I went to see Shame at the cinema with a couple of friends from my university. We saw it in a really tiny film theatre (max capacity, 75) and there were at least two walkouts that I noticed in the course of the film. I did a cinema module as part of my degree course last semester, and I thought I would have a look at the film in a critical light. Personally, I thought that both Michael Fassbender’s and Carey Mulligan’s performances were stellar, and it’s disgusting that the film got a total snub at the Oscars this year.
When my friends and I were discussing what we thought about the film, it suddenly occurred to me that there were several parallels that could be drawn between Michael Fassbender’s character and the media’s view of sex and women in modern times, whether McQueen intentionally put them in there or not. My points of comparison were:
Fassbender’s character struggles to have a non-sexual relationship with women, just as the media cannot stop objectifying women.
Any women that Fassbender cannot have a sexual relationship with (Mulligan plays his sister) he tries to ignore to avoid objectifying them. Mulligan represents the “average” woman then, who has a difficult relationship with her self-image.
Fassbender’s character is shown to have exhibitionist desires. This is the media’s obsessive interest in uncovering the sex lives of celebrity women.
Sex is not portrayed in a “beautiful” or “romantic” light, which puts the way the media portrays sex and women in the 21st century in a more realistic view than most films do. Sex any money are intrinsically linked, as are sex and the internet.
Fassbender’s character struggles with his own problems with sex and women. Whilst he is aware of his problems and attempts to stop them, as an addict, he cannot prevent himself from obsessing over them. This is how the media is now been attacked for its presentation of women and sex and how it both struggles against those attacks and concedes to them.
Ultimately, the film is unresolved. Whilst we know that the media is having a downright dangerous affect on ideas of sex, body image and other issues, particularly amongst women, but also now amongst men (as shown by the homosexual encounter in the film), the issue remains unresolved and potentially unending.