What Inspired the Gordy Scene in Jordan Peele’s Nope? The Talks Today
Jordan Peele‘s 2022 neo-Western science fiction film is his third horror film and one that pranked the viewers. Unlike his previous two films, Get Out and Us, Nope had layers and layers of confusion which ultimately led to a whole discourse on the theories and meanings behind the film. As Chow and Zornosa perfectly sums up, Nope is a “transfixing and hugely ambitious movie with a perplexing array of disparate characters and symbols”. Even though the film did not make its way to the Oscars, it is obvious that this masterpiece is one that will continue to be a part of film discourse. One key reason is the Gordy scene.
The Gordy scene, where the “tamed” chimpanzee goes on a rampage while on set of “Gordy’s Home” and maims his cast members except Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), is not only graphic, but it also leaves the viewers scarred. In fact, for the fans of Nope, this particular scene might have been one of the most memorable ones and might have left them confused. After all, the film’s central plot seems to be on the carnivorous UFO and Gordy’s story seems to be a sub-plot. However, this particular scene seems to play a central part in the main story, as the connection between Gordy and the UFO is hard to ignore. So, the question is, how did Peele come up with this scene.
Possible link: Travis the Chimp and Charla Nash
In 1995, Sandra and Jerome Herold adopted Travis, a three-day-old baby chimpanzee, who went onto become a part of their family. This adoption comes after the chimp’s mother was shot dead as she was attempting to escape the Missouri Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the US. He was treated very much like a human and for fifteen years this chimpanzee acted like one. From dressing up in clothes to dining with the couple, mastering the technology, and even traveling with them, it is obvious that Travis was their child in a way. However, in 2007, Travis attacked Charla Nash, a friend of the family and someone whom Travis was familiar with. Nash was brutally attacked to the point that she was no longer recognizable. Following the attack, Travis had calmly attempted to get inside the parked police car, following which the officers had shot him dead.
Interestingly, this is very much the story of Gordy’s scene. Even though the creator of Nope have not confirmed the connection, it is hard to ignore the resemblance between the two stories. Looking at the images of Nash, one can easily see how she is represented by Mary Jo Elliott in the film. Moreover, Travis’s ending from being calm to being shot is exactly how Gordy’s life came to an end. Clearly, the most obvious similarity is the taming of a chimpanzee and trying to convert them to human children. Thus, it is highly likely that this real life story inspired the Gordy scene, even if it is yet to be confirmed.
Even if Travis and Charla Nash incident did not act as source material for the Gordy scene, Peele might have looked at the issue of animal taming and animal abuse. The taming of wild animals for human use, especially for entertainment purposes, has been a huge violation of their rights. Not only is it inhumane; it is also a disgusting act that causes a lot of harm. “Animals aren’t actors, spectacles to imprison and gawk at, or circus clowns” and, unfortunately, a lot of people have failed to understand this. That is something that is made abundantly clear in the Gordy scene.
Gordy is one wild animal who was tamed, controlled and trained to act like a human. The fact that he garnered a large audience suggests how he was puppeteered around for profits from the entertainment industry. So, what happens when people mess with nature? Peele answers this question quite graphically by visually representing the moment Gordy went from a “humanized chimp” to a “wild chimp”. The way in which the film focuses on Gordy’s screams, his tantrums, and finally, the blood across his face is a clear message sent to everyone who supports and justifies wild animal domestication. Such stories have been so prominent across the world. From tamed elephants to tamed leopards, the tale of domesticated wild animals snapping and attacking people around them is not a new storyline.
Jurassic Park, King Kong, and Planet of the Apes links
The idea of “tamed wild animals” has been used in several major hits. The Jurassic Park franchise focuses on the development of dinosaurs and the several attempts made at taming them, while King Kong, a cult classic, portrays the story of an attempt at removing the giant ape from its habitat to exhibit him and make a profit. All these stories end up in a disaster, clearly sending out the message of how it is never a good idea to mess with nature and interfere with an animal’s livelihood. Peele has cited these two movies as inspiration for Nope stating how the way they “really deal with the human addiction to spectacle and the presentation and monetization of that” influenced the film. It is now clear that Gordy’s scene might have had a lot of inspiration from these films, as it follows the same trajectory of man’s attempt at using wild animals as a spectacle.
When it comes to the creation of Gordy the character, Terry Notary was the mastermind who perfectly captured and visually represented this character. Notary is already well-known for his performance in the Planet of the Apes movies. So, this actor was able to tap into his experiences to bring out the brutal nature of Gordy.
Feelings of Rage – Animal and Man
During Peele’s conversation with Notary, the director has told the actor that the scene is important because it represents his “early career as a performer”. Interestingly, Gordy’s scene is also a story that the viewers might be able to connect to and sympathize with. Even after the whole rampage, the way in which Gordy was taken down breaks the viewers’ hearts. It also shows how the rampage itself is not Gordy’s fault, as he was forced to perform for others’ entertainment.
The feelings of rage, anger and bitterness because you are pushed to your brim and forced to work is something many of us can relate to. Thus, Peele has reflected on his experience as a performer and possibly his feelings of rage to give life to Gordy’s character, in turn, making the connection between man and animal. This allows the message on animal taming to be more profound as the viewers are able to look at Gordy as not just another wild animal but another living being like their own selves.