Surprisingly, The Shining is one of my favorite movies. I may come across as someone who loves romance films and chick flicks, but the reality is, I am a scary movie lover at heart. I also tend to be really picky when it comes to scary movies- I don’t like anything gory or zombie-esque because it just doesn’t really scare me. The Shining, however, completely mystified me and terrified me at the same time. Admittedly, now that I’ve watched it about a dozen times, I’m more or less immune to the scariness of it. If anything, it’s something I like to put on as background music while I do other things.
Anywho, The Shining has garnered a number of fan theories over the years, and today I’m here to go over my favorites. Obviously, these are all theories I pulled from the internet, and none of them are my original discoveries. I’ll be sure to cite all of my sources at the bottom of the page, if you’re interested in doing some further reading.
1- It’s About the Genocide of Native Americans. This conspiracy theory is one of the most interesting to me, and it also provides some of the most concrete evidence. If you pay close attention to the movie, you’ll notice that the hotel is full of Native American imagery and decorations. Even minor details, such as the baking soda cans, allude to the Calumet (peace pipe) of the Native Americans. Some theorists have pointed out that the elevator of blood could symbolize the blood of the Native Americans that were killed by the European invaders. And anyway, the guy in charge of the hotel did mention that it was built on top of a Native American burial ground…interesting. I’m not exactly sure how this ties into the main plot of Jack being an absolute madman, but I see where people are coming from with this theory. Interesting fun fact: the design of the Overlook Hotel was actually inspired by a real hotel called the Ahwahnee, with similar Native American designs and symbols.
2- It’s About the Holocaust. This one feels a little strange and reaching to me, but you do have to take into consideration that we’re talking about Stanley Kubrick here. He was a very weird man. His films are famously noted for being dark, twisted, and unsettling, so it’s entirely possible that The Shining is a metaphorical Holocaust film. The basis for this theory is the significance of numbers. 1942 was the year the Nazis initiated their “Final Solution”, and the number “42” appears at various times throughout the film. It appears on Danny’s shirt in the beginning of the film, the number of cards in the parking lot, and even alludes to a movie Danny and Wendy are watching- The Summer of ‘42. And finally, perhaps the most chillingly, multiplying Room 237 (2x3x7) equals the number 42. There are a few other easter-eggs that point to this theory; Jack’s typewriter is German-made (his killing machine, if you will), and a Nazi emblem, a yellow eagle, is seen on one of his shirts. It’s also noteworthy to add that Kubrick was born into a Jewish Bronx household in the 1930s, and his father was named Jack. This could all be a huge coincidence, of course, but it does make for an interesting conspiracy.
3- It’s Supposed to be Watched Backwards. I was a little confused when I first read this conspiracy theory, but I think I finally get it. Basically, if you play the film backwards and forwards at the same time (and overlay them ), the two versions will eerily line up (people call this version the “Kubrick Code”). If you watch it this way, the beginning and end scenes will contextually line up in a way that makes perfect sense, and meet in the middle during the scene where Dick Halloran is lying in his bed “shining.” To be honest, this conspiracy theory isn’t entirely too out-there for me. After all, the reverse spelling of redrum to murder does play a large role in the film. Hopefully I can get around to testing this one out, preferably in broad daylight.
4- It’s About MKUltra. MKUltra was a series of highly controversial (and illegal) tests placed on participants from the early 1950s to 1973. Although the participants volunteered willingly, what they didn’t know was that they were actually being put under a sort of mind control with drugs such as LSD and sensory deprivation. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re right- MKUltra partly inspired the sci-fi horror series, Stranger Things. But anyway, back to The Shining. The theory goes that Jack Torrance is supposed to represent a test subject of such mind control, and the Overlook hotel represents the CIA slowly eating away at him and making him go crazy. There is also a Monarch ski poster visible at one point in the film, which some conspirists consider significant as well (“Monarch” was the code name used by the CIA for MKUltra). Spoooooky.
5- Danny is a Victim of Sexual Abuse. If you’re looking for a theory that feels more plausible than CIA mind control and the Illuminati, perhaps you’ll find this one believable. It’s no secret that Jack has physically abused Danny in the past (to the point of fracturing his arm), so I personally don’t think it’s entirely unbelievable that sexual abuse occured as well. I always felt a very strange, uncomfortable tension between Danny and Jack, especially in the scene where the two are alone in Jack’s room with Danny on his lap. Also, theorists have pointed out that the magazine Jack is reading while waiting in the Overlook lobby is an issue of Playboy, and one of the article headliners mentions incest. The widely discussed scene where Wendy witnesses the creepy-bear-costume-sex-act has also been brought up as an allusion to this. The bear motif appears throughout the film, especially with Danny (his bedroom contains a lot of references to bears). Another theory is that the room 237 traumatized him so much is because that is where the abuse took place- and that would partly explain Jack’s odd, impulsive, sexual experience there.
6- And Lastly, it Inspired Frozen. Obviously, this “conspiracy theory” is meant to be more of a joke than anything else (at least, it’s a joke to me), but let’s analyze it for fun anyhow. One blogger, Mary Katharine Ham, describes both Elsa and Jack as “a danger to family members, whose volatility increases after a long isolation inside a giant, ornate, high-ceilinged building in a cold desolate landscape. Screenshots from the two films do look similar, but I actually find it more humorous than creepy. Nonetheless, I get what Mary’s trying to say with this.
Before I close, I just want to point out that Stanley Kubrick has never officially confirmed or denounced any theories about this film. This is all speculation and not factually proven, but it’s still fun to go through all of the theories and make assumptions about the famous film. Like I said, it’s one of my personal favorites, and to be honest, I could see many of these theories (especially the genocide allusions) overlapping and being true; the symbols, the references to history, the overwhelming theme of denial. The movie, to me, is more or less a giant metaphor for the past, our past. What are your favorite theories about the film? Let me know in the comments!
Photo sources: Threadless, United to End Genocide, The I.B. Tauris Blog, Esquire, Hyperallergic, All That’s Interesting, Gallery Roulette
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