Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shame: The Culturist Film Review

Ironically, the film “Shame” (2011) portrays the shameless life of a sex addict in New York City. Instead of funding this descent into filth, the UK Lottery funds should have bought and distributed copies of James Twitchell’s marvelous book, “For Shame: The Loss of Decency in American Culture,” (1997).

If I am being generous, the film “Shame,” shows the hollowness of modern consumerism. But the laconic lead, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) explores this dynamic with fewer words than Sylvester Stallone in Rambo V. Despite its lack of verbal insight, the film won award after award. One suspects, the critics were only celebrating its relentless portrayals of transgressions.

In contrast, James Twitchell provides thoughtful cultural analysis of the roots of shame. Employing sociobiology, he portrays shame as a near universal feeling with the biological components of blushing, lowering the head, and averting the eyes. The emotion being so visible to others indicates cultural survival value. For example, it used to keep westerners from irresponsible breeding.

Twitchell lays a lot of blame at the feet of television. Competitive pressures cause programmes to show relentless fun with zero consequences (ie; sex without STDs or pregnancy). And ratings rule all. People used to retire from tv when caught in unseemly acts. Now, they get rewarded with a reality show. So, advertisers’ biggest target, youth 18 – 34, have seen no consequences, boundaries, or shame in their young lives.

Consumer culture doesn’t stop at the television, Twitchell tells us. To attract audiences, Churches speak less and less of hell and more often sing of heaven accompanied by rock bands. Educational philosophy now forbids shame in the name of “self-esteem.” And males’ traditional parenting role of disciplining has been denigrated in favor of the feminine values of sensitivity and unconditional love.

The film “Shame” provides a perfect example of Twitchell’s contention that our culture now gives too much honor (the opposite of shame) to victims. The most significant line in the film comes when, just prior to her suicide attempt, the sex addict’s sister, (Carey Mulligan), pleads, “We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.” Poor evil, wretched filth; how sorry we should feel for them.

In the end, Twitchell recommends we bring shame back by denouncing and shunning ethical trash. As is the western tendency, his solution has an individualistic tint. Rather, culturists seek systemic reform such as changing school curriculum, rewards and punishments, inculcating cultural pride and honor with culturist border laws, and such. But, at very least, the UK Lottery should stop funding sex films, with no redeeming values, that parents would be ashamed to watch with their families, like “Shame.”
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