The Subtle Sex Joke Flying Around In 'Dr. Strangelove'
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Ignore the Boring-Ass Title of the Source Book and Title the Movie Like a Goddamn Novel is hard to categorize. Is it an anti-war movie? Yeah, in a way, since the Cold War-era paranoia leads to the destruction of the planet in the finale. It’s also a black comedy for sure. Satire? No one in the entire effing world can agree on what “satire” actually means, so, sure, let’s throw that in there. It also has a lot of sexual themes, but they’re nuclear instead of pornographic, and I don’t know if there’s even a word for that in all of English. WM-Double-Ds? T&A-Bombs? What am I even talking about …?
Maybe the actual genre of Dr. Strangelove can’t be expressed in words. Maybe it can only be expressed via dancing. Bone dancing. In the sky! I’m talking about two planes totally doing it, aka the opening of the movie, which establishes its entire tone with one brilliantly placed musical Easter Egg.
During the first few minutes of the movie, we see a B-52 bomber docking with a jet tanker via what can only be described as its airplane dong. I mean, you could probably describe it a hundred different ways, but how many chances in life do you get to say “airplane dong”? Like 3-4 max, so you gotta take them when they come. The scene is actually stock footage, meaning it wasn’t shot for the movie, so all the sexual innuendo in it is a coincidence. Kubrick could not have that, so he put his own Kub-dick spin on the airplane dong scene by scoring it with an instrumental version of “Try A Little Tenderness” by composer Laurie Johnson. A lot of different versions of the song were recorded over the years, but the most important thing about them is that they are all about boning down.
And that is the movie in a nutshell, with an emphasis on “nut.” It’s all about the juxtaposition of sexual and war imagery. It’s felt through the entire (dick)flick, from how General Ripper starts WWIII because his human airplane dong didn’t work to Kong skydiving with a nuclear bomb between his legs. There’s still not a good word for this kind of movie, but that just means we haven’t made a lot of those, and maybe that’s the positive we should be hanging on to. You know, just like Kong hanged on to his phallic weapon as if he was the world’s tiniest stripper servicing Mechagodzilla in the Champagne Room.
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Top Image: Columbia Pictures