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Killer Whiskey

October 14, 2012

I saw The Shining today at The Paramount. In the spirit of the Shining obsessives presented in the documentary Room 237 (which I have not seen), one thing struck me about it. At the spectral bar of the Gold Room Jack orders a bourbon. The bartender pulls down and pours a bottle of Jack Daniels. Jack then sings the bartenders praises most extravagantly. The problem is that not only is JD an inferior and over-priced whiskey, it is, technically, not a bourbon at all! What can explain this? What was Kubrick’s intention?

My best guess is that barman’s error simply serves to subtly draw our attention to the Jack Daniels. Once we get there things get more clear. The character Jack, played by an actor named Jack, is drinking Jack. The character’s son is named Danny and is played by an actor named Danny. Jack injured Danny some time before in a drunken rage, leading him to quit drinking. This drink is his fall off the wagon (it is only ghost liquor but I am pretty sure that counts, at least in the eyes of AA). Subsequently, he will try to injure Danny again, in a dismembering sort of way.

There is ambiguity in the film as to how much the evil it portrays comes from the hotel and its hauntings and how much from within Jack himself. This scene suggests the latter. Jack is drinking Jack. He may order bourbon, but he ends up with Jack. And he downs it greedily. This is what drives him to madness, his self-consuming self-regard.

Also there is the point that Jack Daniels is evil shit that will turn you into a homicidal maniac. But if you’re offering, I’m drinking.

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