No. 178 – Shine On

Room 237 image ©IFC Films/IFC Midnight

Prog 2073’s (2018) Future Shocks: Freedom Wears Two Faces written by James Peaty and drawn by Dylan TeagueStanley Kubrick’s (1928–1999) The Shining (Warner Bros.1980)

The poster pictured above is for Rodney Ascher’s documentary film Room 237 (2012), which analyses various fan theories – some compelling, some crackpot – surrounding the symbolism in Kubrick’s The Shining, which seems appropriate given what follows.

The Greeter, met by Eddie as he exits the Eldorado Tesseract in the Future Shocks story, essentially represents the character of former Overlook Hotel caretaker/ghost waiter Delbert Grady[1] (Philip Stone (1924–2003)) in Kubrick’s film, with double-crossing antagonist Eddie representing Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) and possibly Alyssa as Wendy Torrence (Shelly Duvall) [for want of anyone else]. The Greeter’s course brain implant [one assumes that’s what it is] also just happens to resemble a head wound to be seen on another of the Overlook’s “permanent” guests during the climax of the film. Both Kubrick’s [or Stephen King’s, if you prefer] and Peaty’s stories describe sin [crime] and the wages thereof; or perhaps in a broader sense in Kubrick’s film – which allegedly contains references to the Holocaust and the genocide of native Americans – a great crime in human history that has to some extent been blotted out or swept under the proverbial carpet; perhaps also reflected in the Future Shocks title Freedom Wears Two Faces: the U.S. (“Land of the Free”) simultaneously representing liberation and murder.

The number 42 (or seven and multiples thereof in the film) also shows up in Peaty’s Future Shock, presumably reflecting its frequent appearance in The Shining: on t-shirts, jumpers; Wendy and Danny Torrence (Danny Lloyd[2]) watch Summer of ’42 (Warner Bros., 1971) on an oddly cordless television set; there are even 42 vehicles parked outside the Overlook Hotel when the Torrences arrive and are given a tour of the grounds by manager Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson (1917–2007)); the numbers of the sinister room 237[3] itself resolve thus: 2 x 3 x 7 = 42, etc., etc. This is generally interpreted to refer to Kubrick’s interest in the Holocaust, the Nazi extermination of European Jews during the Second World War (1939–1945), called “The Final Solution” [German: Endlösung], the details of which were discussed by senior Nazi officials at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942. The number 42 may also refer to its employment as a symbol of fate, paranoia, danger, malevolence or disaster in Vladimir Nabokov’s (1899–1977) Lolita (Olympia Press, 1955), filmed by Kubrick in 1962 [but in which Kubrick included the number only once].

There is some speculation that the distinctive pattern of the hallway carpets in the Overlook Hotel are based on the shape of NASA’s launch pad 39A on Merritt Island, Florida, U.S., from where Apollo 11 was launched to the moon in 1969 – based on conjecture that Kubrick was drafted in to help the US government fake the moon landing for broadcast on television during the US-Soviet “Space Race” – but the shapes on carpet are hexagonal while the shape of launch pad 39A is decagonal – octagonal at a stretch – so its value as a visual reference, whether true or false, is largely debased.[4]

Danny Torrence takes a shine to room 237 (the carpet, you’re looking at the carpet)

The name of the device used to travel to the “utopian” A.I. simulation in Peaty’s Future Shock, the Eldorado Tesseract[5], may also be an oblique reference to The Shining – and not merely a nod to the fabled city of gold, El Dorado [Spanish: “the golden one”], fruitlessly sought by Spanish conquistadores in Colombia, South America, in the 16th century – as it is in The Gold Room of the Overlook Hotel that a ghostly Delbert Grady first bumps (literally) into Jack Torrence and shortly thereafter counsels him to “correct” his wayward family; it is to a similar ballroom that The Greeter escorts Eddie to receive his just deserts at the end of the Future Shock.

It is just possible that the sign for Bar 101 (above) is a reference to Room 101[6] from George Orwell’s (1903–1950) dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (Secker & Warburg, 1949), wherein lies, as antagonist O’Brien explains to prisoner Winston: “[…] the worst thing in the world” – meaning one’s greatest fear – but the reference seems a little out-of-place in the Future Shock; although two distinct classes of citizen of The Grind are delineated in the story: Dubes (“morally dubious”), perhaps alluding to the Proles of Orwell’s novel; and “bastards up top,” possibly alluding to Oceania’s Inner Party; but at this point we’re probably just overthinking it.

The Shining, along with yet another popular fan theory, also features in HoH here.

Notes:

  1. One “Charles” Grady is referred to by Overlook manager Ullman during the interview scene earlier in the film; perhaps as one of many deliberately disorienting details Kubick included in the film (not being a script detail he was likely to miss), or perhaps as two manifestations of the same entity, one permanent (Delbert Grady, the 1920’s waiter) and one given a choice to join the hotel’s murderous legacy (Charles Grady, the 1970’s caretaker) – Kubrick FAQ – The Shining Part 2 (06.06.2012)
  2. Danny Lloyd retired from acting in 1982 and is now a professor of biology in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, US
  3. In Stephen King’s novel (Doubleday, 1977) the number of the haunted room is 217; Kubrick changed this to the non-existent room number 237 at the Timberline Lodge, located on Mt. Hood, Oregon, US, where the exterior shots were filmed, so no one would be put off renting the extant room 217 there; room 217 is now the most requested room at the lodge
  4. Kubrick likely included the moon landing references as a joke in response to the prevalent rumours – there is, in point of fact, zero evidence to suggest the any moon landing was faked
  5. We wanted to include a brief explanation of a tesseract, and gave up – we are a bear of very small brain
  6. Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room at Broadcasting House where he had to attend many tedious meetings

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