Jordan Peele's 'Nope' Rejects the Warm Glow of Nostalgia

Though it's packed with nods to the past-and some very cool T-shirts-the filmmaker's latest provocation isn't merely another piece of retro horror.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Watching many modern horror films can feel like walking through a haunted graveyard of references. The rotting corpses of classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, or The Shining threaten to spring from the ground at a moment’s notice, often in the form of a winking visual allusion or a self-aware line of dialogue. Sometimes, a character will literally watch the exact slasher the plot is riffing on or wear a vintage look that’s meant to serve as a marker of taste. In the case of a franchise like Scream, the in-jokes are part of the fun. On TV, Netflix’s ’80s-obsessed Stranger Things turbo-charged this trend, weaponizing nostalgia and selling it back to an eager audience in super-sized streaming chunks.

Jordan Peele’s latest genre-splicing experiment Nope, a monster movie about two Black horse trainer siblings on the outskirts of Hollywood played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, feels both keenly aware and slyly skeptical of this exact dynamic. Within the opening minutes, we read a Bible quote, hear the comforting sound of a laugh track, and see the images of Eadweard Muybridge’s 1878 cabinet cards “The Horse in Motion.” Immediately, the Get Out filmmaker has put scripture, the corny sitcom, and cinema history in conversation. As the plot unfolds, the references become even more specific: a poster for the Sidney Poitier Western Buck and the Preacher, a tangent about SNL cast member Chris Kattan, and the repeated invocation of “the Oprah shot.”

And then there’s the clothing. Kaluuya’s quiet OJ Haywood sports an orange crew hoodie from the set of The Scorpion King, the Mummy spinoff best known for providing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with his first starring role. (OJ’s father, also a horse trainer, worked on the film.) Palmer’s Emerald Haywood, more rebellious and outgoing than her brother, later wears a T-shirt for the noise-rock band The Jesus Lizard. Brandon Perea’s electronics store employee Angel sports a shirt for the doom metal group Earth, and alt-rock staples Rage Against the Machine also pop up. Peele and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Tenet) often frame the shirts in shots that make no attempt to obscure the logos or the names of the groups. Instead of feeling like empty cool-cred-chasing, the costuming, courtesy of Alex Bovaird, who did similarly sharp work on HBO’s The White Lotus, deepens the experience. It’s the best type of costume work: intentional yet believable.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

These aren’t exactly obscure “deep-cut” references. SNL is one of the most popular and long-running comedy shows on television; Rage Against the Machine is a major festival headliner and a dorm-room poster staple; Oprah is Oprah. There’s a strain of admirably unfussy populism that runs through Peele’s work. At the same time, the movies that most likely informed the structure and pacing of Nope-Steven Spielberg thrill-rides like Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and War of the Worlds-go unremarked upon. This is a UFO movie with no jokes about E.T., The X-Files, or Independence Day in sight. If you were on Twitter this week, you know Peele is a huge John Carpenter fan, but you won’t hear the characters going on about the genius of The Thing or They Live. That would break the movie’s spell.

This isn’t the first time that Peele has used costumes to play a little semiotic game with the audience. In the 1986-set opening sequence of Us, a young girl wears a Michael Jackson “Thriller” shirt, a character detail that’s both accurate and evocative. As Peele later explained in an interview with NME, he viewed the shirt as the “perfect symbol” to explore the film’s themes. “I think it addresses this idea of the shadow self and when we talk about the collective shadow self, which is what this film is about, it involves an ability for us to ignore the truth and the darker side of ourselves,” he said. Months later, he did an entire interview about the film’s T-shirts with The New York Times, telling the paper the shirt’s represent identity, specifically “outward-facing branding that we present to the world.”

In addition to the King of Pop, the opening of Us also featured a character wearing a Black Flag T-shirt. What shirt is Peele wearing in one of the behind-the-scenes Nope photos with Kaluuya? A Black Flag shirt, of course. In one of the group’s most famous songs, “TV Party,” they mock the couch potato mentality with the following lines: “Don’t talk about anything else/We don’t want to know/We’re dedicated to our favourite shows.” They go on to namecheck a number of them. (“Saturday Night Live! Monday Night Football! Jeffersons!”) With its blend of satire, terror, and awe, Nope taps into a similar barbed energy, allowing Peele to throw his own blood-soaked TV party for your amusement. Undoubtedly, he gets the last laugh.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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