Fletcher’s portrayal was brilliant and believable, a nice person in real life portraying a persona we all know too well. The mind-numbed robotic control freak with power over your life and a willingness to use it.
One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, released in November 1975 and winner of 5 Academy Awards, was one of a small number of movies that had a large impact on the formation of my world outlook, though I certainly didn’t know it at the time.
It’s the story of patients in a mental institution, but it was so much more. It was about the clash between spontaneity and rebelliousness embodied in Randle P. McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson, and the coldness of the institution bureaucracy and rules and regulations, embodied in Nurse Mildred Ratchet, played by Louise Fletcher.
Nicholson’s character didn’t belong in the institution, he ‘faked’ mental illness get himself committed to avoid serving time in regular prison. His sanity and abhorance of control clashed with the other patients (who all were voluntary admissions and could leave at any time) and the staff, particlarly Nurse Ratched.
Nurse Ratchet is a familiar persona in real life. Her name would be Karen.
She would be a corporate HR administrator or a campus ‘bias response team’ enforcer. The mind-numbed robotic control freak with power over your life and a willingness to use it. We all have dealt with a Nurse Ratched.
This scene, in which she exploited the psychological weakness of “Billy” as to his mother, reflects the power of shame exploited so expertly in so many ways in our own lives:
1975 was among my most formative years, I was a junior in high school. Something about Jack Nicholson’s insurrectionist character instinctively appealed to me, and someting about Nurse Ratched’s repressive bureaucratic character instinctively repelled me. It’s a feeling that later would manifest itself in so many ways.
I’ve probably watch the movie dozens of times. I’ve thought about it in politics, and somehow my word association always seems to gravitate towards one word: Hillary. More important, it helped form how I look at institutional power over individuals, and the power that otherwise weak people can obtain by their position in the institution.
In real life, Louise Fletcher seems like a great person, as her Oscar acceptance speech reflects:
Louise Fletcher, the sweet actress from Alabama who won an Academy Award for her turn as the heartless Nurse Ratched — one of the most reviled characters in movie history — in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, has died. She was 88.
Fletcher died Friday of natural causes at her home in Montdurausse, France, her son Andrew Bick told The Hollywood Reporter. She had survived two bouts with breast cancer.
A daughter of deaf parents — she made one of the most touching acceptance speeches in Oscar history — Fletcher also starred as a psychiatrist in Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and played opposite Peter Falk amid the star-studded ensemble in The Cheap Detective (1978)….
Fletcher knew her life had changed forever when she watched Cuckoo’s Nest with an audience for the first time and saw how people reacted to a scene in which McMurphy tries to kill her character.
“It was in Chicago, and it was a packed house,” she recalled. “When he strangles her, the audience stood up and yelled and cheered. Stood up. It was unbelievable. I was thrilled.”
On its 2003 list of the 100 greatest villains in the annals of motion pictures, the American Film Institute placed Nurse Ratched at No. 5, behind only Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Darth Vader and the Wicked Witch of the West.
Rest in Peace, kind soul.DONATE
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