Study Guide

Dr. Strangelove Patriotism

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It's good to be patriotic, right? Patriots are heroes, and if you want to label something as heroic, stick the word "patriot" on it. Someone in the administration probably stayed up all week to think up a name for legislation they could call the "Patriot Act" (real name "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001." Guess that sounded snappier than the "We Can Listen to All Your Phone Calls Act.")

It's easy to be cynical about patriotism because it's a great way to justify anything. Questioning your political opponent's patriotism is a favorite campaign strategy. Strangelove skewers the idea that in order to be a patriot, you have to adopt a mindless, flag-waving, "my country at all costs" attitude. The idea of "American exceptionalism" has become a political hot potato. The film shows examples of patriotism gone wild, characters whose supposed devotion to their country causes them to make decisions that end up destroying that country. Is Kubrick telling us that patriotism has its ridiculous side?

Questions About Patriotism

  1. If you had to label one character as the most patriotic, who would it be? How about the least patriotic?
  2. Does General Ripper consider the President a patriot?
  3. What does the film suggest is the relationship between patriotism and self-sacrifice?

Chew on This

Dr. Strangelove's harsh criticism of American leaders and their policies mark the film as distinctly unpatriotic.

Dr. Strangelove's
satirizing of American nuclear policy comes out of a deep love and concern for the county, making the film extremely patriotic.

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