The other day I watched Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 1980 film The Shining for the umteenth time.
It comes as no revelation that this is a film about alcoholism and domestic abuse—factors we see all the time in parricides. It is about mental illness, too, about a father’s relentless slide into madness.
Jack Nicholson’s character Jack Torrance is an abuser and an alcoholic; the archetypal father dominating the powerless family; an angry man dominating a women; a raging father dominating his son. He cannot suppress the violence that alcohol releases. The Overlook Hotel, with its supernaturally-provisioned “Gold Ballroom” with Lloyd the bartender, is a catalyst that allows the horror to emerge. But Kubrick seemed to intend saying that the nascent horror was present in Jack Torrance all along.
The Shining took five years to make, and Kubrick deleted many scenes which were shot but eventually not used. In one of these scenes, Jack Torrance waits for the general manager before his job interview begins. He is seen in the lobby of the Overlook Hotel reading a Playgirl magazine with a story about parent-child incest on the cover. Kubrick was famous for being an obsessively detail-oriented director. So when Torrance is shown reading such a magazine in the lobby before he gets hired, it’s surely not meaningless. There’s no question that Kubrick intended for that issue of Playgirl to be there. I think that Kubrick was signaling that Torrance’s son Danny may have experienced sexual abuse in addition to the physical abuse detailed in the film. Regardless, no normal hotel leaves copies of Playgirl lying around, so the magazine would have served as an immediate red flag in the original version of the film.
I’m sure the deleted scene allows the action of the film to commence more quickly, but there is a part of me that wishes Kubrick hadn’t deleted it. The public needs to become more sensitized to the root causes of parricide. It needs to become more compassionate. I couldn’t help but wonder how a typical Colorado prosecutor would have dealt with the events which took place in The Shining. In the real-life cases of Nathan Ybanez and Jacob Ind, two different Colorado prosecutors passed over the facts of unspeakable abuse—including sexual abuse—which led to the parents’ murders as surely as Jack Torrance’s deeds led to his death. Both victimized sons received life sentences without the possibility of parole.
As horrible as a real murder is, sometimes it is as deserved and just as the death of Jack Torrance in a fictional tale.
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