Warning: This post contains SPOILERS for Nope!
Jordan Peele’s Nope includes a mysterious shoe multiple times, and audiences may wonder why it was standing upright in the movie. The latest from the director of Get Out, Nope primarily focuses on an attempt to capture a UFO on camera, yet there’s another element of the story that receives ample screentime. Nope repeatedly mentions and shows an incident from Ricky’s (Steven Yeun) past when a chimpanzee performer went on a violent rampage during the filming of a sitcom. Amid the ape’s assault on his co-stars, there’s great emphasis put on a young woman’s shoe standing upright in the middle of the set.
The importance of Nope‘s standing shoe is clear, as it is part of one of the movie’s earliest sequences, revisited again later in more detail. The movie shows the blue and white shoe standing upright with a few drops of blood on it. Ricky is later revealed to have kept the shoe and included it as part of a collection of artifacts from the sitcom. The mystery of why the shoe was standing is not revealed by the ending of Nope, not even during the second depiction of the horrifying tragedy, which ended in the chimpanzee being shot dead. This lack of explanation leaves the audience to decipher Jordan Peele’s intentions with the shoe.
Since there is no reason given for why the shoe is standing up in Nope, the natural instinct is to link the shoe phenomenon and the chimpanzee’s attack to the UFO plot of the movie. The UFO creates multiple anomalies in Nope, and the shoe standing up in Nope could seem to be the result of another supernatural anomaly decades earlier. There is also the possibility that Nope‘s shoe is a massive red herring in that regard and that the true meaning of its standing upright is something else entirely.
What The Shoe Standing Up In Nope Really Means
One potential meaning behind the shoe standing up in Nope could be the movie’s exploration of spectacle and “bad miracles.” When siblings OJ and Em Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) realize they are dealing with a UFO, OJ labels it a “bad miracle.” As amazing as the uncovering of an alien presence is, the phenomenon comes at a horrible cost since the UFO dispelling waste killed their father and continues to wreak havoc upon their town. The shoe standing up in Nope could also be seen as a bad miracle given the unexplainable nature of the phenomenon and how it happened during a tragedy. It plays into the movie’s theme of turning tragic events into a spectacle, as Ricky is profiting off the collectible despite the trauma of its circumstances.
There is also the reading that Nope‘s standing shoe is tied to how the movie examines predator instincts. Once OJ realizes the UFO is a living being, he realizes that they should not look Nope‘s alien villain in its eye. The movie repeatedly shows how some animals react poorly to eye contact and to reflections. While several of Ricky’s co-stars were attacked by the chimpanzee, he focused on the shoe standing up instead of the bloody incident. It was only after the animal calmed down that Ricky and he made eye contact, which led to the ape not attacking Ricky. In that regard, the miracle of the shoe standing up in Nope represents a form of protection, even if Ricky eventually soils this by making it a form of spectacle.