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YMMV: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Ratched is just a nurse trying to do her job as well as she knows how; McMurphy, a racist and statutory rapist, insists on causing mayhem on her ward.
    • McMurphy himself, who is diagnosed in the play with a pathological need to flout authority and be the center of attention... Which seems about right.
      • Harding may not be gay but just a feminine man who was constantly berated and put down most of his life for his effeminate nature. In adulthood his self-esteem was nonexistent and he married an attractive but horribly abusive woman to feel and be perceived as more masculine, ironically making him less secure and more submissive. With Homosexuality being thought as a mental illness, sexuality being labeled as black or white and Masculinity be the status quo in the 1960 and the term Metrosexual not in American lexicon till mid 1990 it is very possible. One possible interpretation of it is that it's a symbol of how we have been so socially condition to act and behave in certain manners that we will go through abuse, life risking situations and even death to fit in others people designated roles for us.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Of all the supporting cast that get focus, no one has an explicitly given mental illness that puts them there, putting it all up to speculation. Chief seems to have some form of schizophrenia with his visions of the mists.
  • Complete Monster: While initially appearing as a caring figure, Nurse Ratched is anything but. She would remorselessly and cruelly manipulate anyone to keep her control over the virtually harmless mental patients all while maintaining her motherly image to her superiors and the outsiders to the mental institution. She then goes over the line when she convinces Billy that she'll tell his mother all about his "bad behavior," knowing full well what effect that would have on his mental health; he commits suicide. Nurse Ratched was also one of the employees who gave McMurphy, the film's protagonist, a lobotomy; he was later put out of his misery by Bromden. Ratched was so monstrously evil, Louise Fletcher (the actress who played her) herself was reported as being uncomfortable with watching the film because of her character's presence in it.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: The tribal instrumental during the final scene.
  • Foe Yay: Nurse Ratched and McMurphy. Even their dialogue is full of innuendo (particularly on McMurphy's end).
  • Genius Bonus: As discussed above at Ambiguously Gay, Harding is hinted to be gay and doesn't seem to have any apparent mental illness. However, back at the time the book was written and published, homosexuality was in the DSM as a mental illness and was not removed from the DSM until the 1970s. Therefore, Harding could have been hospitalized to try to "cure" his homosexuality but this was not stated outright to keep the novel from being labeled as "obscene."
  • Harsher in Hindsight: McMurphy's original crime was statutory rape. A few years later, Jack Nicholson's house was where the whole Roman Polanski fiasco started.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Big Nurse Ratched's name has taken on a funny quality now that "ratchet" has become teen slang used to describe anything with the quality of the ghetto about it.
  • Ho Yay: Plenty in the novel, but not between any specific characters and used more to build up the discomforting, emasculating atmosphere of the hospital than to establish the sweetly ambiguous kinds of relationships that the trope is associated with.
    • In the film, there's Billy/McMurphy. McMurphy even says to Candy something like, "I just want you to do this one thing for me. He's cute, isn't he?"
      • And then there are the orderlies. According to Bromden, they love to give patients showers. They always check the patient's temperature at the same time they shower the patient, and they go down to Miss Ratched beforehand to get a rectal thermometer and a bottle of Vaseline. She admonishes them to use the minimum amount of Vaseline necessary, but they take the whole bottle inside with them, and they turn up the water pressure till the noise makes it impossible to hear anything that's going on inside...
  • Moral Event Horizon: Nurse Ratched might just be a mean and misguided nurse trying to do her job, right up until the point where she threatens to tell Billy's mother about his "bad behavior", knowing full well the trauma that would cause him, which leads to his suicide.
    • In the book, she has been on the wrong end of the moral event horizon for many years, as she is seen to submit her charges to torture for crossing her (the scene with the germophobe after the fishing trip, the forced anal administration of medication to a patient merely because he questioned what the pills were for), the electroshock 'therapy', and she has also lobotomized patients as punishment for behavior she dislikes. Nurse Ratched is utterly monstrous in the book.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The whole reason this book exists.
  • This Is Your Premise on Drugs: '1984 in rehab'.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The African-American orderlies are treated a bit indelicately, and McMurphy even drops an N-Bomb. In the book, the orderlies are overtly rapists.
    • Many people find the book to be misogynist, what with and the idea that matriarchy is akin to castration, and the implication that no woman could/should dominate a "real man." Prostitution and McMurphy's statutory rape charge are treated pretty casually.
    • McMurphy's charge of statutory rape—in the time the book was written, it wasn't as serious a crime. McMurphy also alleges she told him she was eighteen, and he wasn't found guilty of it, but he does brag about it. The book and movie asks you to see him as an admirable anti-authority figure.
  • The Woobie: Every character that's not Nurse Ratched or McMurphy at least until the end. Charlie Cheswick and Billy Bibbit come to mind especially, however.

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