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What The Shoe Represents In Nope, According To Jordan Peele

After back-to-back successes with "Get Out" and "Us," Jordan Peele returned in 2022 with his third feature film, "Nope." The movie proved to be a surprising examination of the filmmaking process itself and of the spectacles audiences indulge in. That theme is communicated in part through the character of Jupe (Steven Yeun), a former child star on a sitcom called "Gordy's Home." He's also one of the survivors of that show's cast, who were attacked by the chimpanzee Gordy during a taping. 

Jupe now runs a tourist attraction outside of Los Angeles, where he keeps some of the props from "Gordy's Home" in a secret room, including a lone women's shoe. Initially the shoe feels out of place, but a flashback sequence reveals its significance. During the carnage, a young Jupe (Pierce Kang) fixated on his co-star Mary Jo Elliot's (Sophia Coto) shoe, which came off during the attack and landed, impossibly balanced and toe-up, on the floor. The shoe is a perplexing visual motif — one of many confusing moments in "Nope" left open to interpretation — and there is perhaps no one better equipped to explain its significance than Peele himself. 

The shoe in Jupe's display case represents a trauma response

While a guest on the "Happy Sad Confused" podcast, writer and director Jordan Peele explained the significance of the shoe, which appears repeatedly in "Nope." According to the filmmaker, the shoe and Jupe's connection to it represents a specific response to trauma, wherein the victim will detach themselves from the visceral horror of the traumatizing event. Instead, they fixate on a mundane detail of the surrounding environment. 

"The shoe represents a moment where we check out of a trauma," Peele said. "Jupe zones in on this little shoe — that's Mary Jo's shoe — that has landed in a precarious, odd situation, and this is the moment he dissociates."

There is another layer of significance to the shoe, which Peele also explained. Peele talked frequently about what he terms "bad miracles" in relation to "Nope," which are horrifying events that seem almost impossible. It's also an idea that crops up within the text of the film itself, and according to the director, the shoe feeds into that concept. 

"In one way, it's the impossible shot. It's the impossible moment," Peele said. When asked by Josh Horowitz, the podcast host, whether it constitutes a bad miracle, Peele replied, "Yes, it's a bad miracle. Very good. You got it. You got the shoe."