Dr.Strangelove Film Analysis

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In 1964, Stanley Kubrick released Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb to both critical and commercial praise. The historical context surrounding the film’s release was at the height of the Cold War, just over a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis as the Vietnam War was beginning to escalate. While based on a more serious book, Red Alert by Peter George, it was soon transformed into a black comedy that parodied the absurdity of global nuclear destruction and the mentality of the Cold War. While not as overtly anti-war as his third film Paths of Glory, Kubrick still manages to show the ridiculousness of nuclear war while linking two basic male instincts together, sex and the desire to kill. The film continuously portrays excessive examples of sexual and gender politics, technology, international politics, the role of communication and the dehumanization of man. Gender and Sexual Politics

The politics of gender played out in the film treat women as recreational sex objects for powerful military men and politicians. It is no coincidence that the only female in the film, is a beautiful, bikini-clad woman sun tanning under a lamp at General Turgidson’s residence. While he is in the bathroom she answers the red phones as news of the attack comes in. When the General returns, he speaks to her like she is a child. Later in the film, when she phones him at the Pentagon, he patronizes her by saying, “I deeply respect you as a human being. Someday I’m going to make you Mrs. Buck Turgidson,” which further narrows her identity, meaning the best that she can do is to get married to someone like him. It assumes that a women’s happiness is routed in being married and possessed by another man. References to women in general are that of objectification and recreation throughout the film. In the B-52, one of the flight crew takes time out to look at a Playboy magazine. In the war room, the Russian Ambassador gives the President the Russian Premiers private phone number and explains that “not only is the Premier a man of the people, he is also a man, if you know what I mean.” The President knows exactly what he means as he nods with a grin. Near the end of the film, when Dr. Strangelove proposes his mind shaft plan to preserve the species, he speaks through clenched teeth and under his breath that, “Women selected for breeding must be of a highly stimulating nature, at a ratio of ten women for every man.” The President, General Turgidson and even the Russian Ambassador delight in their approval of this idea. The tone of voice used by the characters when speaking about females tends to be decidedly different from the loud and clear authoritarian approach taken on the subject of war. Personal threats of violence, acceptable casualty figures of twenty million people and even the prospect of global annihilation are confidently and boldly spoken. However, remarks about women, even in the company of other men, are spoken under the breath with subtle hushed tones and locker room innuendoes. This communicative style suggests that it is easier for men to speak about war than sex. Kubrick shows that the act of war is an activity closely associated with masculine sexual activity. The weapons of warfare and various props throughout the film convey the image of the phallus. To Kubrick, the bigger the weapon, the bigger the penis and the larger the explosion, the larger the ejaculation has become. The climax of course being a Texan pilot straddling a long cylindrical nuclear bomb between his legs, while hooting and hollering down from a plane to the intended target and the annihilation of mankind. It would appear that sex is secondary to war on the list of priorities for the characters within the film. In the case of General Ripper, the distinction between women and the enemy has become invisible. His paranoid rant on fluoridation being a “Communist plot to sap and impurify our precious bodily...
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