“Eyes Wide Shut” & the Paranoid Style in American Pop Culture

by Nemo Williams

Tropics of Meta

eyes wide shut masks

What is it about Stanley Kubrick that makes people crazy?

I was truly excited about the release of last year’s film Room 237—as a historian and Kubrick fan, the idea of an hour or two of deep interpretation of the themes and symbolism of his 1980 horror classic The Shining sounded delightful.  It would be like taking a cultural history or film studies class where all the insights of a semester’s discussions were distilled into one megacut.

As it turned out, though, the film was more like a documentary about a cult or conspiracy theory, or simply the adherents of a weird fetish or hobby (say, a King of Kong for ersatz anthropologists).  Fairly ludicrous and elaborate inferences about the genocide of Native Americans or the faking of the Moon landing were narrated by the film’s motley, disembodied lot of amateur analysts, who even admitted that they may be…

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