society + Doctor Sleep [2019]

curtesy of YouTube

This post is going to be a little different than what you’ve seen before. We’ve looked at music, American society, and even a couple of slang terms. I figured well, I also love movies, so why the heck not do a movie section? Of course, movies tend to be a lot longer than songs and so I’m not going to analyze every line from the screenplay of Doctor Sleep (but you wish!). Instead, I’m going to focus on some elements and imagery from the movie and explain how these things relate to American society, or maybe what they reveal about the culture.

Sound interesting? Sure it does! So let’s keep reading.

I’d also like to point out that this is mainly for English students or foreign people who are curious about American society, just as a warning that some things may sound redundant if you are an English-speaker or American. Though, of course, anyone is welcome!

Doctor Sleep — not to get confused with Doctor Strange — is a supernatural horror movie written and directed by Mike Flanagan. It was made in 2019 and is a sequel to The Shining from 1980. Well, that took long enough! Besides the fact of it being a sequel, I want to mention this because The Shining has been a definitive cultural event since it came out. Not everyone has seen the movie — in fact, lots of people I know haven’t, which is mind … POOSH — but pretty much everyone recognizes at least some of the scenes from this movie.

credit from Fandom, here

The sinister opening music from the score … the waves of splashing blood pouring through the halls … the twin girls staring down the hall with their evil eyes … Jack Nicholson screaming “Here’s Johnny!” as he axes down a door. I mean, there are just too many iconic scenes to go on. The popular impact of The Shining makes today’s subject so significant too, even if it’s a mere sequel.

Just like with its predecessor, Doctor Sleep has several iconic scenes and shots, including a girl running her hands through the mental “files” of her witch foe, people flying in and out of each other’s minds, and the iconic “REDRUM” spelling itself so ominously on the cracked walls. But back to the topic: What does this movie say about America? Well, let’s see…

One noticeable aspect of the movie is the different regions of the country we see the characters going to. Stephen King, who is the author of the books, is from Maine, a state in New England. If you notice in the movie they’re mostly in some town in New Hampshire. There are little brick buildings, central church chapels, and cute little parks in the middle of town. This layout is of the classic New England town. Given the fact that Danny, the lead character, goes there to cleanse and heal from alcoholism, you can tell that these places are considered locations where you can live peacefully, get away from the noise of the city, and enjoy the fall leaves. On the other hand, when Danny is in Florida, he gets high on drugs and alcohol all the time and sleeps around with strange women, which lets you know how other Americans might view Florida. That’s also where the creepy True Knots are first seen attacking that little girl. Sorry, Florida. Harsh.

a field like you might see in the Midwest, Photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unsplash

Later on, they go to Colorado which is full of mountains, forest, and pretty lakes, while we go to Iowa and see nothing but cornfields and baseball diamonds. This probably wasn’t on accident, because Iowa and the Midwest, in general, are seen as centers for agriculture and farming, especially corn. They are also seen as the “heartland” of America, which is why you get such an important symbol like baseball there. A poor boy gets abducted in Iowa, and what happens to him also has something to say about our society.

I don’t know if this started in the U.S. or was brought here by Eastern Europeans, but gypsies are a controversial topic from this movie. Sometimes as kids, people are told to watch out for gypsies because they eat children or some nonsense. True to the myth, that’s pretty much what happens in the movie. Gypsies are based on the ethnic Roma or Romani people, but often any group of people that travel around together without any kind of direction or stability are generally considered gypsies. Especially if they’re in a trailer.

a trailer-home, Photo by John Mark Jennings on Unsplash

Trailers have a lot of importance in America. People use trailers to travel long distances, go camping, and to live in, amongst other things. A popular notion too is that “gypsies” or just people without any stable home roam around the country in a trailer. The scene of the True Knot picking up the boy in Iowa as well as the scene where Danny arrives with Abra, the other main character, at her home, shed light on this. Abra’s dad has a little freak-out session and nearly tries to kill Danny.

These two scenes show how kids in America are taught to deal with strangers (Don’t get into a car with them) and how parents react when they see their children, especially daughters, with strange adults. This seems logical, but I have seen in some other countries that kids interacting with unknown adults is not the most outrageous thing that could happen. No one wants their child to get abducted, but I notice in America, parents seem to be especially cautious in this sense compared to some other countries. Maybe this is because there are tons of cases of child abduction, child molestation, and child abuse that parents become especially protective. Children are a lot less likely to talk to strangers, even if they are genuine and nice people, because of this worry that American parents tend to put into their heads. I blame investigative shows like 20/20 and channels like Investigation Discovery (ID) for this, but I guess they have good reasons.

classic neon movie theater, Photo by Jeff Pierre on Unsplash

I don’t have too much else to say. You could see how Abra’s house was really big and nice, a sort of “classic American home” at least nowadays. We also saw some racial diversity in the movie, kind of lending to the push for more diversity in movies and media in recent years. I think that’s cool. Danny works at a convalescent home (commonly an “old folks home” or “retirement home”) helping the seniors go to sleep … forever. This is more of a Western thing, I think, where it’s acceptable and even pretty common to send old people to live in these care facilities instead of taking care of them at home. The movie theater where the girl, Andi I think, gets recruited to the True Knot team of vagabonds is a kind of classic American movie theater. You get the big neon sign out front with the movie titles on it, a ticket booth, and a big theater house full of seats and balconies and whatnot. Other than that, many Americans like a good scare, a good thrill, a mystic tale of spirit-suckers that get defeated by a living mansion burning to the ground. Or was it a hotel? Those hats the True Knot were wearing are kind of in style with certain hipster communities. I’ll talk about them another day.

I left the trailer up top if you’re interested. Also, did you notice anything else about Doctor Sleep that speaks on American society or society at large? And if any of you saw this movie, what did you think of it? Tell me in the comments, or email me at tietewaller@gmail.com. Stay well!