Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove: A Textual and Contextual Analysis

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  • Topic: Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern
  • Pages : 10 (3753 words )
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  • Published : March 15, 2013
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Dr. Strangelove: Or how I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. – A textual and contextual analysis In 1964 with the Cold War at its peak, the Vietnam War about to get underway and the Cuban Missile Crisis still prominent in the minds of its audience ‘Dr. Strangelove: Or how I Learned to Stop worrying and Love the bomb’, was exposed to the world during perhaps, one of the most fragile and tense political climates of all time. Kubrick’s utterly ironic black comedy that plays on the possibility of nuclear obliteration was based loosely on the celebrated 1958 novel, ‘Red Alert’ by Peter George but differed in the fact that the film was highly satirical. That Kubrick even so boldly dared to make a film that openly mocked the situation between the Soviets and the United States seems absurd. However, Dr. Strangelove is fundamentally an anti war film that plays on the ridiculousness of a nuclear threat by presenting scornful depictions of sexuality and gender principles as well as poking fun at the political hierarchy and the communication between the two sides. In this essay I hope to undergo a thorough textual and contextual examination of Dr. Strangelove, with specific focus on gender and sexual representation within the inner (within the film text) and outer (cultural, social factors etc.) viewpoints. As the issues addressed in Dr. Strangelove are somewhat less timely in today’s world, I felt that it was necessary to include a synopsis of the film from which a scene can be set. Estranged General, Jack D Ripper, commander of the Burpelson air force base becomes increasingly paranoid (towards the point of insanity) that the Soviets have contaminated the US water supply infecting the “precious bodily fluids” of the American people. Ripper manages to bypass normal authentication, launching a globally threatening nuclear attack on the Soviet Union behind the backs of his superiors that include General Buck Turgidson and President Merkin Muffley. General Ripper is the only one who possesses the three letter code to recall the B-52 bombers and so when his superiors learn of the unconsented attack they attempt to make contact with Burpelson to discover that he has locked down the base, shutting off all communication in order to safeguard his irrational plan. Meanwhile in the war room of the Pentagon; Muffley, Turgidson and a host of superior political personalities including the deformed ex-Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove come together to debate the situation. It’s apparent that Buck Turgidson is keen to see that attack through stating “if we were to immediately launch an all out coordinated attack on all their airfields and missile bases, we'd stand a damn good chance of catching them with their pants down”. However the president is a peacekeeper and much more reserved, inviting the Russian ambassador ‘Alexi de Sadesky’ into the war room to warn the Russian premiere ‘Dimitri Kisov’ of the unintentional attack. Dimitri in response to the threat reveals that the Soviets hold a reserve of atomic weapons or a ‘Doomsday Device’, capable of destroying all life on Earth, which will automatically be denoted in the event of a nuclear attack. An American assault is launched on Burpelson with the intention being to acquire the code from Ripper. The General’s executive officer RAF captain Lionel Mandrake is being held captive in Ripper’s office, Mandrake believes he knows the code if only he can get a message out of the base. Amidst the confrontation Ripper commits suicide for fear of torture allowing mandrake to pass the code on to the US president. The B-52’s acknowledge the code and return to base except one plane’s radio has been damaged and it continues ahead with the operation. With the end of the world seemingly inevitable, Dr. Strangelove suggests a theory for the survival of the American race, involving hiding them in a mineshaft until radiation levels are safe and via the use of “proper breeding techniques, with ratios of ten...
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