Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.
The Shining is a movie that's so incredible and mysterious that another incredible and mysterious movie, Room 237, is a documentary about how incredible and mysterious it is. It's possible the movie is just a straightforward, terrifying horror movie. But what about Stanley Kubrick was ever straightforward?
Because SYFY WIRE is zooming in on fan theories and because we just watched Room 237 again, here's our ranking of the best Shining conspiracy theories.
Let's do it.
Stanley Kubrick’s face is in the clouds of one shot
One of the many fun aspects of Room 237 is that it takes some completely insane ideas and, through the enthusiasm of the idea's proponents, it almost makes you believe it.
We'll confess, though: The Kubrick-airbrushed-his-face-in-the-clouds theory never quite worked for us, partly because that absolutely does not seem like something Kubrick would ever do, and mostly because... well, no matter how much we stare at the supposed image, we still don't see it. Do you?
The Shining is about the Holocaust
One of Kubrick's great 'abandoned projects' was Aryan Papers, which the filmmaker hoped would be a sweeping look at the Holocaust. It never got off the ground — which might have been just as well since his wife claimed the movie's subject matter left him deeply depressed — but some believe that The Shining was, in its own way, a commentary on the Nazis' evil.
How? Well, that's where things unravel a bit. There are several references in the movie to the number 42, a supposed reference to the Final Solution, which began in 1942. Also, Jack's typewriter is German. Sorry, but those feel more like coincidences than a divinely inspired way to dissect one of the 20th century's greatest atrocities in the form of a psychological horror movie.
The Shining is a commentary on the genocide of the Native American people
Bill Blakemore has been a reporter for ABC News for about half a century, but perhaps his biggest scoop — at least for Kubrick fans — was his theory that The Shining explored the genocide of Native Americans.
Long before Room 237, he was arguing his case in the press, pointing to repeated references to the Calumet Baking Powder Company — "A calumet is a peace pipe," Blakemore wrote in 1987 — and suggesting that the river of blood spewing from the elevator comes from the land's slaughtered native peoples.
It feels like a stretch, but it adds an extra layer of guilt and violence to a tormented masterwork.
The movie tells the story of the Minotaur
The Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur involves the former killing the latter, traveling into the Minotaur's impossible labyrinth to destroy the creature. In The Shining, this theory plays out not just in the big hedge maze outside the Overlook but also in the confusing architectural design of the hotel itself.
Author and artist Juli Kearns popularized this theory, creating intricate maps of the Overlook's interior to prove that, in fact, its layout doesn't make any sense. What's fantastic about this interpretation is that it speaks to the mystery at the heart of The Shining. Kubrick doesn't give us all the answers — this theory argues that those mysteries are very much the point.
The movie is an apology for Kubrick staging the moon landing
The best part about this unprovable, extremely unlikely conspiracy theory is that it requires you to believe an even more unprovable, extremely unlikely conspiracy theory.
The Kubrick-faked-the-moon-landing theories have been around since 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) seemed to nail down what space was like before any actual humans really knew, and with The Shining, the theory goes, he secretly apologized for it.
Room 237? The moon is 237,000 miles from the Earth! ALL work and no play? The ALL stands for 'Apollo 11.' Jack's unhinged rants? All Kubrick's repressed guilt!
The weird thing about this Shining theory is that we actually think it's less likely to be true than Kubrick actually staging the moon landing.