Overlooking the Self: ‘The Shining’ as an allegory of American Imperialism

Shelley Duvall (left), Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson head to the Overlook Hotel in 'The Shining'
Shelley Duvall (left), Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson head to the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’

In The Shining, writer-director Stanley Kubrick presents the chilling tale of Jack Torrance, a middle-aged, all-American family man who slowly loses his mind to forces of the supernatural. When he accepts the position of caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, a massive, swank institution ornately decorated and expensively furnished, Jack opens himself up to the physical manifestation of his alter ego, a ghostly force destined to hack up his wife and son with an ax.

Throughout the film, we learn three pieces of information central to the film’s thematic progression. First, that the Overlook has quite a sordid past and remnants of the past still linger in the hallways and guest rooms of the hotel. Next, that Jack’s young son, Danny, has a form of extrasensory perception, not to mention an alter ego of his own. And, most central to the story, we discover that when given the chance, forces of evil will drive humankind to commit inhumane acts.

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Murder Me Mallory: ‘Natural Born Killers’ and the Media

In a landscape of television media riddled with fancy computer-generated American flag logos, snappy catchphrases like “America Under Siege” and glittery advertisements encouraging us to preserve the spirit of liberty by buying a Ford, it seems needless to argue the notion that television shapes not merely our reception of news and information, but our perception of it as well. In the wake of September 11th, nightly news reports focus almost exclusively on the worldwide manhunt for terrorists, yet there continues to be little new information on this front. News programs have evolved from hour-a-week broadcasts to day-long spectacles for celebrity newscasters to interview one more family of a fallen firefighter.

Read moreMurder Me Mallory: ‘Natural Born Killers’ and the Media