I don’t need to tell you that The Shining is one of the best horror movies ever made. It’s iconic in every sense of the word, delivering intense moment after moment, wonderful performances from every single cast member, and most importantly, creating a sense of dread and isolation that can’t be beaten.
When the movie begins, the Torrance family opts to become the winter caretakers of the infamous Overlook Hotel despite the warnings given to Jack. The place will leave them snowed in and isolated for months. A previous caretaker lost his mind and murdered his family there. The place is buried on a Native American burial ground. All of these signs should point to no one in their right mind staying in this place, but Jack still agrees to it.
The mental faculties of Jack Torrance have been called into question ever since The Shining premiered over 40 years ago. Is Jack all there? He is played by Jack Nicholson after all. I myself tend to view Jack as being naive about the offer presented to him and make light of it until the harsh realities of his family’s situation dawn on him. “It’ll only be a few months! I’ll write the next great American novel in this time! This will be great!”
In this harsh winter of 2021, when everyone is recommended to stay inside, away from their friends, some stuck with only their families, it has become clear to me of one thing: we are all Jack Torrance now.
Now I know you may balk at that. You may not be actively trying to murder your family while running around reciting the Three Little Pigs (yet), but bear with me for a moment and all will be made clear. If your current state of mind is not a real-life adaptation of The Shining, don’t worry. It will be soon.
We are quickly approaching the one year anniversary of when the lockdowns began due to Covid-19. In that time, we’ve been recommended to maintain social distancing and in those first few weeks, stay away from the outside in general. Stay in your homes with your families. It’s the ultimate way to make sure no one gets sick. Fast forward to today and the winter of our discontent has hit. Infections are rising at a rapid rate and deaths are rising yet unlike the spring and the summer, we can’t go out. It’s bitter cold here in the North and when the snow hits, leaving the house becomes more dangerous for a variety of reasons. Before, one could at least go outside to their own backyard and stay safe in the cool spring breeze, but not anymore.
Now I’ve spent the last two months stuck at home. I was able to work from home for December, I never left my house except to grab groceries, and frankly, it’s been maddening. Staying at home, unable to physically talk with my closest friends, seeing the same walls and the same people day in and day out has been an eye-opening experience. A stressful experience at times too, but an eye-opening one.
And then I rewatched The Shining and then it hit me… we are all, on some level, behaving just like Jack Torrance.
When the lockdowns began, we all thought it would be hunky-dory. Taking some time away from people and doing something to better ourselves. Maybe we would try and write a novel to pass the time and get absolutely nowhere, like how Jack tries and fails to do so. Nancy and Danny go for walks in the Overlook Hotel’s gigantic hedge maze but eventually, that ends too once the snow hits and they’re truly left isolated. It’s there that everything begins to fall apart.
The rooms that Jack used to call home become oppressive in The Shining. Seeing the exact same hallways with the exact same absence of life turns from a neat situation into an oppressive reminder of just how truly alone he is. With no one to communicate with, Jack instead talks to people that aren’t there. Oh sure, he can talk to his family, but after weeks and months of seeing them without fail, he needs a change. So he starts to talk to people that can’t be there. At first, he knows this to be true, but as the oppressive nature of his isolation starts to dwell on him he gives in to the delusion.
No matter what he can’t leave the Overlook, both physically and mentally, just like we want to leave our homes. Sure, physically we can just get in our cars and leave, but mentally it’s trickier. After an entire year of trying to stay away from people, creating a false sense of safety within our homes, it’s harder to mentally escape the confines of our abodes. Sure we can leave, but is it safe to do so? So we stay in one place, much like Jack. Jack denies he lost his mind and he’s only “reprimanding” his family like a good father, but when reprimanding his Nancy and Danny includes ramming an ax through a door, your thoughts may vary on the effectiveness.
But maybe in this Covid-19 world we now live in, maybe Jack is a role model to aspire to be! I mean, just take a look at what happens when he encounters the Overlook’s head chef, Dick Halloran! Dick is exactly what everyone should strive not to be in a pandemic. He decides, for the weakest reason I might add, to leave his home to visit Danny in the Overlook. Let’s just ignore the problem of a grown man visiting a child by traveling across the country for another day and instead focus on how Dick… takes an airplane! He flies to Colorado! If Covid-19 existed in the Shining world. I wouldn’t blame Jack at all for lodging an ax into Dick’s head immediately upon arrival! Dick may be infected and Jack is a good family man!
And Jack does suffer from breaking his Covid-19 protocols. Once Jack arrives at the Overlook, he stays inside there, having all of the food, toilet paper, and reading materials he could possibly need. It’s only when he ventures outside that he receives the karmic punishment for leaving the safety of his home. He freezes to death and dies alone, abandoned by his family for forsaking them and absolutely no other reason whatsoever.
Jack does everything in his power to protect his family from going outside! Look at what’s outside for Nancy and Danny to go to! Nancy has to deal with the horrible abuses by the famed director Stanley Kubrick while Danny has to be in Doctor Sleep. Both of these tragic fates could have been avoided if they just stayed inside with Jack! Jack did nothing wrong. Jack knew exactly what the world was like and him eventually retreating into the world of the Overlook Hotel is the ultimate safety precaution.
Jack can’t get sick if he’s not even corporeal! I have no idea why he became a part of a picture in the Overlook’s lobby, but he’s permanently safe there! Inside of his delusions! Ha ha! I did it! I figured out how to beat Covid-19! Everyone needs to become a photograph! Nickelback wasn’t trying to create a terrible song that inevitably became a meme, Chad Kroeger was giving us guidance that we all must become photographs to survive! Yes father, I will become a photograph! Now develop with me Flixist! DEVELOP WITH ME SO WE MAY LIVE IN THE CELLULOID TOGETHER!!!
…Or, you know, we can wear a mask and practice social distancing so we don’t have to do this again next Winter. That works too I guess.