historical film footage (that opens the first "Nope" trailer). It's overt that Peele is promising flying saucers, and with that comes thoughts of aliens, sure. Could there be aliens among them, though?  

Keke Palmer gets excited, claiming "that's a good movie as well!" They agree the idea's a good idea for a film, and Steven Yeun asks "is that us anyway? Did we forget that we're not human?" It's one of the most positive receptions received by any of the guesses, and though it isn't confirmed the cast is once again impressed and excited, leading me to guess ... maybe? The trailers show a woman with an odd lack of lips, extraterrestrial-looking stuffed animals, and even teases what looks like a small gray extraterrestrial-looking head about to peek over a fence, so perhaps there's merit to the notion that there are some aliens among them. It's also worth noting that Peele recently helmed a new series of the sci-fi classic "The Twilight Zone," and he loves the classic episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," which showcases aliens invading by convincing paranoid citizens to turn on each other in a quest to find which neighbor is extraterrestrial. It's also possible aliens would just want to convince us that some among us were extraterrestrial, true or not ... we'll have to wait and see. 

Despite watching Nope I am trapped in a praxinoscope

Perhaps this author's favorite of the theories is one positing that "it seems like the people are trapped in an old-timey praxinoscope thing." (9:00) They go on to describe the prevalence of rotating, circular imagery in the trailers — horses, the well, the circularity of so much at the ranch, and so on. It's worth noting here that while the praxinoscope is an animation device invented in 1877, its adaptation into the zoopraxiscope (an early type of movie projector) was the device Eadweard Muybridge developed in 1879 ... and used to display his famous "horse in motion" moving image that featured heavily at the beginning of the first "Nope" trailer.

The cast laughs, and Brandon Perea claims, "I don't know what to think about this," later saying "they figured it out" while the cast nod and agree (lead by Steven Yeun). It'd be hard-pressed to see how the ranch could be in a praxinoscope (or its future technological variants) given that, while a lot of circularity is happening, nothing suggests the ranch as a whole is rotating and we can infer that the movie ranch does interact with the outside world. That circular imagery is featured, though, and it is possible images are rotating around the ranch. This one gets rated at 'probably not but wouldn't it be great?'

Do we know what Nope's about? Nope.

What we've gleaned from these answers is that, if there's any truth to these cast reactions whatsoever (they are talented actors, after all), it's highly unlikely that "Nope" is a straightforward colonialism yarn, and they may or may not be trapped in some version of a praxinoscope. By their positive responses, some version of a plague, or perhaps a town of carefully disguised extraterrestrials may be on the agenda to a degree as well. As for this writer, I think "Nope" may well have something to do with some otherworldly force "directing" world events behind the scenes, or moving to do so. It would explain the final trailer's emphasis that the characters shouldn't look at them, as well as the prevalence of director's cameras and the fact that the film's "aliens" don't respond well to being captured on film–they want to be behind the camera, not in front of it. We'll find out soon enough!

In the meantime, the official synopsis won't be providing much by way of hints:

"What's a bad miracle?"

Oscar winner Jordan Peele disrupted and redefined modern horror with Get Out and then Us. Now, he reimagines the summer movie with a new pop nightmare: the expansive horror epic, Nope.

The film reunites Peele with Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah), who is joined by Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Alice) and Oscar® nominee Steven Yeun (Minari, Okja) as residents in a lonely gulch of inland California who bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery

"Nope" premieres in theaters July 22, 2022.