Why All Your Theories About ‘The Shining’ Are Wrong

Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece The Shining has inspired more interpretations than just about any other film. Numerous articles, blog posts, and YouTube videos have been dedicated to deciphering alleged hidden meanings in The Shining. This raises the question: What does the film’s producer think of all these theories?

Jack Nicholson in The Shining | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

What does ‘The Shining’ mean?

For decades, fans of Kubrick and fans of horror have been interpreting The Shining in a myriad of ways. However, the internet’s fascination with The Shining increased in 2012 due to the release of a documentary called Room 237, which is named after a haunted hotel room in the film. The documentary features a handful of scholars and Kubrick fanatics discussing their interpretations of The Shining.

Those interviewed in Room 237 offered many perspectives. One was that the film is a covert adaptation of the Greek myth of the Minotaur. Another fan said it’s about the first moon landing, and another said it’s about Native American history.

Is ‘The Shining’ about the Holocaust?

A poster for The Shining | Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images

One of the more popular theories proposed in the documentary is that The Shining is about the Holocaust. Geoffrey Cocks, who first advanced this theory in his book The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust, said small details in the film confirm its true meaning. These details include Jack Nicholson’s use of a typewriter created by German manufacturer and a verbal reference to “The Three Little Pigs,” an innocent story which has occasionally inspired antisemitic art.

Cocks also supports his theory by noting the film’s references to the number 42. He feels these references are important as the Holocaust was being carried out in 1942. At one point, the character Danny Torrance is seen wearing a shirt with the number 42 on it. He also watches Summer of ‘42 on television later in the film. An important location in the movie is Room 237, and two times three times seven equals 42.

The film’s producer speaks out

Jan Harlan, the film’s executive producer, has spoken out on these theories. He told Entertainment Weekly “[The Shining is] not a movie with a serious message. I know many people think its impossible that Kubrick did a film which didn’t have serious messages and an enormous amount of [theories have been] invented. While he was alive all that was relatively quiet.”

He continued “After his death, these [theories] came out which were funny, and partly insulting. The most insulting one is the idea that The Shining is a film about the Holocaust. That’s outrageous.”

Jan Harlan | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Harlan felt Kubrick never would have infused a horror film with Holocaust references. He said theories that The Shining relates to the Holocaust are “an insult to Kubrick, that he would deal with the most serious crime in human history in such a light way, and also an insult to victims of the Holocaust. The other ideas are much more harmless, where continuity mistakes are attributed with deep meaning.”

Great art inspires deep analysis. As The Shining is arguably the greatest horror film ever made, it’s inevitable it would inspire lots of commentary. At this point, however, it makes sense to discard popular theories about the film given Harlan’s statements.