Analysis of the Music Video The Kill by 30 Seconds to Mars

by Jenny Reul

When I first watched the music video The Kill I just thought it was an interesting and well-done video by a band I really like, but at that point I had no clue that there is so much more in it. I also had no idea that a short music video can carry so much content and such a deep sense. Therefore, I was really surprised by what I found during my analysis.
While watching the video the first time, there were a few scenes that seemed familiar to me. The video reminded me of something but initially, I didn’t know of what. The scene with the woman in the bathroom, getting out of the shower, linked with the flashing picture of her face covered in blood and the scene with the person in a bear suit, giving a blowjob to a man, were the key scenes for me which let me establish the connection between the music video and the movie The Shining. These scenes from the movie stayed in my memory because they were unique, horrible and odd. In the next paragraph I will give some background information about the movie before going on with the connections and similarities of the movie and the video.
The Shining is based on the homonymous novel by Stephen King from 1977. Stanley Kubrick, a famous American producer, screenwriter and film director, produced and directed the movie in 1980. It tells the story of the Torrance family, staying in an isolated hotel during the winter season because Jack Torrance, the father, who is normally a writer, has a job as an off-season caretaker there. He just wants to earn some more money for the family, because his writings were not that successful. In the job interview the manager already told him that some cruel things had happened in this hotel. He told him that the previous caretaker Mr. Grady murdered his wife and his two daughters and at the end shot himself. Nevertheless, Jack Torrance decides to take the job and moves with his wife Wendy and his son Danny into the hotel. After some time being there in total isolation and loneliness, Jack starts to go mad. During their stay some strange things occur, for example when the son Danny enters room 237, which he was told not to go in. It turns out that he seems to have a mysterious power known as “the shining” that lets him see some visions from the past and the future. He sees for example the two dead girls, the daughters of the previous caretaker Mr. Grady, lying on the corridor covered in blood and he anticipates that his father will become a murderer. Jack Torrance has a complete mental breakdown then and sees the ghost of Mr. Grady. He tries to kill his wife and his son but they manage to escape and Jack freezes to death while he searches for them outside the hotel.
After having recalled the story of The Shining, I was able to draw a lot more connections between the music video and the movie. It was very obvious that the music video from 2006, directed by the singer of the band Jared Leto, is based on the movie and represents an homage to it. Even at first sight, it is noticeable that the main elements are very similar. In the video the band also visits a hotel, where they are supposed to spend a couple of days in total isolation. They are also told not to enter a specific room, which is room 6277. Here the room number was changed into one that draws a connection to the band, since the number spells out the word “mars” when it is typed in on a mobile phone keypad. And like Jack Torrance in The Shining, they are also gradually falling into madness, mirroring the events from the movie. But what rather puzzled me were the lyrics of the song. It seemed as if the song is about a dialogue between two people, maybe a couple, who have some problems with each other. I didn't understand why the lyrics are so different and have nothing to do with the story of the video, since there was no arguing couple. A short interview with the band member and director of the video Jared Leto gave me the thought-provoking impulse for my further analysis:

“The kill is a song that a lot of people would look at and say it is about a relationship with somebody else, but it’s really about a relationship with yourself. It’s about confronting your fear and confronting the truth about who you are.” [1]

Thus, the lyrics are not a dialogue but a monologue of a person seeking his or her own identity. It is a song about establishing one’s true identity, about finding the true self. It is about who you really are and it includes not only the good self, but also the bad self. Exactly this is what the movie also is about. Jack Torrance is also establishing his true identity, his bad self.
Coming back to the two scenes mentioned above, which let me recognize the relation between movie and music video, I would like to show up the strong similarities I noticed a little bit more detailed now. The first scene that let me think about a relation to The Shining was the scene with Shannon Leto, the drummer of the band, who enters room 6277 and kisses an attractive woman in the bathroom. Here we can see that just as in the movie there is also a forbidden room in the music video. In both cases the door gets opened mysteriously. The only change that was made concerns the room number, which was changed from 237 to 6277 as already mentioned. So, just as Jack Torrance in the movie, also Shannon Leto enters the forbidden room. In the bathroom both of them encounter an attractive woman, who is just a product of their imagination.
The second scene with the person in the bear suit, who gives a blow job to a man can also be found in both, the movie and the video, and since it is so funny and so odd, it was easy for me to remember that I have already seen a scene like that before, what let me again link the video to the movie. The only difference between the two scenes is that the person who gets the blow job in The Kill is the doppelgänger of a band member, who looks exactly like the band member and we do not know who is the person in the bear suit. In The Shining it is Wendy, the wife of Jack Torrance, who sees the scene. Here it seems as if both persons are unknown, the man who is sitting on the bed doesn't play a role in the movie and therefore he is unknown and the person in the bear suit can also not be identified. But it can be assumed that the person in the bear suit represents the doppelgänger and therefore the bad self of Wendy. Since the motif of the doppelgänger is a very interesting one and plays a big role in the movie and in the music video, I will refer to that later again.
The two scenes mentioned above should not remain the only scenes that show a strong similarity. One of the most famous scenes in The Shining is when the little boy Danny rides his tricycle through the empty corridors of the hotel. Because it admittedly would have been ridiculous to have an adult sitting on a tricycle, the band has changed it into a skateboard in their music video. But even if the two vehicles are different, both scenes reflect the same: the loneliness in the huge hotel and the feeling of boredom, which causes monotony by doing the same thing again and again. This is also mirrored by the recurrent pattern of the carpet in The Shining and by the doors, which pass in regular distances again and again in the music video.
The last scene I will mention here deals with the two scripts that shortly appear in the movie and the video. The script of the movie shows always the same sentence: “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”[2]. This is the result of Jacks work. He actually tried to write a novel but then he started to go mad, because he is locked-in in the hotel. It is the same with the script in the music video. It also shows the same sentence again and again, but here the sentence is “This is who I really am”[3], which is part of the lyrics. These were just a few examples to illustrate the strong similarity between The Shining and The Kill, but there can be found a lot more.
As previously announced, I finally would like to come back to the motif of the doppelgänger. This motif is often placed in the horror genre because it is closely linked to the idea of Otherness.[4] Joshi explains: “[...] the Other comes to represent those parts of the self that the society, and perhaps the individual as well, find unacceptable.”[5] What he means with the unacceptable parts of the self is very obvious: he means the bad self or the bad ego. Jack Torrance for example was always a violent and aggressive person, but he learned to control this side of his personality. When he goes mad, this bad side comes out and takes over his identity. So, the doppelgänger is at the same time part of the self and something that no longer belongs to it, because the self repudiates and suppresses it. In The Shining that doppelgänger motif cannot be recognized at first sight, it is a little bit hidden. But what is obvious is that Jack Torrance seems to struggle with himself.[6] Since we know that there is something like a suppressed bad ego in all of us, we can say that he is struggling with his doppelgänger. A question that came into my mind when thinking about Jacks doppelgänger was if there is just one figure that represents his doppelgänger or if there are maybe some more. Of course, Mr. Grady, the previous caretaker is one of them, perhaps the most obvious one. Even if he is just a product of Jack’s imagination, he is the one who persuades Jack to kill his family. Therefore, he can be seen as (one part of) his bad ego. On closer consideration, the undressed woman in the bathroom can also be seen as a doppelgänger of Jack. Maybe she represents his sexual but so far suppressed fantasies of getting sexually intimate with a woman who is not his wife. And also the imagined barkeeper who serves him alcohol maybe can be regarded as one part of his bad ego and stands for his addiction to alcohol that changes his character into a bad one.
In the music video of The Kill the doppelgängers are more visible because here they have physical forms and they do exactly look like the protagonists, just the clothes are different. The protagonists of the video are also faced with a dilemma similar to Jack’s: “They are all artists trying to create a work of art and in order to do so they have to be able to establish their identities as artists.”[7] And it seems hard for them to establish their identities because they are not ordinary people. The words “This is who I really am” point to the moment when the artist is finally able to define his identity. At the end they are all succumb to their doppelgänger and all band members turn into their doubles when they enter the ballroom to give a performance. This shows that they have lost their initial identities and have become engulfed by their doppelgängers, like Jack Torrance (with the crucial difference that the doppelgänger motif here is not associated with death like it is in The Shining and therefore they do not die at the end).

The Shining. Stanley Kubrick, dir., Warner Bros. Inc., 1980.

Thirty Seconds To Mars – The Kill (Bury Me). Jared Leto, dir., Virgin Records America Inc., 2006. <> Date of access: 10 June 2014.

Joshi, S. T. Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: An Encyclopedia of our Worst Nightmares. Westport: Greenwood Publishing, 2007.

Kapturkiewicz, J. The Existence of Doppelgängers and Their Significance in the Contemporary Popular Culture on the Basis of The Shining and The Kill.
<> Date of access: 10 June 2014.

[1] Leto. Thirty Seconds to Mars - A Beautiful Lie DVD. Making of The Kill Music Video- Jared Leto & Matt Wachter.
[2] The Shining, Stanley Kubrick, dir., 1:42:00.
[3] Thirty Seconds To Mars – The Kill (Bury Me), <>, 2:06.
[4] Joshi. Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: An Encyclopedia of our Worst Nightmares.
[5] Joshi. p. 190.
[6] Kapturkiewicz. The Existence of Doppelgängers and Their Significance in the Contemporary Popular Culture on the Basis of The Shining and The Kill.
[7] Kapturkiewicz. p. 8.