Hidden Meaning in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Earthling Cinema


Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema.
I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,
or One Flew Over the for short. The film stars the inimitable Jack Nicholson, who is best
remembered as the mascot for the Los Angeles Lakers. When One Flew Over the begins, Randle P. McMurphy
has just been admitted to a mental institution, which is like a hotel for your brain. He befriends
the other residents of his ward, and starts up a classic rivalry with the domineering
Nurse Ratched. Before long, McMurphy steals a hospital bus and takes his friends on a
fishing boat to go fishing for fish. Later, after an impromptu brawl, Nurse Ratched gives
him shock therapy. Earth women, am I right? I don’t know if I’m right. McMurphy has had enough, so he decides to
escape. Naturally, he throws a party, subscribing to the human credo that alcohol fixes everything.
Turns out he’s a pretty great wingman. But he parties too hard
and falls asleep, which puts a damper on the
whole escape thing. Nurse Ratched arrives in the morning and notices a few things are out of place She threatens to tattle
on Billy, so he freaks out and kills himself. McMurphy is none too pleased about this, and
tries to hug Nurse Ratched’s neck to death. For this, he gets a lobotomy, which is where
they replace part of your brain with corned beef hash. In the end, the Chief gives McMurphy the old
Kevourkian treatment and then shamelessly plagiarizes his escape plan. At its core, One Flew Over the is about the
struggle between chaos and order. There’s no freedom without a little chaos, yet to
maintain order, there must be oppression. In this shot, McMurphy sees a baby horse running
along the edge of a chain link fence — freedom vs. man-made social order. Little-known fact:
that horse would go on to star is several more movies, including Seabiscuit, Hidalgo,
and Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. McMurphy upsets the established routine of
the ward, asking for schedule changes and inspiring resistance during therapy sessions.
He teaches his fellow denizens to have fun and encourages them to embrace their disgusting human desires. McMurphy convinces them that not only are
they sane, but they are men, as evidenced by their desire to watch sports.
As he tells Martini during the card game, the residents of the ward are “real people.” In contrast, Nurse Ratched is an authoritarian.
The first time we see her she is framed by a gate, signifying imprisonment. Whereas McMurphy
flies by the seat of his pants, Nurse Ratched is always stoic, and nobody likes a stoic. The only time she shows any emotion is when McMurphy has
to literally choke it out of her, and that emotion is “ouch.” Order is imposed on the patients with an almost religious or cult-like rigor. When the patients are given their medicine, one of them receives
it on his tongue like communion. McMurphy rejects the communion when he spits the pills
out, choosing instead to forge his own destiny, one where he doesn’t have the icky taste
of medicine in his mouth. Maybe next time she’ll choose Flintstones. McMurphy soon discovers that he’s trapped
behind not just physical walls, but mental ones as well. Routine is imprisonment. While
many of the mental patients were self- admitted because they felt unfit to function in society,
their strict schedule makes them dependent, ensuring that they’ll stay that way. Meanwhile,
my strict schedule ensures that I’m never home in time to see my kids, so maybe it’s
not all bad. The sink, an old hydrotherapy console, represents
the establishment’s hold over the patients; the oppressive structure labels them as “crazy”
and nullifies their will to freedom. McMurphy attempts to use it as a means of liberation,
but can’t do it because he’s not tall enough to be strong. Later, when the Chief
tries to lift the console, he is successful because McMurphy has made him feel “as big
as a mountain,” and also because he is as big as a mountain. At the end, order has been re- established.
People are taking their medicine again, and Nurse Ratched is wearing
a cute new accessory. However, Harding and the other guys still gamble, both
as a small gesture of rebellion, and because otherwise cards are just boring. It seems McMurphy’s influence has not completely
disappeared. When the Chief kills MacMurphy, he sets him free, immortalizing him as a symbol
of hope that will forever inspire the patients. He also sets the audience free by ending the
movie. For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid.
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