The sub-title of Dr. Strangelove is "or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb" and it's used as a very common snowclone in other contexts.

But what does the sub-title actually mean? What does it imply?

I've seen the excellent film a few times - but I don't see how the audience could have take-away impression that leaves them less worried about the risks of accidental or unintentional nuclear war - and why would it lead someone to develop an appreciation - or love of nuclear weapons?

What confuses me is that in many cases where it's used - especially the original film - such as prose articles, the author's conclusion doesn't match the title which leads me to believe it's used sarcastically or ironically - but given so many people just don't grasp irony (or use the correct definition) I'm not inclined to believe that.

(I'm Asking in English.StackExchange instead of Movies.StackExchange because I'm asking about the language being used rather than how it relates to the film specifically, especially given its use in other contexts, but if you feel this question is posted in the wrong forum please let me know and I'll close this and repost it there instead)

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    This question would indeed be better asked elsewhere. The phrase in the subtitle is meant literally, so there's not much to discuss from an English language standpoint. The film and the title are meant to be absurd. – Juhasz Jan 2 '20 at 17:22
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    To me it's something along the lines of "If rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it". – Centaurus Jan 2 '20 at 17:24
  • +1 for mentioning an interesting subtitle that has been inculturated, but see my answer as to the interpretation of the subtitle as part of the work of art itself. what the phrase might mean in broader usage does seem a more legitimate question, but then it is applied differently by different people, so who knows? sarcasm, irony, literal? use it as you wish. – Arm the good guys in America Jan 2 '20 at 17:30
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about interpretation of a whole (sub-)title at subtext level. The language is, at surface level, transparent, and no individual construction or word is asked about. The 'meaning' tag at 'Movies' is relevant. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 2 '20 at 19:51
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    It's all explained here. – Phil Sweet Jan 3 '20 at 1:44

The film's title may be an ironic comment of its time, since one of the main characters (the one, arguably, most responsible for its being used) sits astride the bomb as it falls downwards to a populated area.

In common with the Doctor ('Strange' 'Love') he also learned to love the bomb and, in his zeal to effect the nuclear holocaust, he (enthusiastically) becomes part of it : and is destroyed. Herein, perhaps, is the lesson of the film.

Thus, I assume the social comment of the film is to say that persons who give up their anxious misgivings and embrace the bomb (as a means of world peace) are in a strange kind of love, which brings the very real risk of personal destruction.

[This is my observation, not necessarily my opinion, as the whole subject has become a perplexing part of human existence.]

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It needs to be understood that the statement was intentionally ironic/sarcastic, though it did capture the sentiment of a small (I hope) segment of the population that was (and, alas, still is) "OK" with the Bomb and the horrifying destruction it would bring with it if used.

I believe it was an attempt to bring this division into focus.

(And it needs to be understood that the movie was presented as a comedy of sorts.)


People are afraid of the unknown.

Worry and fear are a direct result of not knowing what is going to happen.

Normally, many things are beyond our control, but we can plan for each contingency. As the number of possibilities increases, the situation becomes more complex and we start to feel anxious. And when the number of unknowns that we have to be prepared for becomes too large for us to handle, we experience worry and fear.

Many people fear death for instance. But as one ages, a near future death becomes more and more inevitable. The uncertainty becomes less and less. People that know they are dying and know reasonably accurately when, don't need to worry about it and don't experience significant fear.

During the Cold War, people worried about a lot of things. They practised "duck and cover" in schools. They dug bomb shelters in their back yards. They did many useless things because they didn't know how else to prepare for what might happen.

The film shows that we don't need to worry that it might happen. It informs us that it will happen. And there's nothing we can do to prevent it. And there's nothing we the common people can even do to prepare for it.

It's inevitable, so stop worrying about it, and enjoy the other aspects of your life.


The titles of movies and books (was it a book?) are a part of the work of art that comprises the whole book/movie itself, and in art of this type no part of it is obliged to be comprehensible to anyone, including the author(s) himself/herself/themself(ves). relatedly, the words do not have to include every possible meaning. in this case, as in all cases, the author/publisher accepted the title and thar she blows. any irony or sarcasm is up to you to fathom. or ask the author what they meant, but this of course is not the be-all end-all of literary criticism, the film (and possible book) being the text at hand in this case.

in short, the title means whatever you think it means, which may be different to/from/than what anyone else might think it means, including the author(s)/publisher(s). Which is why lit crit (literary criticism) is off topic here, and I write an answer to asseverate that this indeed applies to the titles and subtitles of movies.

ETA: as far as what the OP mentions as "snowclones"..., well, since the subtitle as subtitle can be interpreted differently, I dont think we can nail down its application in other areas to some one meaning or usage. as some people say, YMMV. your mileage may vary. what people make of it and how they use it is not a matter for which English Language and Usage has as answer, other than to say just that. irony, sarcasm, literal? yes

to all three

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    Snowclone: A snowclone is a customizable formulaic phrase that consists of a framework that can be adapted for different situations by changing some of the words. It's typically expressed in terms of the invariable part of the phrase with blanks represented by X, Y, and Z, for example, X is the new Y. – Řídící Jan 2 '20 at 17:39
  • snowclone, not snowcone.... got it @Mike and We oath, et al. – Arm the good guys in America Jan 2 '20 at 17:43
  • Mike, it's be-all end-all, with dashes – Arm the good guys in America Jan 2 '20 at 17:51

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