Jordan Peele’s 'Nope' Trailer Reminds Us Of The Dark Side of Film History
We’ve finally gotten the first trailer for Nope, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Us, Get Out and over a decade’s worth of sketch comedy that somehow paved the way to becoming an Oscar-winning horror filmmaker. Judging from the trailer, it’s about … we have no goddamn idea.
One thing we do know, the trailer begins with an iconic image; Eadweard Muybridge’s “The Horse in Motion,” a series of photos of a Black jockey riding a horse that became one of the earliest motion pictures – it's why Mubridge is considered the “forefather of cinema.”
In Nope, the proprietors of Haywood Ranch claim to be the descendents of that same jockey from Muybrdige’s work, now the “only Black-owned horse trainers in Hollywood.” Which might seem like a weird jumping off point for a horror movie, but the real life history surrounding that image is surprisingly full of horror – and seeing as how precisely calibrated Peele’s previous movies typically are, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to imagine it might be informing Nope to some degree.
For one thing, Muybridge friggin’ murdered a guy. Yeah, in 1874, Muybridge tracked down his wife’s lover, and the father of the child he believed to be his own, and shot him through the heart after first intoning “I have a message from my wife,” like a Columbo villain. Once he was arrested and put on trial, at first Muybridge pleaded insanity, but then later changed his mind and claimed it was “justifiable homicide.” In the end, Muybridge – who had travelled by “ferry, train and two-horse buggy” purely for the sake of murder – was found not guilty because it was in keeping “with the law of human nature” and the jury “could not conscientiously punish him for doing what they would have done themselves.” Way to tell on yourselves, jury.
Muybridge's work, too, isn’t free of creepiness. After cracking the whole galloping horse thing, Muybridge kept up his photographic experiments using other subjects while working at the University of Pennsylvania – but the majority of the “781 separate series of photographs” just involved filming naked people; naked women kissing, naked men wrestling, one nude woman was asked to crawl on the floor on her hands and knees, another was photographed on the toilet. And, sure, he may have been studying the human body … but at a certain point that just becomes old-timey Pornhub. Most troublingly, Muybridge’s models included both faculty and students.
Going back to the photo of the jockey on the galloping horse, in a way it owes its very existence to institutional racism. While the jockey’s identity remains a mystery, the sequence was only created because Muybridge was hired by businessman, and former Governor of California, Leland Stanford – the same guy who had previously advocated to ban all Asian immigration to the state, or as he put it, “the settlement among us of an inferior race is to be discouraged.” Stanford later exploited Chinese immigrant laborers to build the railway that helped him become “one of the world’s richest men.” The racetrack where Muybridge filmed horses was on the same land that later became Stanford University.
So, it’s no great leap to see horror, specifically the real world horror that allegorically informs Jordan Peele’s movies, in this key stepping stone in early cinema – but we’ll have to wait and see if it has any connection to this story about … ominous alien cloud monsters?
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Top Image: Universal Pictures