Is The Shining a mysogynistic film or a feminist film?
The cult horror movie The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) is out again in London. (Check the times below.) Amayzing Movies can’t take it for granted this opportunity to re-think it. We wanted to shine some light on a very critical point of view: Is The Shining a misogynist film or a feminist film?
Stephen King -- the author of the book -- claims that he hates the film. (Here’s what he says for BBC), but I have my doubts if King was treating Kubrick with fairness.
To say that Kubrick portrays Wendy (Shelley Duvall) as a hysterical character is to diminish her role, and most of all Duvall’s performance. Wendy is as hysterical as any woman under those circumstances. In fact, only women are hystericals. It’s a word with a very female-baiting history, coming from the Latin hystericus, or “of the wombs”. And although, Duvall suffered a lot on the set; she lost a lot of hair and “It was almost unbearable”, she escapes the gender stereotypes in horror movies. Let me explain better.
In horror movies, women are victims. They scream, and that is all they do. In George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), Barb is a blond, thin character who runs from a pursuing zombie. She does not speak a word to the Afro-American male character. Usually, in horror movies female characters fail to fight off their male counterparts. Men are the only ones with weapons.
You may remember the classic scene in which Jack (Jack Nicholson) slams the door with an axe. And you may say, “hey, that is a gender stereotype, right?”. Think twice: how did Kubrick portray the couple before this climax? Jack is constantly angry at her. They have an argument in the car when they are driving to the hotel. Wendy is trying to be a good mother and a good wife; Jack instead disrespects her, cursing her and shouts at her. He asks: “Has it ever occurred to you what would happen to my future, if I were to fail to live up my responsibilities?”
Kubrick subverts gender conventions because Wendy does not surrender. It is clear that Jack is failing. He cannot write anymore. There is a deep sense of resentment of Jack towards Wendy. He humiliates her. The hedge maze scene is quite symbolic of the family relations because the kid finds his way out, but Jack is frozen. Wendy then takes her kid and drives off the property. She is now in control of her life again. That end suggests a feminist vibe, no?
The Shining is showing at the BFI on 22/7, 26/7 and 30/7. Click here for more info.