Behind the Curve – The Shining (1980)
I watched The Shining with some of our friends (yes, I have friends), and we were all struck with the fact that it wasn’t particularly scary. Parts were certainly unsettling, but nothing really haunted me. Perhaps decades of horror television, movies, books and games have desensitized our culture too thoroughly. Like how Psycho once made women faint in the theater, but nowadays it wouldn’t fluster a third grader. Perhaps the film’s prevalence in pop culture has spoiled too many of the punchy moments
What I did admire about The Shining was Jack Nicholson’s over-the-top performance as Jack Torrance. Of course that’s not news. It’s a classic role. Everyone already knows Nicholson steals the show. But that’s not exactly what I glommed onto. Before he goes into his wild, abusive, scenery-chewing, sociopathic mania, Jack Torrance is fundamentally a writer. The only reason he took the position at the Overlook Hotel was so he’d have peace and quiet to get some writing done.
It’s a desire for which I have great sympathy. Right now I’m living with my parents and I’m just an hour away from my fiance. At this moment I’m working to make it as a freelance writer/videographer, I’m planning a wedding, and I’m trying to establish myself in our local community through volunteering. Add to that friends I’d like to keep, my fiance’s family events, and various housework I’m charged with, It feels as if I barely work on my personal writing projects. The idea of 8 months in seclusion with nothing to do beside write is downright tantalizing.
This will sound bad, but I even sympathize with Jack’s resentment of his family. Now I love my family, but but you need to understand how frustrating it is to be a creative and feel like you’re being kept from your work. It’s easy to resent your loved ones for the merely existing. Taking up time. Keeping you from work. Jack explodes at his wife for interrupting him and later accuses her of ruining his life. I agree that such cruelty is inexcusable. But I understand how one gets to that point.
Of course, the irony about us angry writers is that it’s often our own laziness, poor time management or lack of will which makes us unproductive. Jack pushes his wife and son away throughout the movie, demanding absolute peace in order to do his work. They oblige, but Jack still gets nothing done. We see Jack throwing a tennis ball against the wall while his typewriter sits idle.
I do the same exact thing. There have been times when I pushed my fiance away so that I could write. And then what do I do? Watch YouTube. Play video games. Everything except write. Why? Who knows. Maybe during those times I really needed a break.
Predictably, we angry writers get nothing done in these situations. It makes us even more frustrated, and there’s a temptation to put the blame on our family as Jack Torrance does. Or, we could take responsibility for our actions and try to manage our time more effectively. I choose to view The Shining as a cautionary tale.
- Show: Sopranos (S01E11: Nobody Knows Anything) (1999) – Monday, November 2
- Documentary: Food, Inc. (2008) – Thursday, November 5
- Game: Fallout (Interplay Entertainment, 1997) – Monday, November 9
- Movie: Hellraiser (1987) – Thursday, November 12
- Book: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers, 2000) – Monday, November 23