‘The Shining’: Why Stephen King Thinks Stanley Kubrick’s Film Is ‘Misogynistic’

Longtime Stephen King fans know how much he detests Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, The Shining. And while King can admit that the film looks beautiful, he says it has no emotional depth to it. He compares the characters to “screaming dishrags,” claiming they have no interesting qualities or quirks. He goes on to say that Kubrick’s adaptation is purely “insulting to women” and that it’s “incredibly misogynistic.” Keep reading to find out why.

The Shining
The Shining | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Stephen King’s novel version of Wendy Torrance is the polar opposite of the movie version

In King’s book, The Shining, Wendy Torrance couldn’t be more different from the character we see on screen. In the novel, Wendy is a bubbly blonde cheerleader-type. She is naturally peppy and refuses to submit to her husband’s every will.

The Shining
Danny Lloyd and Shelley Duvall in a scene from ‘The Shining’ in 1980 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

And while Duvall is uniquely striking in her own Bambi-eyed way, her dark/ghoulish features don’t coincide with King’s vision of the character. He wanted more of a “Betty” than a “Veronica,” because that way, it made it all the more harrowing when her good-girl persona got tested by the horrors of the Overlook Hotel.  

According to IMDb, both King and Jack Nicholson wanted American Horror Story’s Jessica Lange for the role of Wendy. No stranger to scream-queen roles, Lange would have been a natural fit for the part. Yet Kubrick, forever the stubborn director, was adamant on Duvall taking the role.

Her unusual features and expressive brown eyes made the Texas starlet the perfect fit for Wendy in his eyes. But little did Duvall know that her experience on set would be a living nightmare, thanks to Kubrick.

“Stanley pushed me and prodded me further than I’ve ever been pushed before,” Duvall said. “It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play.” 

Stephen King thinks Stanley Kubrick’s version of ‘The Shining’ is offensive to women

King has a lot of bad things to say about Kubrick’s adaptation, The Shining. But the one thing that seems to irk him the most about the film is the way Kubrick portrays women. In King’s book, Wendy is a character with a sense of humor, a deep love for her family, and a willingness to fight back. While in the movie, Wendy is constantly crying in terror while sprinting away from the horrors of the Overlook Hotel, in the book, she actively encourages a fight because she isn’t afraid to take charge. 

King says in an interview with BBC, “Shelley Duvall as Wendy is really one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film. She’s basically just there to scream and be stupid, and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.”

In a separate interview with Rolling Stone, King says, “it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag.”

The horror author also dislikes Jack Nicholson’s role as Jack Torrance

Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson and Danny Llyod | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

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Mutually, King is not a fan of Jack Nicholson being cast for the role of Jack Torrance. Similarly to the character of Wendy, Jack is quite different in the book. He is a lot more redeemable, considering he starts as a decent person who wants to do right by his family. But in the movie, King says Nicholson’s character is a terrible person right off the bat. 

“In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good,” he tells Rolling Stone. “And little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, “Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.”