2 Women: The Carrie White and Wendy Torrance Connection

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Pinky Rose: “You know what?”
Millie Lammoreaux: “What?”
Pinky Rose: “You’re the most perfect person I ever met.”
Millie Lammoreaux: “Thanks.”
–“3 Women”

Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall have both starred in major motion pictures based on the novels of Stephen King, Carrie (1976) and The Shining (1980). They portray, respectively, icons of the horror genre Carrie White and Wendy Torrance: two meek and passive women whose great personal power only gets unleashed at a time of extreme stress.

Interestingly, the “soul” of the Carrie/Wendy & Spacek/Duvall archetypes intersect in Robert Altman’s bizarre 1977 flick 3 Women.

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Both Carrie White and Wendy Torrance suffer their own personal apocalypses in their respective movies, one ending in fire:

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…and one in ice:

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The characters of Carrie and Wendy also bring to mind that of fairy-tale heroines.

Carrie White resonates Snow White who resonates the fairy-tale of “Snow White and Rose Red,” about two girls with polar-opposite personalities:

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“Rose Red” will also be the name of a 2002 Stephen King miniseries featuring an Oregon mansion very much like the Overlook from The Shining:

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And since we’re on the topic of The Shining, here’s an interesting sync:

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“Wendy” brings to mind the heroine from Peter Pan—Wendy Torrance having the unenviable task of dealing with a husband who “won’t grow up” (in other words, stop his dreams of writing and get a real job), Jack. In this way, The Shining can be seen as a nightmare version of Peter Pan, from Wendy’s perspective & Jack/Peter losing his shit.

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Fans of the animated movie Rise of the Guardians have pointed out the similarities between Disney’s Peter Pan and ROTG’s Jack Frost:

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Of course, Jack Torrance at the end of The Shining literally becomes a sort of “Jack Frost”:

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Meanwhile, Robin Williams plays Peter Pan in the 1991 movie Hook

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…another boy/man who can’t grow up in the 1996 movie Jack…

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…and also co-stars with Shelley Duvall in the 1980 Robert Altman movie Popeye:

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During the production of the film, Duvall showed Williams her collection of antique fairy-tale books; she felt he would be perfect to play “The Frog Prince,” and soon after started a cable TV series for children called Faerie Tale Theatre:

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Meanwhile, Sissy Spacek would go on to play the crazy mother of Carrie-like fright-child Samara in The Ring 2:

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Samara herself is an “unstuck” soul who has gone beyond concepts of space, time, and even Self—she has also transcended the movie/video to reach out at the viewer in a personal manner:

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3 Women is another film that tackles the idea not only of Transcendence of Self, but the “meldings” of Selves to produce, as William Burroughs & Brion Gysin would have referred to it, “The Third Mind.”

The two characters, Millie Lammoreaux (Duvall) and Pinky Rose (Spacek), will be “synthesized” into each other with the help of the pregnant “third woman,” Willie, portrayed by Janice Rule:

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In 3 Women, we have the idea that the Self is not static, but a dynamic, perhaps even unstable and permeable entity. Willie is a silent artist of primal, savage murals that look like the Dreamtime of the Aborigines—a medium of the subconscious by which all three females can synthesize themselves and loosen their definitions of Self:

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In a neat Altman/Stanley Kubrick sync, note the similarities between Willie’s mural and this scene from 2001 (apes congregating around the stargate symbol):

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In the end, the three women syncretize into a functional Whole—in effect, forming the Triple Goddess:

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But in order for this to happen, the women will have to pass through the stargate/reality point and go where Self is permeable and subjective:

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Director Altman himself based 3 Women on a dream he had, one that he admitted he didn’t fully understand.

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Millie: “Pinky? What’s the matter?”
Pinky: “I’m scared.”
Millie: “What of?”
Pinky: “I had a bad dream.”
Millie: “Dreams can’t hurt ya.”

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Postscript: Two years ago, Shelley Duvall was apparently interviewed by Dr. Phil. The then 67-year-old actress admitted suffering from mental illness and said, among other things, that she didn’t believe Robin Williams was really dead—but rather, that her former Popeye co-star was “shape-shifting.”

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Again, we have the idea of the Self as “permeable and subjective.” “Wendy” once again sees her Peter Pan, as both are possibly caught between worlds (Williams was also in the afterlife movie What Dreams May Come). But also there are the ghosts…straight out of the plot of The Shining (or The Ring).

5 thoughts on “2 Women: The Carrie White and Wendy Torrance Connection

  1. When I first saw mention of Shelley Duvall, in this blog, I thought of her in the movie Popeye.
    I have never cared for Carrie or The Shining but I’ve notice (though NOT as many as your blogs mention) certain connections in movies AND TV.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jared Jensen

    Good stuff! I saw a 3 Women a few years back, and it has always stuck with me. Strange and powerful–I describe it (not true of course . . . but who knows) as being the secret blueprint that David Lynch followed for a good chunk of the movies he ended up doing. One thing that kind of blows my mind, is that for a movie so weird, unnerving, and loaded with symbolism, this movie is never mentioned or discussed in those areas that are concerned with subject matter of that sort. In fact, you are only writer who I can think of who has examined this movie even in a limited context.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Another interesting obscure early Altman film along those lines is 1972’s “Images.” I agree about the Lynch connection, in some ways “3 Women” is basically a “road map” to “Mulholland Drive.”

      Liked by 1 person

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