A Clockwork Orange — 50 Years Ago Today

Arlo Hennings

Stanley Kubrick’s Prophetic Vision of Today’s Violence

Street gangsterPhoto by Ivan Samkov

“A CLOCKWORK ORANGE” opened in the U.S. 50 years ago on December 19, 1971 (6 days earlier in the U.K.). The film was prophetic, controversial, divisive, disturbing… innovative, daring, and dynamic. It’s an assault on the senses.

Stanley Kubrick was at the height of his powers. It’s more disturbing today than it was 50 years ago, but no less brilliant.

It was and still is bravura filmmaking. An unprecedented display of command of the cinematic language. Whether you like it or not. One can’t help but admire the magnificent performance by Malcolm McDowell. The role he was born to play as “Little Alex.”

I was 17 years old when A CLOCKWORK ORANGE hit the silver screen. The right age to feel the full effect of the endorphin rush from being front row to rape and gore. My gang of friends. Changed after the film introduced the idea of violence being cool. And so did millions of other young men across America.

A match to gasoline.

The favorite male Halloween costume of 1972 was to dress up as the brutal gang in the film called “droogies.” In the film young men around my age. Set in the near future of London. Dressed in their violent attire and hit the drug-milk bar. Once high enough performed their evening raids of violence on innocent victims.

There was no purpose to their violence. It was a “high” to watch a person plea for their life.

Kubrick based his film on the book by Anthony Burgess. But did his film idea also come from observing the British skinhead movement? A skinhead is a member of a subculture. It originated in the 1960s. Among the working-class youths in London, England. It soon spread to other parts of the United Kingdom. With a second working class skinhead movement emerging worldwide in late 1970.

A Clockwork Orange — violence against innocent victims became a cult. It was a cult with its own style of music “Beethoven” and Army boots.

The orange clock never stopped ticking.

In 2021, there were 437 deaths from mass shootings. Shootings in schools, markets, churches, the police, and music concerts. Egged on by political leaders and media. Men dress up in costumes. Attacking public institutions and people in the name of self-proclamation. Extremists want a purge.

Violence is so prevalent in today’s society it can be seen everywhere. It has integrated American culture on all levels. Cars driving through a Christmas parade, people brawling on airplanes, and video death games. Too much media glorifying violence. There’s no end in sight. People are numb. It’s here to stay. The only thing missing is the milk bar.

Kubrick’s vision of a violent psychotic society not only turned out to be true. It surpassed our wildest imagination.

Living abroad in a country where guns are illegal the locals watch American news in shock. They have crime. But children don’t walk into a school and kill classmates.

The Small Arms Survey stated that U.S. civilians alone account for 393 million (about 46 percent) of the worldwide total of civilian-held firearms. That amounts to 120.5 firearms for every 100 residents.

A Clockwork Orange didn’t create this mass violence hysteria. It brought to light a dark, sinister side to the apparent catastrophe of postmodern American identity.

The question remains: Order in Society vs. Freedom of Choice

The freedom of individuals to make choices becomes problematic when those choices undermine the safety and stability of society, and in A Clockwork Orange, the state is willing to protect society by taking away freedom of choice and replacing it with prescribed good behavior. In the main character’s world, both the unfettered power of the individual and the unfettered power of the state prove dangerous. The character steals, rapes, and murders merely because it feels good, but when his violent impulses are taken away, the result is equally as dangerous, simply because freedom of choice, a fundamental element of humanity, has been taken away. — Sparknotes

"I don't want to live anyway...not in a stinking world like this." Alex-- movie central character.

For more information on the author and his new book Bali: Life on the Ring of Fire.

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I am an of Author two non-fiction books on SE Asia, and an expat living in Indonesia. Music publisher. Ph.D. (Cultural Anthropology). MFA (Creative Writing). My narrative style has been described as a cross between Herman Hesse and Groucho Marx. My beat is the world. From the first Woodstock Music Fest. Nelson Mandela's election, and tied to who plotted J.F.K. assassination. I deep dive into life's absurdities. Pain, warmth, humor, and a bold statement on how being crazy in a sick society is healthy. I explore the uncovered abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world. World-weary wisdom infuses such sunburned narratives as rock n' roll. Shamanism, skateboarding on volcano rims, global settings, and underrepresented voices. I am set in reality but let loose the fantastical. Adept stories with a surreal or subversive bent. Taken together, I try to draw an intelligent mosaic of what it means to be alive as a whole person.

Minneapolis, MN

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