The underlying arguments found in “Dr. Strangelove” are successfully disguised in its with its Hollywood-driven production. It is important to understand that, all forms of writing argue something and many movies retain greater meaning than what an audience may expect from a Hollywood production. “Dr. Strangelove,” highlights the failed leadership of federal officials and mocks these perceived inefficiencies within American leadership through the use of dark comedy.
Similarly, government officials are criticized through the way that their characters are portrayed in “Dr. Strangelove.” Rather than fostering empathic emotions derived from watching “The Incident in Oglala,” the producer, Stanley Kubrick, injects comedy into historical situations. This form of pathos works to diminish the image of those who are often well respected by society. The depiction of humility is accomplished through the lack of urgency and productivity shown by top government officials during a life-threatening situation. For example, General Turgidson chats with his lover in the War Room and Major Kong rides a missile like a bull while sporting a cowboy hat. Through this, high-profile officials who tend to be portrayed as serious and powerful are depicted as characters lacking agency during apocalyptic circumstances. In this case Kubrick uses comedy as an attempt to tackle political issues pertaining to the Cold War and corrupt leadership. The film’s satirical nature caused the audience to think critically about the amount of trust that Americans put into leaders who, the film argues, are no better than the average person. It motivates viewers to question who they want in charge of their country, and their fate. Seldom are conflicts and bombing approached with lightheartedness; however, the film’s ability to do so implies the directors’ opposition to war. Even with a tone that is dominated by comic relief, the serious consequences of war-related mistakes, and the helplessness of government officials, remain the main focuses.
The movie addresses an issue with international relevance that reflected the reality of a past political time. Although “Dr. Strangelove” represents a particular bias regarding a real event/ American dilemma, the connections between its public figures and the public figures they are intended to potray is not blatantly addressed. The film does not directly threaten the reputation of those particular war leaders, because it is presented in a way that could only be identified with deep thought and political/historical insight, two requirements are not typically on one’s conscious when watching a comical film. If the directors were to apply a serious tone to the plot, it may not have been as successful of a Hollywood production. Had Kubrick (the director) chosen to criticize government officials and their decisions using a more serious tone, the film’s audience could potentially be cut in half due to political differences. Instead, he used comedy to conceal his attempt to further a certain point of view regarding the Cold war, he did so almost hypnotically. Through its light-hearted nature, the filmmakers are furthering their political agenda with minimal criticism, the best of both worlds! They use a powerful form of argumentative bias that is often overlooked through tactics that exude false neutrality.
*Since genre is such a prominent contributor to the movie’s success it is important to define “dark comedy” and understand the distinction from satirical genre. Dark comedy mixes humor with unsettling realities while satire uses exaggeration and irony to ridicule a subject. “Dr. Strangelove” has many satirical elements; however, overall, it better aligns with the meaning of “dark comedy” through the way in which it is exposing real political issues in a way that is less represented through other medias. In other words, yes, some of it was exaggerated, but the reality of it is so uncomfortable that it’s oddly funny.