YMMV / One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The novel

  • 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.
  • Genius Bonus: 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 labelled as "obscene."
  • 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.
    • There's some between Chief and McMurphy
      Chief: That's a lie. I know heís still alive. That ainít the reason I want to touch him.I want to touch him because heís a man.Thatís a lie too. Thereís other men around. I could touch them. I want to touch him because Iím one of these queers!But thatís a lie too. Thatís one fear hiding behind another. If I was one of these queers Iíd want to do other things with him. I just want to touch him because heís who he is.
    • In the film, much of Sefelt and Fredrickson's interactions-such as their inseparability, how Fredrickson is always touching the older man, them dancing together at the party, and them passing out with their beds pushed together afterwards- can be seen as this
    • 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 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.
    • Of course, given the book's expert use of Unreliable Narrator, it's hard to tell if she really is that bad or if it's the Chief projecting onto her. Remember, he also thinks that the orderlies are evil robots.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The whole reason this book exists.
  • This Is Your Premise on Drugs: 'Nineteen Eighty-Four 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 thugs and 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.

The movie