At the recommendation of a friend, I recently saw Shame starring Michael Fassbender. Soon after watching the movie, my instant feeling was that I did not like it. But actually, in retrospect, I think I may not have needed to like it to appreciate it, as ‘liking it’ wasn’t the intended reaction of the film anyway. The movie’s impact is deeper. It makes one think. It makes one drop the heavy weight of deadening morality that one carries. It makes one confront, question, and perhaps, change one’s views vis-à-vis sexuality, nudity, pornography, morality, and addictions. It’s a slap on the face of conservatism and conformism.
I may be a bit of a prude at times, even though I usually don’t mind talking about sex (in fact I love talking about it). I guess it’s like a theory vs practice debate… Thus seeing porn or unartful or real nudity makes me uncomfortable. I had to hide my face when the nude fight came on in Borat with my Okinawa clique. I have been talking about the (artful) Nude of the Renaissance to my students and have been trying to make them come out of their narrow-minded shells; maybe it is a bit hypocritical of me considering I myself find (actual) nudity (of the opposite sex especially) embarrassing at times. Being nude myself in the presence of Japanese women at onsens is hardly embarrassing for some reason!
My first reaction to Shame made me wonder at my response. Why did I feel it leaving a bad taste in the mouth? Why did I feel that I had wasted time watching it. I felt like I’d left the theatre having learned nothing new. I know better now.
The film has brought to attention the absolutely ambiguous substance that is sex. It’s so complicated when it’s really supposed to be simple. Why would people feel shame when it comes to sex – and sex on screen especially, pornography even more so! Why is incest wrong? Why is being naked in front of others such a big deal. Why is masturbation such a difficult thing to admit or even talk about? Why can’t we accept that sexual pleasure is just one of the other needs a Body feels and to satisfying it is no more shameful than eating food or drinking water! Sex addiction is a psychological problem just as anorexia or bulimia or compulsive overeating. But somehow talking about sex addiction is more uncomfortable. And we don’t even need to talk about how sex is used as a weapon to see how twisted sex is!
I can’t wrap my finger around all this and I have no answers or insights into this. All I want to do is put questions out there because my mind is in turmoil. How can something that is so amazing be so shameful as well!?