Matchup of the Day: Bad Boy Bubby vs. The Shining
Continuing with Kubrick Week, we have two movies about men who lose their minds after being cooped up – Bad Boy Bubby vs. The Shining.
FYI: This trailer is NSFW
Bad Boy Bubby could easily be compared to Room, considering that it’s about a son locked away in a small living space with his mother. It’s also similar to Dogtooth, as it tells the tale of an individual with a totally warped understanding of reality. Dogtooth, however, stops short of actually showing the viewer what such an individual would do when exposed to the real world. Much of Bad Boy Bubby is about just that (really, Bubby is like a deranged combination of the other two films). For roughly the first thirty-five minutes the title character is kept prisoner by his crazy mother. Though he’s an adult, she treats Bubby like a child, telling him that the air outside contains poisonous gas. Bubby’s only form of entertainment is tormenting his cat, which may be symbolic of his relationship with his mother. He eventually suffocates the feline with clingwrap. I took it to represent how he is smothered by his parent.
One reason I thought to do this matchup was because I noticed that actor who plays Bubby, Nicholas Hope, kind of resembles Jack Nicholson in a few of the movie posters. They are both family dramas set in claustrophobic locations as well, though. Jack Torrance, played by Nicholson, gradually goes insane while serving as the maintenance man at the snowed-in Overlook hotel. Maybe it’s because he’s frustrated about finishing a novel he’s been working on, or maybe it’s because he’s a recovering alcoholic. Or maybe it’s because the hotel is haunted and is messing with his head. After chatting with a ghostly bartender, Jack is convinced that his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, are against him. So Jack threatens to bash Wendy’s brains in with a baseball bat and chases Danny with an axe.
Early in Bad Boy Bubby, his mother makes him sit still in a chair all day while she’s gone. She tells him that Jesus is watching and will tell her if he moves. In which case, his mother warns Bubby “I’ll beat you brainless”. The only affection Bubby does receive from his mother is through incestuous interactions. So, he serves as both a child and a spouse. Their domestic bliss comes to an end when Bubby’s father shows up after thirty years. This new development is highly traumatic for him, since he feels as though he’s been replaced. When they come home drunk one night Bubby kills them both with clingwrap. With his domineering parents out of the way, he decides to venture outside.
One could compare Bubby to Danny from The Shining, as they are both capable of seeing things others cannot perceive. Danny has the power to “shine”, which is sensitive to supernatural activity. Bubby sees the world with child-like awe and confusion (director Rolf de Heer employed thirty-one cinematographers to simulate Bubby’s changing perceptions). Also, Danny often communicates through his imaginary (or not) friend, Tony. Bubby communicates by repeating what he hears other people say. Toward the end of The Shining Danny escapes from his murderous father by outmaneuvering him in a giant hedge maze. Bubby believes that his mother’s version of Jesus is watching him and can deliver punishment. He later meets an atheist who tells him that he is the architect of his own existence. (NOTE: I’ll let you interpret the significance of the last comparison).
In comparison to Jack, Bubby achieves creative and psychological health, while Jack does not. Bubby joins a rock band. He meets a nurse to love who is a positive incarnation of his mother. He learns to feel empathy for humans and animals. Jack, on the other hands, slips into alcohol and madness. Instead of completing the novel he intended to write, he just types “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again. So, Jack does share Bubby’s repetition of other people’s words, along with his “Here’s Johnny!” bit toward the end.