The tone of dark comedy subtly begins in the introduction of Dr Strangelove, as the narrator tells us of the Russian Doomsday device, showing an airborne B-52 plane being refuelled mid air as the song “try a little tenderness” plays; suggesting that man’s warlike tendencies and sexual urges come from similar aggressive instincts. While there is nothing hilarious about the threat of nuclear war, black comedy is the most appropriate way that the narrative of Dr Strangelove could be treated, due to Kubrick’s need to move out of the dominant paradigm of frameworks for Cold War movies to tell a more convincing story.
As nuclear was relatively new, Kubrick argues that “nothing good can come out of it (nuclear war) because a paradox lies in every variation of the nuclear war problem, from the unilateral disarmament to the first strike.” This means that nothing can prepare anybody for an accidental nuclear war. For example, when Major King Kong gives the crew a pep talk after they received the “go” code, he is still wearing a cowboy hat while making the speech, and the war tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” plays in the background, it suggests that kong is conspicuously old fashioned as it connects him to the frontier heritage.
Later, Kong also goes through the contests of a survival kit, which parodies what every soldier shot down over enemy territory might need, reasserting that Kong is fighting another war of another time, showing unpreparedness for how nuclear weapons have changed how war is being fought. With this, it is in response with how people of the time also did not understand the severity of a nuclear war. As such, Kubrick decides that he needed to deal with the topic of nuclear in a very dramatic way, as it is eminently a problem if there was still continued to support nuclear weapons.
According to Maland, it was believed that “the only threat to domestic harmony is the spectre of Communism.”, and that if “America accepts this responsibility to fight communism, while also proclaiming the virtues of American economic, social, and political democracy to the rest of the world, the country will remain strong and sound.” In Kubrick’s film, it critiques this obsessive ideology of the radical right through introducing a character that is plagued with Anti-Communism paranoia as a person with high power; General Ripper.
For example, his power is driven by the cinematography of the film, in which Ripper is stylistically often shot from a low camera angle as he dominates the action in the first half of the film. However, the writing characterises his paranoia: “Mandrake, have you ever seen a Communist drink a glass of water? Vodka, that's what they drink, isn't it? Never water-on no account will a Commie ever drink water, and not without good reason…” As such, by portraying a paranoid person in power, who is willing to obliterate the world because of a fluoridation conspiracy, Kubrick exposes the irrational American fear of Communism that was rampant in American culture in the early 1960s.
Lastly, in Kubrick’s film, he also questions the dilemma of the modern industrial society, which is the “gap between man’s scientific skills and his social, political and moral ineptitude.” In Dr Strangelove, Kubrick presents this idea in the war room, where the satire is very pointed as the various strategic positions taken by characters correspond closely to positions taken by military and civilian strategists.
For example, General Turgidson is a more severe representation of the real Former United States Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, who announced the “massive retaliation” in 1954. In the film, General Turgidson secretly favours the first strike policy, as he wanted to see the US obliterate the Russians, and when he learns that the planes have accidentally been sent to the Russian targets, he urges the president to intensify the attack with even more planes. The lines are delivered with enthusiasm. This suggests that he cannot wait for the annihilation to start, and is driven in more when he advises for total commitment and sacrificing a few lives for a secure and satisfactory “post-war environment”.
Another example is Dr Strangelove, which is suggested to have been a reflection of Edward Teller, the Hungarian-American theoretical physicist who is known colloquially as 'the father of the hydrogen bomb”, who also had strong anti-Communist ideologies who pushed for the development of the hydrogen bomb. There is also a suggestion of Henry Kissinger in his characterisation, as he also came from Germany and has similar dark wavy hair and glasses. Even in Dr Strangelove’s definition of deterrence: “the art of producing, in the mind of the enemy, the fear to attack,” which sounds similar to the definition Kissinger offered in his Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957).
However, by the end of the movie, it is clear that none of the strategies presented by the men in the war room were able to prevent the nuclear holocaust, bringing to light the dilemma of the modern man, as they lack the wisdom of discerning if these technological advancements might be use in constructive ways or do more harm than good.