ByOne Gurl Riot, writer at
Disnerd and comic book geek. Penchant for horror and lipstick.
One Gurl Riot

The Shining is one of the horror genre’s most iconic and beloved movies. Coming from the bizarre minds of author Stephen King and director Stanley Kubrick, it was bound to evoke some confusion and question in its audience. Take the ending, for example. That has only just been explained in a recent interview with executive producer Jan Harlan and screenwriter Diane Johnson.

The other questions have been answered too (to an extent) throughout the years, through interviews with the team behind the movie (mainly Kubrick himself) and fan theories. So, here are some of the questions I had watching the movie, and the answers I managed to find through some heavy research on the web.

6. Why ‘Here’s Johnny’?

What better way to kick things off than with one of the most iconic phrases in movie history? It’s fairly common knowledge that this comes from the Johnny Carson Tonight Show. What you might not know though is that it wasn’t in the script and was improvised by Jack Nicholson. And, unless you’ve read the book, you’ll probably be unaware that Jack’s real name is, in fact, John. So, that kinda makes more sense.

Fans that were lucky (and old) enough to see the movie when it was first released in cinemas, and at the time Johnny Carson was hosting The Tonight Show, say that the line added a nervous humor to a very tense scene.

5. Who Is Tony?

Comparing the book and the movie gives some clarity to this. In the film, Tony is just a voice Danny puts on, but in the book Tony is Danny’s future self returning to the past to help guide Danny and protect him. The reason we don't see the physical representation of Tony in the movie is down to Kubrick’s interpretation, seen in this interview excerpt:

"Danny has had a frightening and disturbing childhood. Brutalized by his father and haunted by his paranormal visions, he has had to find some psychological mechanism within himself to manage these powerful and dangerous forces. To do this, he creates his imaginary friend, Tony, through whom Danny can rationalize his visions and survive."

4. What’s The Meaning Of Room 237?

Jack's vision of Mrs Massey is far from the truth. 'The Shining' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
Jack's vision of Mrs Massey is far from the truth. 'The Shining' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Fans of the novel will know that the movie changed the room number to 237, from the book's original 217. This was done at the request of the Timberline Lodge — where a lot of exterior shots were filmed — so people wouldn't be put off staying there. That seems fair — who would want to risk Mrs. Massey showing up in their hotel room?

But did you know the room number was inspired by Stephen King's stay at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, in 1974? King said about the stay:

"When we arrived, they were just getting ready to close for the season, and we found ourselves the only guests in the place — with all those long, empty corridors."

Sound familiar? What about Mrs. Massey? This quote from Screen Prism offers a great theory/explanation:

When Danny (Danny Lloyd) enters her room in the film version, he’s able to see her. When Jack (Jack Nicholson) enters the room, he sees a younger, beautiful woman instead of the deceased old woman. It’s not until he kisses her that she becomes the corpse. A popular theory is that she represents the overall seductive power of evil that inhabits the hotel, and is taking over Jack. Kissing her is his submission to the evil forces at work, and the turning point where he loses any goodness left in him.

Room 237 later became the title of a documentary, looking at five of the craziest fan theories surrounding the movie.

3. What's With The Guy In The Bear Costume?

In the novel, the man giving fellatio to another man was wearing a dog costume — and given some backstory to make it less random. Kubrick went full random though and just stuck the scene in during the height of tension in the movie. But what was the meaning of this scene?

The consensus is that this scene was a metaphor for Jack sexually abusing Danny. There's some crazy theories on this (this one by KDK12 is just insane), but let's just stick to something quite simple. The animal costume was changed from dog to bear, and Danny can be seen laying on a bear pillow while talking to a psychiatrist. This also means that both the scenes featuring bears are set in bedrooms/on beds.

It's blatant that Jack is a horrible person, and we're shown evidence of him hurting Danny — it's revealed he has dislocated Danny's shoulder while drunk, and he strangles Danny at one point in the movie. We're also shown Jack reading Playgirl Magazine, which in itself makes him a bit of a creep. But the headlines on the cover, "Incest: Why parents sleep with their children" and "How To Avoid a Dead End Affair" suggest he's much more of a creep than we already know.

2. Why Does Blood Flood Out Of The Elevator?

This one can be answered quite simply: The blood represents the Native American genocide. With the hotel being built on a Native American burial ground, this makes sense (Kubrick was known for inserting his own agendas into his films). The blood could then also represent death and suffering in general.

1. Who Are The Twins, Really?

Anyone that hasn't put much thought into the movie has probably fallen into the trap of thinking the two girls that offer Danny that eternal play-date are the daughters of Delbert Grady, the former caretaker at the hotel. But, anyone with a good ear should've picked up on the fact that Grady's daughters are aged eight and ten, not twins.

So, who are the twins? One theory suggests they aren't twins at all, but the mirror image of one character, who in turn represents Danny (and possibly Tony). Another theory provides evidence to support the idea that the twins represent Danny and Wendy, and their fate at the hotel. The girls wear blue dresses, and in the murder scenes are covered in blood. Both Danny and Wendy are seen wearing blue and red several times throughout the movie. The twins are shown holding hands, as are Danny and Wendy.

The third theory states that the twins represent murder and sexual abuse to Danny. The way one of the dead girls lays in the hallway with her skirt pulled up, and injuries to both their necks parallels the idea that Jack is sexually abusing Danny, and the fear of death Jack puts into the boy.

Final Thoughts

This quote from the interview with executive producer Jan Harlan and screenwriter Diane Johnson answers the big question as to why the movie was so confusing to its audience:

“The fact they were left puzzled was exactly what Stanley Kubrick wanted.”

What other questions did The Shining leave you screaming at your screen? Let me know in the comments. What other movies or shows have left you dazed and confused? Let me know those too, and I’ll be happy to go digging for answers!

(Sources: Collative Learning, Kubrick on The Shining An interview with Michel Ciment, Quora)


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