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Stephen King Calls Out Stanley Kubrick For “Misogynistic” Shining Character

Stephen King is gearing up for the release of his sequel novel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, and naturally doing a few interviews. It’s no secret the author never really cared for director Stanley Kubrick’s version of his classic novel but we’ve never heard this one before. 

King did an interview with the BBC about the sequel book (hitting stores later this month) and the discussion eventually turned to the adaptation of the original novel’s adaptation.

“[It's] cold, I’m not a cold guy,” he told the BBC. “I think one of the things people relate to in my books is there’s a warmth, there’s a reaching out and saying to the reader, ‘I want you to be a part of this.’ And 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.’”

He then went on to dissect the two main characters in the film.

“Jack Torrence, in the movie, seems crazy from the jump. Jack Nicholson, I’d seen all his biker pictures in the 50s and 60s and I thought, ‘He’s just channeling The Wild Angels here,’” he said, “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.”

Do you agree with King’s interpretation of movie-Wendy? It’s been a while since I read The Shining, and while the book and the film are two very different animals, I don’t remember a huge difference in Wendy, and she certainly fights back in both. In the novel she’s more relevant in trying to protect Danny from his abusive father but that part of the plot isn’t touched upon as much in the film. She does scream a lot in the movie but then again, screaming isn’t necessarily something you’d continue to describe over and over in a book.

(via Blastr)

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  • Debbie Valenta

    Arthur C. Clarke couldn’t stand Kubrick and hated his film adaptation of his book as well.

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    Isn’t Kubrick’s version almost entirely different to King’s book? I’ve not seen the film, but I read the book a few weeks ago, and the majority of the film’s iconic scenes *aren’t there*.

    And Wendy is a fairly interesting character in the book… kind of. She protects Danny, but she’s there to add to the psychological horror of the book. It’s her thoughts that really, really deepen aspects of the story and the way she interacts with Jack is… definitely not misogynistic. She does scream a bit, she does get attacked, but she’s hardly damp.

    Except for when she’s a Convenient Sex Object, but we are talking a Stephen King novel here, peeps.

  • KLCM

    Yeah, I agree with King. But that’s Kubrick. I’ve described him before as “one chilly motherf**er” and there’s really not much of a place for women in his work.

  • Adam Cross

    Stephen King calling someone out for a misogynist portrayal of a woman….umm, okay.

  • Anonymous

    Calling out a dead man…classy.

  • Anonymous

    So we can only criticize the work of living people? :P Someone should tell humanities professors everywhere!

  • Ron Inbar

    It wasn’t an adaptation. Arthur C. Clarke wrote the novel concurrently with the screenplay. The novel was published shortly after the movie was released.

  • AverageDrafter

    The book and the movie were written simultaneously and with input from Kubrick and Clark on both, one is not an adaptation of the other. In fact I think the book came out after the film.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know how much you’ve read about the production of the movie, but Kubrick enlisted the entire crew to essentially gaslight her so that she would seem “harrowed enough” for what he wanted the character to be. The poor woman didn’t even have a chance to show off her acting chops; Kubrick’s version of method acting was forced on her.

  • Anonymous

    In terms of the ants in a maze critique, I think it’s a very effective aspect of the film. The film makes the viewer feel just ever so slightly detached, which increases the unease and dread as we witness what happens. It emphasizes the sense that these characters are alone and trapped on this snowed in hotel, that there are no other witnesses to what they’re experiencing.

    In terms of Wendy’s character, I wouldn’t call her portrayal misogynistic. Even though Kubrick has had plenty of misogyny problems, I don’t think Wendy is a blatant example. She is initially pretty passive, then she’s pretty hysterical (and I don’t blame her), but she’s not an unrealistically drawn character. She fights back and takes action within her means as things start to go down. Her characterization is an aspect of the unease of the film that makes it really effective. I don’t think Wendy makes any strides for Kubrick’s female characters overall, but a weak female character is not necessarily misogynistic (see the strong female characters stereotype).

    But obviously King can dislike the movie all he wants. It’s his book after all.

  • Crystal N

    He’s never been shy about saying what he thought of Kubrick’s film (which while brilliant in many ways is problematic in others). It isn’t like he waited for the dude to die before tearing into him.

  • Crystal N

    If you want to read about misogyny, Kubrick and Duvall read about how he got the portrayal of Wendy out her. Basically by mentally torturing her on set.

  • Anonymous

    Shelley Duvall was treated worse than her character, imho.

  • Mariah Huehner

    I’d agree with King, the direction of Duvall (who is quite capable of being great) was bizarrely out of step with the book. I hated movie Wendy, but found book Wendy incredibly sympathetic and real. Even though I think the mini series that was done wasn’t great, the characters of Jack and Wendy are much, much, much truer to the book. The problem with Nicholson is he already seems half crazy when you start so the degradation of a normal, average guy, into a raving lunatic, is lost. Which is a huge aspect of the story and really what the horror hinges on.

    Actually, Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining in general is way out of tone with the book. Now, if you like and respond to the source material, that’s an issue. If you didn’t then it won’t. But I tend to think that adaptations work best when they maintain the tone and intent of a work even when they make huge changes. A really good example of an adaptation of a King work that is vastly different from the novel: Dolores Claiborne. The book is entirely first person and we never meet the adult daughter. Movie switches between mother and daughter pov and the adult daughter is a major character. Fascinating differences, but ultimately an excellent adaptation because it retains what was so essential and compelling about the original.

    As for people who think King’s work is misogynist…I emphatically disagree. I think he has a deep horror of misogyny and it is often a character trait of some of his most upsetting villains. Characters who hate women don’t fare well in his work, and although women are subjected to awful, gendered violence, it does not ever come across to me as something he advocates. More that he is so appalled by it, it’s a theme in his work because he’s trying to understand it. Violence against women that’s gendered is always horrific in his stories, and he’s created some of the most human and real female characters out there that don’t conform to tropes. Dolores Claiborne and Rose Madder are two examples, Carrie is another. Yeah, I think his work sometimes uncovers the fear/horror some men have of the female body. But that has more to do with trying to figure it out then acting like it’s something anyone should do/think.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    There’s something inherently seedy about King’s writing. I always finish up a chapter with this need to take a shower or at least wash my hands. Is that what you’re referring to, other Adam?

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t read any Stephen King, and thus have nothing against him personally, but didn’t I hear the plot of “It” requires the female character in the group to have sex with everyone else? I could well be wrong, I fully admit I haven’t read it, and it might be a fantastic book. But if that’s true… that sounds kinda misogynist to me.

  • Anonymous

    Well, some of his women have been a little weak, especially if they’re supposed to be attractive/if they’re young… They easily become too perfect, and not as interesting as the other characters. I think King has made that mistake with male characters as well, but since there are fewer female characters to choose from in the first place, the weak ones among them might stand out a bit more.

  • Anonymous

    If it’s Kubrick and misogyny – it’s okay. Seriously, he’s been hailed as a genius enough times and by enough people, without any comments on his blatant misogyny… I think his memory can survive one negative comment.

  • Mariah Huehner

    Contextually, it’s a bit different than that. For one thing, the characters are all 11 and have just defeated a horrifying “thing” and are now lost in the sewers beneath their town. They can’t get out and everyone is terrified and panicking. The female character suggests the “sex” which is sort of sex and sort of isn’t, as a means to reconnect them all and be able to find the way out. Contextually there’s been an ongoing idea of these character being spiritually, magically connected up until this point, so the loss of it is significant.

    This also happens after the girl character has a truly awful scene with her father which absolutely does have misogynist overtones, which we’re meant to find horrifying and terrifying in her father.

    It’s a very, very, very, difficult scene and one that’s incredibly polarizing for readers. Depending on how you feel about the story at that point, the characters, the context of the situation, and the character’s choice, it can read very differently to different people.

    I don’t personally think it’s misogynistic, although I’m deeply uncomfortable with depicting children and sex, there is consent, there is a reason, and they’re all the same age. And children do in fact experiment with each other sexually sometimes. All that said, I can completely see different readings of the scene and for some people it might be too traumatic or triggering.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, Kubrick and Hitchcock have issues.

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    With respect to King and misogyny, I think… when it comes to sexualising female characters, it’s something he does with some frequency and in the same way. Gods, how many times does Roland come commala inside a woman in the Dark Tower books alone? And on top of that, it’s not helped by King’s relatively icky handling of sex (which is very, very visible in a certain part of 11/22/63), which sometimes puts you off anyway.

    But yeah, I don’t think King is misogynistic as such, but he does have a habit of turning women into sex objects – or at least treating them as such.

    That said, that may be partially due to King’s near-constant use of male protagonists, as well as his insights into human nature.

  • Mariah Huehner

    Hm, I’m not sure I agree. He’s had female protagonists a lot, Dolores Claiborne, Carrie, Firestarter, Rose Madder. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, lots of short stories…and even in books with a main male lead, there are usually a lot of diverse female characters who have their own arcs and goals. And then there are group books where there a lot of pov characters, like Needful Things. I’m more concerned with quality, honestly, than quantity.

    I think how he handles sex is really dependent on the book and characters. Yeah, sometimes it’s dark and unpleasant, because of what he’s exploring. And other times it’s sweet and genuine and pretty real. Since he’s often telling horror stories that’s not as common. From the Dark Tower I only remember Roland sleeping with two women who were sort of concubines, and then the one love of his life Susan. Unless there’s more after Song of Susannah, I don’t remember sex being all that major in those books (though it’s certainly been in others).

    I just haven’t read a story of his where women only existed as sex objects, I don’t think. They might be sexy or have male characters view them that way, and sometimes he has a shallow or vapid female character (because we’re people, sometimes women are those things)…but I really can’t think of a single example of a story that hinged on female characters being less-than or only as sex objects.

  • Brian

    The characterization of Wendy was a victim of the removal of the abuse/alcoholism aspect of the book’s plot. She lost her fire as Danny’s protector, and didn’t really get anything in exchange.

  • Brian

    “And Sir Larry said, ‘Oh, Dusty, why not try acting?’”

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    That’s ‘a lot’? King’s written something like 30-40 novels… no, probably closer to 50 or 60. If your list is complete, that means 1/10th of his books have female protagonists.

    As for Roland, if you read the (official) comics and read between the lines, etc., etc., Roland gets his rocks off quite a bit. He’s not shy about sleeping with other people. It’s not major in most cases, but it’s there.

    It’s less… how King ‘treats’ women affects the stories, etc., and more it’s just something that strikes me as being a bit too common in his books.

  • Melodia E. McIntyre

    Male characters fare just as badly. Some women get raped in his books, but so do a lot of men. All of your points are correct and well-said.

  • Mariah Huehner

    It’s off the top of my head, and I haven’t read all his books so I can’t give a definite number. A lot of his books don’t have one main pov, or it’s split between several. While there are definitely stories of his that focus mainly on male characters (Stand By Me, Shawshank, The Green Mile) he more often than not has at least one main female character, often several in a given work. Lisey’s Story is about a woman grieving (she’s the main protagonist), The Shining has Wendy, The Stand has Mother Abigail, Barbara, and many others. It has Beverly, Cujo is about a mother protecting her son, Christine has Leigh (though I think she’s one of the weaker examples). Misery has Annie Wilkes. Dark Tower has Susannah and some of the linked shorts also feature female co-leads. His short story collections feature many female protagonists as either the main or only pov. I’m not going to count them all, but I think it’s a lot more than 1/10th. Do I think it’s equal to male protagonists? Probably not, but as I said: I prefer quality over quantity. Lots of books feature a female lead that’s awful (much like films).

    I’m not sure Roland sleeping around, implied or not, is much of an indictment against women. Roland, as the series progresses, is shown to be a myopic and self-centered character no matter who it involves. It’s pretty much the hinge issue of his relationship with Jake. He’ll sacrifice anyone and sees everyone as ultimately dispensable in favor of his quest. He respects Susannah a great deal and doesn’t, to my recollection, objectify her.

    I do think that certain themes come up a LOT in his work and your mileage on tolerance for that may vary. I’ve loved some of his books and detested others, so, even as a “fan” there are times when I wish he’d drop the Maineisms and butt weasels. >:}

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    Kubrick KNEW he fucked up when he had his lawyers make King sign a contract agreeing to not discuss the film while Kubrick was alive. I’ve been waiting decades for King to just finally vent about it.

  • Robert

    “It’s no secret the author never really cared for director Stanley Kubrick’s version of his classic novel…”

    But he did care for it quite a bit. Check out his horror film non-fiction book Danse Macabre where he heaps praise on Kubrick for making an incredibly atmospheric and unnerving horror film. He acknowledges that it’s not a direct adaptation of his work and still compliments the film quite a bit. King didn’t start to speak out against Kubrick’s version until 1997 when the TV miniseries came out.

    As for Duvall’s character, I think saying she’s just there to scream and be terrorized is an oversimplification of the character. She is Danny’s last hope, the only person left standing on his side to fight back against Jack and all the decades of evil lingering in the house.

    I’d also argue that her emotional breakdown is meant as a foil to Jack’s psychotic break. Wendy loses control of her emotions but is still of sound enough mind to escape the terror of the hotel. He loses control of his mind and has surrendered to the terror of the hotel, incapable of showing any emotion but anger toward the living who dare invade their perfect party.

    This does not mean that Wendy on film is not a misogynistic character. Kubrick envisioned Wendy in full hysteria once everything fell to pieces and that meant playing into stereotypes about how women handle stress and trauma. I think there’s more to it than just screaming and crying like King claims, but that doesn’t excuse the radical transformation of the far superior character from the novel into that onscreen. If the climax of the film had Wendy in this full blown breakdown mode and nowhere else, it would have been much more effective.

    Now, Kubrick’s treatment of Duvall on set was incredibly problematic. His language and aggressive demeanor created a hostile working environment and was abuse. He would scream and insult her until she was upset enough to barely be able to say her lines or breathe and then would call action. Kubrick wanted realism on set but created a cartoon in the edit of the film.

  • Ryan Colson

    I don’t immediately recall notable misogynism, unless you count litmus testing where it can go either way depending on the reader and therefore it probably isn’t.

  • Anonymous

    -Susana- Got Fridged in the Dark Tower Series

    -The woman who was gang-raped in Under the Dome (took me a long time to get that scene outa my head)

    -The use of female slurs to describe the car in Christine

    -The idea that Jack had to “correct” his family in The Shining

    -The “ew isn’t menstruation gross?!” in Carrie…

    I could go on…

    Link that could take you down the rabbit hole:

  • Anonymous

    I would say the way Jack treats her is misogynistic. Not every misogynist is an abuser, but EVERY masculine abuser is a misogynist.

  • Anonymous

    I do find it interesting, to say the least, that Mr. King would say that…due to most of his stories being based on the horrors of the Patriarchy and the Kyriarchy, with a supernatural twist.

  • Anonymous

    How is that interesting, then? If most of his stories are based on the horrors of the patriarchy and kyriarchy, then wouldn’t you *expect* him to say something like that?

  • Anonymous

    Kubrick had a habit of mistreating many of his actors (and crew) for the sake of “eliciting a truer performance.” I don’t think his treatment of Duvall was misogynistic, I think it was just another example in a long list of examples of Kubrick living up to the “mad” part of his mad genius label. There are some stories about A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, and Eyes Wide Shut – among others – that make you wonder how he ever finished a single film…much less without everyone walking out on the production.

  • Anthony Pizzo

    Exactly, it’s not misogyny, it’s just sociopathy.

  • Dswynne

    Not to mention the fact that the African-American character fared no better, in either the book or the movie adaption…

  • Lucine

    That’s actually really interesting. He liked it until he made one himself?

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    Hm. I, personally, didn’t get that vibe in the book (Jack abuses Wendy because he’s either a drunk or because the Overlook is influencing him), and he shows throughout the book that he is horrified by what he is capable of. And can we truly say that the violent, hateful Jack that we see is the true one? I think it’s part of him, but I don’t think it wholly represents him. It’s like his darkest side.

    And I don’t think that aspect of the story would make either King nor Kubrick misogynists (though of course that doesn’t rule out that they may be – I don’t think King is, mind you).

  • Brenna Lee Dougherty

    King gets weird with regard to female characters. Bev started out as being one of the most refreshingly genuine female characters I’d read about as a kid, with a fear I could relate to… what did becoming a woman truly mean? Not subservience, certainly, but what?

    Then suddenly, an orgy!

    I’m one of the few people who liked the miniseries, because it got rid of the cruft in regards to Bev’s character arc.

  • Mariah Huehner

    Yes, but portraying misogyny isn’s the same as condoning it.

    1. Isn’t she the only one who survives? I’m not sure that’s fridging.

    2. Portrayed horrifically and as unequivocably terrible. He’s had other characters experience sexual violence and it’s always portrayed as awful.

    3. Those slurs are used primarily by characters who are meant to be seen as “bad”, and the car is actually haunted by an evil old man. So.

    4. The character is going insane and being possessed by an evil hotel/ghosts. It’s meant to show that he’s losing it. It’s not portrayed as good.

    5. As someone who gets a period, it can be gross, and body horror is a legit issue for female characters to deal with in a horror tale. Lots of feminist works have done so, I don’t think theres anything about Carrie that suggests periods are bad, they’re just scary (this can be true) and mark major changes in the body (also true).

    I’m not saying there are no problematic depictions of women in his work, but let’s not take things deliberately out of context and use them of proof of something they are not.

  • Aeryl

    How I’ve interpreted it, is that he thinks it’s a great horror movie, but a terrible adaptation of his novel, which is fair.

  • Aeryl

    4 women over 80 years is not that extreme. Roland was with Susan, Ally from Tull, Rosa from the Calla, and that one woman from the Dark Tower.

  • Aeryl

    The commenter above is conflating two names, Susan, who was fridged, and Susannah who is the sole “survivor”.

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    It’s more than four, it is *definitely* more than four.

  • Aeryl

    “Gods, how many times does Roland come commala inside a woman in the Dark Tower books alone?”

    I did forget the prostitute from The Gunslinger and W&G, so five. But you didn’t state “DT books and comics” you stated “books alone” and that’s five.

    I know King has input on this comics, but I thought Robin Furth was the main contributor to the new stuff that’s about Ro’s backstory, so I don’t know if Ro’s philanderous ways can be laid at King’s feet,.

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    And in a later comment in the same ‘thread’ I said if you read the comics and read into the works, Roland gets his rocks off quite a bit. No, he’s not shagging everything that moves, but he definitely does like to engage in the carnal acts.

    And Robin Furth is essentially the second most knowledgable person about The Dark Tower. Peter David also wrote most (if not all) of the comics with Furth, and whilst there’s a little bit of wrangling with the books, it’s no different to – say – how The Clone Wars fits into the Star Wars mythos.

  • Aeryl

    For me, a 13 year old rape survivor, that moment in the books was a powerful one.

    All my life, my sole exposure to sex and sexuality had been a negative one. That moment illustrated, that done correctly, in love in trust among friends, sex could be so much more. It could be affirming, intimate, it could deepen connections.

    That was a message I desperately needed to hear.

  • Mariah Huehner

    Well, that makes a little more sense. I still probably wouldn’t entirely say Susan was fridged…she had her own arc separate to Roland’s, although in the end, yeah. Although…she’s not the reason he quests and is, in many ways, a victim of Roland’s self centered, single minded quest obsession. Like, she doesn’t galvanize him to go on his quest, since he was already on it…but, that one I can at least see discussing.

  • Aeryl

    I know you did, but I hadn’t read that one when I responded about *just the books* :^D

    And Furth is all those things, but the topic is about KING’S potential misogyny, so what Furth has established about the Roland doesn’t relate to that topic.

  • Mariah Huehner

    I really hope not and that seems like an odd generalization. I think some male artists may explore misogyny, but that’s way different than displaying it.

    As someone else said down thread, King thinks The Shining by Kubrick is a good horror film but a terrible adaptation of his book. I would agree. I think if you’re adapting something then yes, it should reflect the material you are adapting in more than just superficial ways. Otherwise just do your own story. I can recognize what is well done in the film while still maintaining that as an adapt of someone else’s work, it kind of fails.

  • Mariah Huehner

    I’ve heard this from other survivors and to me the scene read as Bev reclaiming what her father had sought to take away. She discovers power in love and sexuality, and tho very young, I think that’s incredibly important and I’m really glad it did that for you.

    Similarly, a lot of women responded to the domestic abuse stories in Dolores Claiborne and Rose Madder and were able to get out of situations or feel differently about their own in positive ways. Which is why I think as shocking and upsetting as stories with these elements can be, they are clearly extremely important.

  • Anonymous

    Pure nonsense. Kubrick intended Wendy to be victimized as a metaphor for the harsh treatment of Native Americans. Hence the Native American patterns present through the picture. King really needs to get over this movie already.

  • Rick Bman

    You should check out the book The Lost World’s of 2001 by Arthur C. Clarke. He talks a lot about his relationship with Kubrick and how they worked together on 2001. Quite an interesting read.

  • colagirl

    Annie Wilkes is not weak, but I wouldn’t call her a positive portrayal of feminine strength either.

  • colagirl

    Not only that, but in the book Bev is consistently presented in a different way from the boys in the gang as well–she is sexualized whereas they are not. (There’s a scene where she’s spying on Henry Bowers and Patrick Hockstetter where we get a lingering full-body pan, even complete with panty shot IIRC, that…yeah. I was … pretty skeeved.)

  • Anonymous

    I see your point about separating author and character: it’s frustrating when people accuse an author of, for instance, advocating something because a character advocated it in the book (it’s especially stupid when the character in question is a villain and the idea is clearly meant to be that we find their views abhorrent).

    But an author is responsible for the content of the books, and I don’t think King gets an automatic pass on the grounds of ‘it’s a work of fiction, it doesn’t relate to what the author believes’. After all, it’s no so much an opinion belonging to one character as a scene King purposefully engineered to be in his story. It’s worth thinking about why, and what, from the author’s point of view, the scene means and does.

    For instance, take A Song OF Ice And Fire: there’s a lot of sexual violence. Now, no one believes Martin is advocating sexual violence (I shouldn’t think), but there’s still a debate around whether the depiction crosses the line into salacious, prurient objectification or not. Things aren’t always simply one thing: Martin may be framing sexual violence as evil and something done by baddies, but that doesn’t preclude the idea that there are other motivations behind the depiction relating to latent misogyny (for the record, I’m not personally accusing Martin of this, just describing the school of thought).

    I’ve not read It, though I’ve heard about the scene with Beverly, so I can’t comment on the particularities, but I think it’s an instance where there is no clear answer but a very valid debate to be had about whether the scene caters to prurient tastes or is justified by the narrative.

  • colagirl

    I used to be a huge King fan, but … yeah, he has historically had problems writing female characters, especially in his earlier work. (In fact I believe he’s even on record acknowledging it.) IMO, the trilogy of female-led books he wrote back in the early 90s — Gerald’s Game, Doloris Claiborne and Rose Madder — marked him really trying to break through this block. I don’t know if he succeeded though as I drifted away from his work at about the same time and haven’t really read much of his stuff since.

  • Anonymous

    I can see Kings point but it feels a little insulting to Duvall in how he phrased it. I’m pretty sure King meant ‘Kubrick’s direction of the Wendy character’, but I think it’s important to remember that Kubrick wasn’t the only creator at work in bringing Wendy to the screen. In negating Duvall’s interpretation of the character, perhaps King is being a little misogynistic himself.

    (And yes, I know it’s possible to go a bit misogyception with these kinds of things (‘you calling me a misogynist for calling you misogynist is misogynistic…’)

    In practical terms I ay this because I find Duvall’s performance compelling and sympathetic. I don’t know why Kubrick thought he had to treat her a like a method acting dog, but I think her performance is really at the heart of the film far more than Nicholson’s. It’s easy to act psychotic (especially if you’re Jack Nicholson), I think it’s much harder to be that audience surrogate who utterly sells the idea of being as terrified and helpless and desperate to protect her loved one as any of us would be. The film lives or dies on our empathy for Wendy.

    Finally, if we’re treating the role as a product of Duvall’s interpretation as much as Kubrick’s. I’m not sure I agree it’s a misogynistic role. I can see that casting women as helpless victims over and over is a problem, but the problem is in the pattern more than in any particular example. Sometimes people ARE helpless victims: if I found myself in a haunted hotel with a psycho killer I’m not sure I’d do as well as Wendy. Who’m I kidding, I;d be dead before teatime. It’s a situation where it doesn’t matter how smart or kickass or whatever you might be, you’re at the mercy of something bigger and more dangerous. Wendy’s predicament is also framed as a horrific (literally) extension of a domestic abuse situation (it’s established at the beginning Torrance already displays some of the behaviours the hotel pushes him to extremes of), and I don’t think it’s quite fair to call the character is un-feminist for being helpless in the face of it.

  • Anonymous

    I dislike the exact wording of King’s critique.

    He calls the character herself misogynistic, not the treatment or the interpretation of Wendy, which puts it in line with all the other criticism of female characters that puts them in impossible positions.

    She has to be a victim, because women need trauma to make them interesting and sympathetic, and if they don’t yield to the protagonist (like Skylar White) they’re completely, irredeemably unlikeable.

    At the same time, she can’t be weak, because if she’s passive or overcome by the abuse, because then she’s worthless and her story isn’t worth telling.

  • Kamil Kukowski

    and if you consider King’s ‘after the sunset” collection of stories, he added one notch to the belt

  • Lea Tapp

    I always thought that was a feature in Kubrick’s film, rather than a bug. I didn’t think Kubrick did anything in that film unintentionally. A ghost story is only so ominous in it’s own right. It was the the implication that there was so much more wrong with that family than ghosts that made the movie so eerie for me. While the film and the book were different in several ways, I think they were both outstanding.

  • Aeryl

    There are several things to keep in mind, in re Beverly.

    a) It’s all her idea

    b) The other members of the Losers are very resistant to the idea.

    So there is definitely some intentional themes about Beverly, who’s physically abused by her father, and it starts to take a very sexual tone as she matures, reclaiming her sexuality from the dirty things her father has implied.

    The above interpretation, that they were no longer children, is one of many, but not one I buy into, because the idea that they were able to continue to be influenced by IT when they were older, was because they NEVER LEFT their childhood, and the childhood “powers” were still there(Eddie has a natural compass, Ben is an engineer, Bill has a way with words, Bev is a marksman…) in adulthood.

    My reading is that they had to bond for their “powers” to be effective, and their lost in the sewers, because Eddie is lost, and he’s their guide. So this was Bev’s way of bonding them together again.

  • Aeryl

    I’m sorry, but Ben’s obese body, Eddie’s caved in chest, Bill’s scrawnyness, Stanley’s well built frame, these are all things that are discussed MORE in the book, than that one shot of Beverly at the dump.

    And the maturing sexuality of the Losers is a constant in this book. There are erections and wet dreams talked about a lot more that Bev’s “budding” breasts.

    I myself, found that particular passage beautiful, it was a portrait of a hunter*. The panties weren’t mentioned to be sexualized, but to demonstrate how zoned she was in that moment, that she didn’t even consider that her underwear stuck out of her shorts.

    *It’s also a common thing King does, take a “screenshot” of a character’s action, and describe it in loving detail. Without that context, it would seem skeevy. But it’s as common in his books as the rapid pan camera shot he tries to emulate with his writing.

  • Si Llage

    I left you several examples of King’s misogyny and homophobia but the editors deleted it, sorry!

  • Si Llage

    Gonna make them delete these two comments too cuz, lol.

  • Brenna Lee Dougherty

    Bev’s sexuality, and her fear of it, was a major and important part of her character arc, but I think King could’ve tried harder to answer the question of whether embracing one’s female sexuality has to mean embracing one’s objectification from a male pov with, “orgy inna sewer! yonic symbolizm! Also, women r awesum, I think?” In the miniseries, Bev has a five second long, very public encounter with the local gang, who are as sexually aggressive with her as a TV-PG rating will allow. The implication is that It is forcing the townsfolk to pull a Kitty Genovese, so it may better feed off Bev’s fear. The miniseries, I think, does a better job of showing why Bev is afraid than the book.

  • Anonymous

    Shelley Duvall was perfect at making me sympathize with Jack Nicholson’s character.

    By the end of the movie, you are cheering for Jack Nicholson to behead the whiny annoying character of Wendy & the weird mumbling child.

  • Anonymous

    When all of the female characters he has are portrayed that way…………………yeah, I feel a little hated. Not to mention, it takes work NOT to be a bigot.

  • Anonymous

    Nope. I find it interesting to see a privileged person turn around and accuse another of doing the same bigoted things they have done to get rich. I don’t doubt that the director is a misogynist, though.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, abusers are capable of being horrified by what they’ve done-it doesn’t stop them from doing it again. And again. While there was something supernatural edging him on (another topic I would love to tear a new one, as it is a cheap way to dodge the abuser’s responsibility: possession, lycanthropy, vampirism, etc), he’s still responsible for his actions. This isn’t even counting the fact that he dislocated his son’s arm before they even got to the hotel.

  • Anonymous

    1. I meant Roland’s love. And doesn’t he wish to kill her when he learns she might be a mistress?

    Agreed. I just think it’s something to look into. After a while, I felt kinda hated reading his books. And I’m a huge fuckin’ fan of his.

  • Anonymous

    The way it’s done, and yes, if it is done by a man, they must take more care- NOT to uphold the bullshit of society. So yes, I think the way these characters are portrayed is problematic, at best. That’s my take on King. The director, I have heard horror stories of how he treated that actress…I think there has to be some hatred of women there, hatred enough to dehumanize.

  • Anonymous

    “Can you not differentiate between what the writer believes and what his characters believe?”

    Do you seriously have to ask that, or is this rhetorical? I’m guessing the latter…

  • Anonymous

    Your claims of strong characters who happen to be female do not cancel out the weak ones.

  • Anonymous

    She was killed so he could continue his quest. Oh, and she was pregnant. Enough ManPain to send him onto his doomed path. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Dark Tower series. I just think it’s super important to really analyze these stories. (And I still feel frustrated in feeling the need to defend my criticism, *grumble*)

  • Anonymous

    Very well said, thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Would be interesting to hear him say that. It would be a small step in the right direction.

  • Anonymous

    Yup. I used to be a huge fan of King’s, when I was in my mid-teens, and I just got sick of him. Literally every portrayal of women had something fucked up about it. I got so sick, as a young woman, and also as a young woman who was coming to terms with my own traumas, of not being able to read more than twenty pages without encountering some kind of very detailed hateful and reductive descriptions of women. Seriously: being a woman, in a King novel, is a weakness. Even the ones with the most agency are then reduced to panty-shots. I don’t think King’s doing it “as a critique!” as some people are so adamant about suggesting, and if he did intend it that way then I’m very uncomfortable about being reduced to a hole to fuck in service of the growth of his male characters and his rhetorical point. Seriously. Fuck both of them, Kubrick and King.

  • Adam Cross


  • Meghan C-M

    Kubrick’s film uses the frame work of the Shining, but its not the book. Which is a good thing, I think. Not because of any opinion on the book, but because they are incredibly different mediums with which to tell a story. You can have a lot more going on in a book than you can in a movie, unless you spend almost all of your words on descriptions. Even then, you can use the word choices and tones of your descriptions to say a lot that isn’t translatable to film. So in my mind, King just needs to get over it– books do not translate to film in any exact way. Kubrick did his work honor, even if its not exactly what he wrote. Its actually a far better film for it (than say any of the Harry Potter movies, which are like giant fan zines. Or King’s own movie version of the Shining.)

    As to whether or not Duvall’s character is the result of misogyny, well, yes, but I rather think that’s the point. She’s an abused wife. She has little to no say in her life, and she was raised in a culture that made it hard for her to just leave her husband. She’s been fead misogyny from the cradle. Her story is about coming to the point of rejecting and fighting off the misogynistic background that tells her that she is helpless. She spends a lot of time screaming but then she also fights back, rescues her kid and gets away. Sometimes acts of courage, strength and bravery aren’t so clear but are still worthy of notice and celebration.

  • Anonymous

    I actually haven’t read any of those. Are you saying they’re weak characters or good ones?