Dr. Strangelove Irony

Dr. Strangelove Irony

"Try a Little Tenderness" Opening Credits Music

The opening credits features an in-flight refueling of an Air Force bomber to the strains of an orchestral instrumental version of the middle-of-the-road traditional love ballad titled “Try a Little Tenderness.” The use of this music behind the opening credits set against the backdrop of the equally erotic and maternal symbolism of the bomber refueling ritual is placed behind the opening credits to prepare the audience for the relentless march of dramatic irony that is the cornerstone of the film’s use of satirical humor to fund its comedy.

"Peace is our Profession"

The slogan emblazoned across a sign at Burpelson Air Force Base, the site from which General Jack D. Ripper engages his machinations that sets off the nuclear holocaust which ends the film. The level of irony in this sign goes deeper than the obvious joke; the paradox which seems so obvious to the audience is a commentary on the larger manipulation of language by politicians and the military to alleviate the anxiety of war by using more positive synonyms for things like death, annihilation and mass murder.

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.” Pres. Merkin Muffley

The only quote from Dr. Strangelove to make it onto the list of the most memorable movie quotes in the first 100 years of Hollywood compiled by the American Film Institute also stands as the ultimate verbal expression the film’s reliance on irony to produce humor. The admonition comes from the President of the United States and is directed to one his military advisors and the Soviet ambassador who are wrestling within the confines of the underground bunker from which the response to the potential accidental launch of a nuclear bomb against Russia is being conducted.

“That's private property...OK, I'm gonna get your money for you. But if you don't get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what's gonna happen to you?...You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola Company.” Col. “Bat” Guano

Arguably the second most famous quote from Dr. Strangelove is Col. “Bat” Guano’s almost inconceivably oblivious threat to Col. Lionel Mandrake, the British officer who is the only standing between worldwide nuclear annihilation and Col. Guano and the future of the human species. While Mandrake is feverishly trying simply to get enough change to make a long-distance phone to Washington to warn the President that Gen. Jack D. Ripper has gone insane and is looking to start World War III, Col. Guano is far more concerned with the destruction of property owned by the Coca-Cola Company. The irony here is densely layered: it satirizes the limited perspective of the military mentality, the equality of power enjoyed by both sides of the Military-Industrial Complex and the distrust of all foreigners as potential agents of the worldwide communist conspiracy to destroy the American way of life.

Dr. Strangelove

There is much irony associated with the title character himself. Consider, for example, that a very odd man speaking with a thick German accent whom we can readily assume worked on the Nazi nuclear weapons program during World War II receives nowhere near the suspicion, mistrust or threatening encounters that the British officer receives. The ultimate irony of the film, however, may well be the safety of the entire American population has been put into the hands—to a significant degree—of a Nazi war criminal.

"We'll Meet Again" Closing Credits Music

Just as the film opened with an ironic juxtaposition of music and imagery to accompany the credit sequence, so do the closing credits feature an even more ironic juxtaposition. Amid the soundless images of mushroom clouds rising into the air following nuclear detonation, the closing credits roll to the tune of one of the most popular and emotionally resonant songs from the World War II era. The lyrics about meeting again under blue skies after being separated for so long carried an especially non-ironic message to those facing separation and the very real possibility of never enjoying a reunion due to the ravages of battling the fascists in Europe and the Pacific. The possibility for meeting again under blue skies is particularly less likely under the conditions of war that involve nuclear weapons, thus increasing the irony exponentially.

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