Jordan Peele Special | ‘No! Don’t Look!’, the society of the spectacle and the compulsory exploitation
On the last day August 25ththe long awaited thriller ‘No! Do not look!’third feature film directed by Jordan Peelearrived in national cinemas to delight and thrill spectators.
In its newest foray after the acclaimed ‘Run!’ and ‘We’Peele decided to resume the partnership with Daniel Kaluuya and meet for the first time with names like Steven Yeun and Keke Palmer for an adventure set in the almost desert landscape of the southern United States in which two brothers wrapped in grief and the prospect of losing the family business find themselves engulfed in the mysterious appearance of a kind of extraterrestrial that lurks in the skies. And while the creature doesn’t look dangerous, things soon turn into a battle for survival when the UFO decides to attack them for no reason – and turns out to be a monster with insatiable hunger.
Bearing in mind that this is a Peele film, the narrative is not just a celebration of the existentialist sci-fi that has conquered us since its popularization in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And, following in the footsteps of its previous titles, it is necessary to delve deeper than usual to discover the critical and social subtleties that are hidden in a very simple picture, so to speak. And, similarly, we need to put together the pieces of a bizarre puzzle that not only involves the alien in question, but horses, a murderous monkey and a legacy that seems lost in the midst of predatory capitalism.
Like this ‘We’, the feature begins with a prescient quote from the Bible, more precisely from Nahum 3:6, whose verse says: “I myself will cast filthiness on you, I will treat you with complete disgrace; and I will make you a spectacle, an example to all.” The sentence in question premeditates one of the main mottos of the narrative which, if it wasn’t very clear with the promotional material, in fact gains an explicit layer after the plot closes. The subject in question can be characterized as “the society of the spectacle” or “the spectacle as a fetish” – an object already studied by several philosophers and thinkers.
If we travel back in time and go back to Ancient Rome, it is possible to draw a parallel between contemporary spectacularization and the policy of Bread and Circus, widely spread by the autocrats of the time – whose main objective was to appease the population through the promotion of banquets, parties and events (such as the gladiator fight) in a momentary response that masked the real problems faced. Today, it is possible to see this same policy infused with the multiple definitions of spectacle that permeate such studies and that converge in a mandatory passivity in the face of time and what it really means to be alive. Second Guy Debordfor example, discusses the fact that the spectacle is a “concrete inversion of life” and the “autonomous movement of the non-living”, which, at the same time, “part of society, [é] society itself and its instrument of unification”.
Each character, however different their backstory may be, shares the definition presented above and becomes a victim of the fetish for spectacularization and the way in which this imposition turns into a compulsory alienation of what really matters. No wonder, then, that OJ (Kaluuya) finds it as easy as facing the alien (nicknamed Jean Jacket) – just don’t look at him and don’t become the target of the problems that the spectacle and acceptance of a dangerous exhibition can cause. . OJ perhaps functions as a symbol of a struggle against the spectacle, as it prefers to move away from the concept of “false reality” immortalized by this social relationship and seek a more concrete meaning of the meaning of life.
While Emerald (Palmer), also involved in the empty promises of spectacularization, struggles to keep the family business – whose association with the history of cinema makes references to the analyzed theme -, she gradually gets rid of what seems to cause her an inexplicable harm and a growing sense of escape. After all, in the first acts, we see that Em is a woman with complete certainty of what she wants for her future and, for this reason, she cannot limit herself to the reality of her father and brother – even more considering that her plans go far beyond raising her. of horses and contentment with the bucolic. Eventually (and from a somewhat pessimistic perspective), her most promising advances take her back to the beginning, in a vicious cycle of denial and frustration that traps her in the most remote past.
Something similar happens to Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and Antlers Host (Michael Wincott), each with their journey internalized in the show and both nourishing glaring similarities. Angel, who works in one of the multiple franchises of the defunct Fry’s Electronics, decides to appropriate the right to “take care” of the cameras he installed on OJ and Em’s farm and, when the alien starts to show up, immediately get in his car. and rushes there to observe closely; why, he even asks Em to pull out a praying mantis that is blocking one of the lenses and preventing his full experience. Antlers, in turn, is the materialization of spectacularization, as it works in the audiovisual scenario and knows the intricacies of capturing UFO images and publicizing its presence to the world.
There is another theme that takes shape throughout the film, associating itself with the society of the spectacle and the character lived by Steven Yeun, Jupe: that of exploration. When younger, Jupe participated in an ambitious sitcom titled ‘Gordy’s Home’ and which featured a monkey as the protagonist. However, as we see in some of the sequels, the almost immediate suspension of the series came after a tragic incident in which a burst balloon culminated in a vortex of rage for Gordy and the subsequent murder of two cast members. This uncontrolled rage is a kind of response to the subjugation suffered by the animal, in response to the constant exploitation it suffered, imprisoned in a situation of mandatory servitude. And the event, which was marked in the popular imagination, became an urban legend and integrated what is seen as the mnemonic passivity of spectacularization.
This memory is even embraced by Jupe, now older and owner of an amusement park: in his office, it is possible to see a token, a memento of what he lived when he was younger and a symbol of what he faced in the past (perhaps having healed, perhaps fueling a trauma that has nowhere to escape). Everything indicates that Jupe did not learn from the mistakes of others, using the presence of the alien as the main attraction of his park and reaping the fruits of excessive exploration and defense of the show as a source of income – that is, he and the audience of his show are brutally killed.
Debord characterizes the essential movement of the spectacle as the ingestion of “everything that exists in human activity in a fluid state and then spewing it out in a coagulated state, so that things assume their value exclusively through the negative formulation of the lived value” – and such This maxim is adopted by Peele in his own definition that is not redundant, but borders on literalness: the UFO, which is constructed as an antagonist, sucks up all the life it encounters and that dares to look at it as if it were another object, nourishing what you need and then regurgitate what is no longer valuable (the clotted state analyzed by the author).
Remembering that ‘No! Do not look!’ continues to be shown in national cinemas.