I have a theory about the movie NOPE. And nope, I have not yet seen it.
As it’s been observed, “nope” refers to a common black experience of moviegoing where you interact with the movie. You speak out to the characters and say “nope” when the ghost appears. It’s a hallmark of Peele to have become the new Alfred Hitchcock with race being one of his usual themes. As a character says in the trailer, “[blacks] got skin in the game,” referring to the first Hollywood film being a black man riding a horse.
But it’s also pointed out NOPE stands for Not Of Planet Earth, and a more recent trailer makes it obvious that UFOs are involved.
So I predict the film going one of two ways:
1) It’s a reversion of Close Encounters. The protagonists, a black family, will at first be frightened of the aliens, then decide to join up with them as they, being black in America, never felt this was their place and never truly comfortable here. I think this is more of a stretch, and controversial, but Peele could pull it off.
2) Or, the title NOPE is also hinting at a thematic twist. We’re expecting a bold racial commentary in the plot, when in reality the only commentary is pre-established: black Americans are in the game, now enjoy your wholly outstanding blockbuster movie. Whereas Peele’s previous films are carving a space for a statement about the black struggle, what if this film points toward triumph? It will be pointed out early that the black experience is clearly central to the American movie experience (as made obvious in the trailer), and what we’re treated to is a standard well-made movie like Spielgerb’s or Cameron’s, and it happens to be made by a black man starring a black family with black audiences in mind. That’s all. “Is this a movie about racism?” “Nope. At least, no more than it’s about anything else related to fear and alienation.” The idea is that Peele can build his career on important messages about race, but he doesn’t have to let that define his career.
As a white movie-goer, I expect to be challenged by the idea that, for example, shouting “nope” at the screen is not inherently rude, but inherently American. And I’m invited to do it as well.
But my theory could be completely wrong. If I asked Peele if my theory were true, I can just imagine what his one-word answer would be.