It’s no secret that Stephen King, award-winning writer of terrible sex scenes and, much to the continued consternation of Harold Bloom, increasingly an elder statesman of American arts and letters, fucking hated what Stanley Kubrick did to The Shining, which is a really, really good book about how insane it is to be a writer, and an even better book about substance abuse, rage, and irredeemably evil places. Kubrick’s version is really just about Jack Nicholson making crazy faces and accidental/on purpose buried meanings, and you can have all the fondness you want for it as a great scare-flick, but Stephen King thinks you ought to know that, well, it’s kinda, sorta sexist. Just FYI.
In a recent interview with the BBC, King made it clear that his Kubrick grudge was alive and still nursing on the bitter milk spouting from Stephen King’s teat. This time around, he took issue specifically with Wendy’s portrayal in the movie, noting that the Shelley Duvall Wendy is, unlike her scribbled counterpart, “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film,” a film, he explained, that really seems too “cold”:
[It’s] cold, I'm not a cold guy. I think one of the things people relate to in my books is this warmth, there's a reaching out and saying to the reader, 'I want you to be a part of this.' With Kubrick's 'The Shining' I felt that it was very cold, very 'We're looking at these people, but they're like ants in an anthill, aren't they doing interesting things, these little insects’...
Shelley Duvall as Wendy is really one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film, she's basically just there to scream and be stupid and that's not the woman that I wrote about.
The book’s Wendy does have a lot more depth — she’s fighting against the revelation (which she’s already made before the book starts) that her husband is basically a marginally-talented writer who will never really amount to anything because he’s filled with rage demons, self-loathing, and booze. Wendy feels like her wagon’s been hitched, and the book is partly about the way she manages to unhitch herself (and her son) from an abusive, alcoholic patriarch. So, the hotel is, like, a metaphor or whatever. Book Wendy and book Jack have a backstory that makes this final breach work on all the levels King needs it to work. Movie Wendy and movie Jack lack depth, and the movie, as a result, can only hit one note, and so is only terrifying (and it can be really terrifying) in one way, i.e. (spoiler alert) fucked up ghosts popping up randomly in bathtubs and hallways.
You might not be a fan of Stephen King, but if any of his books actually deserves praise for straddling that line between literary and popular fiction, The Shining is definitely it. You can’t really blame him for criticizing a movie that reduced a complex character to a horror movie caricature, and then went on to be beloved by a generation of film buffs.
[h/t The Mary Sue]
Image via Getty, Mario Tama