All I Need to Know, I Learned From Steven King’s The Shining12
By Marti Resteghini
10 Life Lessons Learned from The Shining
Stephen King is one of the most prolific and twisted authors in modern day literature – quite possibly in the history of the medium. This is no surprise since his life as a writer began after reading a collection of short stories by the dark, twisted godfather of horror literature and father of Cthuhu himself, H.P. Lovecraft. He pumps out an average of two horrific novels a year. His books have sold over 500 million copies. There have been 80 different screen and stage adaptations of his novels to date. His classic works are considered flagships of the horror genre: Misery, Carrie, Creepshow, It. However, his third novel is touted by many as one of the best examples of smart horror, and its film adaptation is listed by many as the best horror movie of all time. This novel, the one that put him on the map as the preeminent author of the horror genre, was about an alcoholic aspiring writer, Jack Torrance, who takes a job as the winter caretaker of a large, isolated hotel in the snowy mountains of Colorado only to become possessed by the hotel and compelled to butcher his family. This was 1977’s The Shining.
What makes Stephen King such a great writer is how he takes real environments, feelings and events and distorts them so as to create situations eerily familiar and strikingly horrific. In fact, the Shining was written after King and his wife stayed at an isolated hotel in Colorado right before it closed for the winter. They stayed in room 217 – a room claimed to be haunted (this room would also be haunted in the novel). King would spend their first night exploring the empty hotel by himself and ultimately ended up having drinks at the bar, served by a bartender named Grady (the name of the previous caretaker to fall victim to the hotel in the novel).
There is something fascinating about watching the troubled everyman battle his demons in a very literal sense. Although King is a master of this, many others use this method to build the most intense levels of horror and suspense. Russ Pond’s thriller series Fissure, for instance, follows Detective Paul Grunning on a case as he navigates through his own fractured reality, not only bending the element of reality, but time itself.
Whether we’re following Carrietta White face the pain of isolation in Carrie or Billy Halleck manage his weight issues in Thinner, King brings you right into the warm waters of the character’s personal horror. But, in doing so, he teaches you valuable lessons about Karma, loyalty, and family values. No story better illustrates these lessons than The Shining, so here are 10 life lessons to be learned from Stephen King’s horror masterpiece, The Shining.
*This story contains spoilers!
Fissure, The Call – Episode 1
1. Listen to the little voice inside you.
Jack’s son Danny is more than clairvoyant. You can argue he’s schizophrenic. His imaginary friend, Tony, tells him about things in the past, present and future as well as lets him see things others cannot, including ghosts. Some call this “The Shining,” but most would just call it creepy. But, that doesn’t mean that Tony is wrong. In fact, the most sensible advice comes from Tony throughout the novel, including suggesting they NOT go to the Overlook Hotel.
2. Take your job seriously.
Jack Torrance is a frustrated writer, an alcoholic and an angry drunk – having sent his son to the hospital after a bender. So the fact that he took a six-month, 24/7 job and is willing to stick to it, no matter what happened in that hotel before, is a remarkable achievement for him. His commitment to the Overlook and its management is hardcore. He’d rather die than leave. You can’t find good help like that anymore.
3. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Six months free room and board, plus pay at a luxury resort in beautiful Colorado – not even a week of sitting through timeshare pitches will get you this kind of setup. Yet, the Torrance’s scored this, plus some free time for Jack to get started on the next great American novel. If that wasn’t enough, they’re not alone. There is a naked women in room 217. Sadly, this all came with a hefty price tag – demonic possession.
4. Marriage is hard. Give each other some room.
There are a lot of things that can kill a marriage: money troubles, alcoholism, boredom, and unhappiness with yourself. Unfortunately, the Torrance’s were experiencing all of these before moving into the Overlook. And to top it all off, they agreed to spend six months together with no other adults to vent to. Although a troubled marriage needs to find ways to regain their intimacy and spend more time together, there is no therapist in the world that would suggest a six month stay locked inside an empty hotel for the winter. Possession or no possession, there will be blood.
5. Children are wise.
REDRUM! Danny came up with some crazy stories: Hey guys, I have the shining; Hey guys, there’s a naked lady in room 217. Shocker, they were all true. Sometimes kids like to embellish. Sometimes they’re outright comical. But most of the time, we should listen to what they have to say.
6. Just when you’re ready to quit, hang on a little longer.
It has probably happened to you. You’re sitting at the slot machine plugging in your nickels. You get to the bottom of your coin tub. You walk away. A blue-hair swipes your machine and bingo, she’s rolling in nickels. If you just would have held out a little longer… That’s what the Torrance family did. They did not give up. Even when Jack wanted to hack them up, Wendy and Danny kept running in circles. Just when they thought they couldn’t escape, the hotel explodes, killing Jack. See, there’s always a way to come out on top. You just don’t always see it coming.
7. There are always two sides to every story.
You can point to Jack’s alcoholism and say he’s a weak man. You can say because he was weak, he was possessed by the Overlook Hotel. You can say that because he was possessed, he tried to kill his family. But there ARE some endearing qualities to Jack Torrance. Living with your family, especially over the holidays, with no break, is exhausting, but Jack was willing to give it a go to create a better life for them and to give them a nice home during tough times. In fact, even under the strongest of possessions, Jack was lucid enough to go down with the ship, allowing his family to flee to safety. You can say all you want about Jack Torrance, but made it count in the end.
8. Always keep the lines of communication open.
You don’t go crazy overnight. Sure, some people experience changes after a traumatic event, but most of us show signs that we’re losing it early on: a dead rabbit in a boiling pot, breast feeding a baby that isn’t yours, keeping a vile of your lover’s blood around your neck. Wendy should have kept a closer eye on her husband. Didn’t they eat dinner together? Couldn’t Tony have called for help a little sooner? Make sure to always stay in touch with your kids and your spouse – or you’ll wake up one day living with a maniacal stranger.
The Overlook Hotel was alive, and it loved to f*ck with your mind. But isn’t that the case with any distraction? That crazy girl you met at The Saddle Ranch, any new piece of home theater equipment, the 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS you’re been restoring, these are all wonderful at times but will ultimately drive you mad if you don’t keep your eye on the prize. The same goes for Jack. He wasn’t the only target for possession, so was Danny. But Danny had Tony, and Tony was focused. Tony wouldn’t have it. Jack, well, he had issues. If only he would have focused on finishing his novel and finding a publisher…. sucks for him.
10. There IS such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Economic’s most famous law, the law of diminishing returns, is best illustrated by pizza. Most people love pizza. Right now, you would probably eat a slice if it appeared in front of you. It would be a welcomed surprise that would bring you much joy. Similarly, the job at the Overlook was exactly what the Torrance’s needed – time away to focus on the family, time for hobbies, time to reflect. However, what if I offered you another slice? Not as excited are you? How about if I locked you in your house and made you eat pizza for six months? You’d be willing to kill for some cereal, right? Keep your marriage, lifestyle and work schedule flexible and varied. It’s good for you, and it’s good for those you live with.
Fissure, The House – Episode 2
Fissure, The Body – Episode 3
Marti Resteghini is VP of Network Programming and Acquisitions here at KoldCast TV. Formerly, as vice president of development and production at Warner Bros.-based production company, HDFilms, Resteghini oversaw the development, production and distribution of feature films, television and new media content across multiple platforms. In this post, Resteghini produced many high-profile Web series including “Chadam,” “Creepshow: Raw,” based on the 1980s cult classic feature film, and Crackle’s “The Jace Hall Show.”