The In Depth Meaning of the In Depth Meaning Of THE SHINING

photo credit:
Rodney Ascher, director of the experimental documentary Room 237,
leads an exploration of differing interpretations of
Stanley Kubrick's classic horror film The Shining.

I've been reading a lot of reviews of Room 237.  There's a good one at Salon and here's one from (though I don't get the feeling CS Monitor has seen the movie.) has an article titled, "Unlocking The Key To The Shining."  Stephen Whitty quips,
Didn't you realize that Kubrick's movie is really about the slaughter of Native Americans? That's why there's all that Western artwork in the hotel. And the elevator that fills with blood? That's because it goes right down to the ancient burial grounds below and... 
No, no, no. That's not it. The movie's about genocide, yes. But it's really about the Holocaust. That's why Nicholson's character uses a German typewriter. Or why, if you multiply the numbers of the haunted room — 2 x 3 x 7 — you get 42. Like 1942, OK? 
Sound a little far-fetched? Of course it does. After all, everybody knows why Kubrick really made this movie — to acknowledge his role in helping NASA fake the Moon landing. Why else do you think one character is wearing an Apollo 11 T-shirt?  (The full review is at: Unlocking the key to THE SHINING)

NPR's John Powers compares Kubrick to Alfred Hitchcock in that his films are still watched and studied by younger generations.

 My favorite article is posted at Wired by Angela Watercutter (is that really her name?), who offers, "The 10 Most Outrageous Theories About What The Shining Really Means."
"I have this nightmare of a spreadsheet that I'm afraid to look at that I put together at one point where I was trying to categorize every single theory that we found and cross-referenced them," Room 237 producer Tim Kirk told Wired. "At some point we just had to give up on that.”
Keep in mind, none of this has anything to do with the Stephen King novel!  He was  absolutely right to point out, "That's not my story!"  He may have been the first to recognize just how far off track Kubrick had gone.  What King has said The Shining is about: 1. Child abuse. 2. Drinking. 3. Family. 4. A haunted hotel.

 Here are a few highlights from Watercutter's article of what the Shining is really about:
  • Kubrick Changed the Mysterious Room from 217 to 237 -- to Indicate Kubrick's Moon Landing Confession
  • The Shining is really about the Holocaust. 
  • The window in Ullman's office can't exist.  (Because, of course, someone made a map and discovered the window shouldn't be there!)
  • The Shining is meant to be seen forward and backward.  (Not that I know HOW to watch the film backward.  Does my DVD do that?)
  • The  disappearing chair is a parody of horror films, reminding the audience that this is not just your regular scream fest.
  • Jack is a Minotaur, the Overlook is a Labyrinth
  • The pattern in the carpet of room 237 is full of symbols "telling us something about the continuation of humanity."  Of course!
And all of this proves what?  That we humans are not nearly as busy as we pretend to be.  Have we really stopped seeking the purpose of life and have instead begun to seek the in-depth meaning of the in-depth meaning of The Shining?

I agree wholeheartedly with John Powers:
In one clip, the fake-moon-landing guy discusses an "aha" Moment. Listening to this man talk, it's hard not to think that here are obviously intelligent people with too much time on their hands. The obsessions with sweaters and moving chairs bespeak some sort of interpretive disease in which one ignores most of a movie — the plot, the characters, the setting, etc. — in order to claim that what matters is actually found in a poster hanging in the background. If Stanley Kubrick — a hugely powerful director — wanted to make a movie about the slaughter of Native Americans, why didn't he just make it rather than hide his secret meaning in baking-powder labels that almost nobody would notice? ( hunting for secrets in the shinings room 237)
This is so much like Seminary students debating symbolism in the Gospel of John.  Or gracious, the Revelation!  I remember a NT teacher explaining the many meanings of the apostles catching 153 fish.  (Because there were 153 known types of fish back then -- thus the Gospel is saying to reach out to all men. -- I like that view a lot).  Finally the professor says, "Maybe it says 153 because John had to clean all those fish and he knew how many stinkin' fish there were!"

So when Doctor Sleep becomes a movie, I hope it will really tell us what happened to Osama Bin Laden.


  1. I've been known to read a lot into a movie/book/comic/etc., so I get the urge to analyze. However, it's easy to cross the line from analyzing the text into reading things into the text that are not actually there.

    As far as I can tell, Kubrick movies tend to be a magnet for that sort of thing. "The Shining" in particular.

    That's one end of the spectrum; on the other end are the people who refuse to analyze entertainment at all, and prefer to simply treat it as diversion.

    I'm in the middle, which to me seems like just the right spot.

  2. Hey, not middle ground. I'm looking for extremism.

  3. Very well, in order to settle this whole "meaning" debate once and for all, I present (to the best of my knowledge), the real, full and fundamental meaning of "The Shining" (I sure hope this meets extremist criteria).

    The story,you see, is about the internal demons has suffered from for quite a long time, the same mental demons that have powered a majority of some of his best fiction, from "Pet Sematary" all the way to "It". Part of what makes King's fiction work is the ability of his stories (or archetypes) to relate his own mental problems to the larger collective whole of society at large and it's history, a fact King expert Tony Magistrale has pointed out on occaision.

    King's demons are (to get psychological) are basically the result of his experiences growing up and the kind of personality they;ve given him. James Smythe at has kept careful tab of the progression of the mental working out of these demons throughout King's oeuvre so far.

    These mental "demons", or neurosis properly called, result in stories like The Shining and characters like Danny and The Losers Club, because in many ways the mind appears it;s own self corrective system built in, in the form of instincts, including the instinct of imagination, which psychiatrists have proven useful as a therapeutic tool in the analysis of mental patients, and the same principle appears to be at work in King.

    However there's a difference of who is in the driver's chair, as the proper products of imagination are "inspired" whereas works more like "Under the Dome" or "Sleep" are mere invention.

    To further back this up, I've even run acorss an interesting book called "The Poetic Mind" by Frederick Clarke Prescott, available for online reading to all users in various edition on the Internet Archive database.

    While the book is mainly concerned with poetry, Prescott admits the principles expounded in his book apply equally to novels, paintings etc.

    As for the ever vexing problem of 42, it has continued to be one of the most torubling enigmas throughout the galaxy, along with the question, "Why do humans still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea?"

    Uh, was that extreme enough?