Why That Bear Performed Fellatio on That Guy in 'The Shining'
Kubrick's biggest WTF moment is finally explained.
There's plenty of speculation surrounding hidden meanings and conspiracy theories of The Shining (a feature-length documentary's worth, to be exact) but the strangest part of the film may forever be Wendy's sudden discovery of a man in a work suit receiving fellatio from a man in a bear suit.
Stanley Kubrick famously tried to distance himself from Stephen King's novel, but he did so in a way that seemed more like an attempt to tease the author rather than set himself apart. The changes appeared in minor details rather than in overarching story structure. For example, in the book, the snowcat is yellow and Jack’s Volkswagon Beetle is red. In the movie, the Beetle is yellow and the snowcat is red. But when Dick Halloran is making his perilous journey through a blizzard back up to the Overlook Hotel, he passes a red Beetle crushed by an 18-wheeler. Ouch.
Kubrick did decide to keep some things, and it turns out that the bear scene was one of them. Similar to the Beetle switch, however, the bear was actually a dog in the novel. Kubrick opted not to go further into the backstory, instead, he used the scene as just another building block in his nerve-wracking Jenga tower of tension. Check out Rob Ager's video below for further analysis of Kubrick's famous scene.
Ager's idea is mainly motivated in this bear-to-dog switch. He believes that "a shift from dog to bear costume doesn’t have any significant effect on the aesthetic scariness of the scene, so there must have been some sort of logic at work in Kubrick’s decision."
Without fully going into all the examples Ager gives, he believes that logic is employed throughout the film with a sort of subliminal messaging. For example, in an early close-up of Danny, we see his head resting on a bear pillow as he speaks with a psychiatrist.
Perhaps the coolest of these clues is the striking similarity of the establishing shots between Wendy discovering the Ursidae sex act, and an early shot of Danny back at home brushing his teeth as he prepares for bed.