Kubrick loves satire

One of the many things Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove does so well is satirize war and the political landscape in 60’s. The movie was released at the peak of the Cold War during a time when the world ending in a nuclear catastrophe was not so far-fetched. Everything in the film, from the characters to the dialogue and setting, is clearly exaggerated yet presented seriously for comedic effect. General Jack Ripper, the man who initiated the entire nuclear attack, does so because he fears the Russians are tampering with the American people’s “precious bodily fluids.” The scene in which this is revealed starts with a close-up, low angle shot of Ripper holding aside his cigar and looking sincerely at Sgt. Mandrake. The shot indicates a shift in the mood and prepares the audience for a serious conversation between Ripper and Mandrake about the reason for the nuclear attack. Ripper then reveals that it was because the Soviets were harming the American people’s “precious bodily fluids,” deflating any gravitas the scene had since the audience was not expecting him to say that. Through this scene, Kubrick not-so-subtly mocks the obsession his country has with war; so much so that they are willing to attack a country for the safety of their bodily fluids. Even the bomb dropping at the end of the movie can be seen as a phallic symbol of the sort of fetish politicians have with atomic war as the cowboy gleefully rides the bomb to his (and presumably the rest of the world’s) death.

The irony in the film continues when General Turgidson and the Soviet ambassador wrestle in the War Room. The President eventually reprimands them saying “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the War Room!” which is drenched in irony given the fact that if ever there was a place to fight, the War Room should be it. Another thing I found humorous was the slogan “Peace is our Profession” written on a sign at the Air Force Base. The irony is even more nuanced than its obvious joke because it satirizes how politicians try to ease the public’s fears about war by sugar-coating it. They often argue that war is necessary to gain peace.

Is peace really their profession if they’re killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process?

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