Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.
Amy Rust, Ph.D.
Maria Cizmic, Ph.D.
American 1970s, Feminism, Gender Politics, Horror, Patriarchy
With Second Wave Feminism and the Women’s Rights Movement, 1970’s Americans began to see a shift in gender norms affecting how we relate to one another, particularly within a family structure. Scholars have noted an anxiety permeating the decade over the potential negative ramifications of such a drastic cultural shift. We see these issues of gender politics played out in numerous popular films from the 1970s and into the 1980s. Kubrick’s The Shining, like many horror films of the time, preys upon the societal fear for the family, due to these shifting gender norms, by featuring a crumbling patriarch (Jack), a troubled child (Danny), and mother struggling to hold her family together (Wendy).
Upon closer examination The Shining stands out for its progressive narrative which supports leaving behind outdated ideas of masculinity and femininity, in favor of embracing a more open and ambiguous definition. Kubrick uses his characters as figures, representative of broader social and cultural conflicts. His film operates at two levels, the individual (or micro level of the character’s story) and the systemic (or macro, how their story reflects large social issues). In this way he exposes the toxicity of traditional masculinity and its detrimental effects on a family. By killing Jack and allowing Wendy and Danny to escape, The Shining emphasizes the need to progress and reshape our perceptions of gender identity. In my examination of the film I combine film theory with historicism, leaning on the works of cultural history scholars as well as film scholars. My analysis of The Shining expands both our understanding of the film and of its cultural moment, unearthing issues we continue to grapple with as a society today.
Scholar Commons Citation
O'Brien, Kelley, ""He Didn't Mean It": What Kubrick's" (2018). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.