Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Gay Scene in Shame & Sweetshopping

At twitter today, I was directed to this article, 'Why Does Hollywood Hate Gay Sex?' by @MiddleFrances, who then asked what did I think of it in regards to it mentioning the gay scene in Shame. It's a lengthy but very interesting article, however here is the part that relates to Shame:
"By now, you’ve probably heard about Shame, this generation’s Last Tango in Paris. Michael Fassbender plays a single (and often naked) Manhattan bachelor named Brandon obsessed with sex, and the movie offers a voyeuristic look into his anonymous encounters with various women. One afternoon he even has sex with a pretty blond prostitute against the window of the Standard Hotel, for all of downtown New York to see.
On another drunken night, Brandon wanders into a gay club. He’s so desperate for sex, he’ll sleep with anybody—even a man. The scene is meant to illustrate how depraved his character has become, but the moment is a turning point for another reason. For the first time in the film, Shame is ashamed to show you what Brandon experiences. In a dark underground corridor, a guy unzips Brandon’s pants … and the camera cuts away. The screen fades to black. "
If the writer bothered to read interviews with Michael and Steve about that scene, he would have a better understanding about it. In the Time Out Chicago interview, Michael briefly discusses that scene:
The scene where your character enters the gay bathhouse—the way it’s shot and lit and its ominous music seem to signal his complete descent into depravity. How did you read that moment?
"It doesn’t become about homosexuality or heterosexuality, it becomes about a fix, and where can I get my fix? People think, Wow, this is his descent into hell, and it’s not the case. I mean, we shot in a real club. That is a real scenario for many addicts that are predominantly heterosexual and they end up with a guy. You put yourself into a scenario that you wouldn’t do in a normal situation because your choice is gone." Michael Fassbender, Time Out Chicago
When I saw the film, in all honesty, I would have liked to have seen more of it - then again, I'm the type of cinematic patron who has no problem with gay sex scenes, the more the merrier I say, but women like me are the minority. And Hollywood does not have people like me in mind when making and financially backing films. And as writer, Ramen Setoodeh continues to explore, this is where we beg to ask the question of why is Hollywood paranoid about gay sex?

Before I try to provide my opinion, I need to backtrack to the original question asked me. The gay scene in Shame has been the topic of much debate, especially from gay men who either feel that it negatively portrays the gay club scene (even though this is a real bar, with real patrons, and the lighting of the establishment), and/or those who feel that it shows that Brandon has hit 'rock bottom' by having to go to a gay club that is depicted as a scene weighted under with red lights to give it the atmosphere that he has fallen into Hell. Firstly, I believe these comments are exaggerated and being a bit too sensitive. They completely fail to take into consideration that the night in question that this bar scene was a part of, Brandon also acted in a heinous manner with a woman at another bar which then subsequently got his ass kicked by the woman's boyfriend, then after the gay scene, still not satisfied, he goes to the two hookers and have a threesome with them - at that moment, we see the accumulation of self-hate and desperation this man has as he is completely out of control and will fuck anyone, anywhere, to fill the needs of his addiction.

The gay scene came about only because Brandon was denied entry into a bar where the bouncer told him to get the hell away. His access to easy females to pick up was instantly cut off and he was desperate to find an alternative sex source. He sees a man and follows him into a gay club. At this point, if Brandon was not a bonafide sex addict controlled by his desires, he would have turned away from the club because it was obvious at the entrance, what type of establishment he was going into. But he was lured there by his uncontrollable urges to find a human being to copulate with. There were no women in there be found and he knew it, and to me, this gave me the impression that for however long he has been suffering from this addiction, he may have been with a man before. But that's just my speculation based on his lack of apprehension to go into the gay bar. As if in a trance, he enters the bar on the hunt for a human being, he finds a guy, they kiss, and what he wants from the man is oral sex, and he got it. The look on his face was a mixture of relief that he got his fix, and regret that he has to prowl around for sex like an animal.

However, Ramen brings up a good point... why did that blow job scene just... fade away? From a directorial point of view - that's it - point made - bj done, he leaves. Although I have only seen Shame once, I do recall 90% of the film and the key sex scenes. Excluding the gay club scene, of the times he was with women, we see him have the prostitute slowly disrobe for him - but we don't see them having sex. He stalkerflirts with the subway girl - no sex. He fails on epic proportions with Marianne - no sex. Brandon is chased away from the pub after talking nasty with that lady with the boyfriend - no sex. Count so far: Four female scenes - No Sex.

 Then there were the three scenes where he has alley sex in the shadows with the blonde girl from the club he was at with his scummy boss. After his Marianne mental meltdown, he bangs the life out of a prostitute against the window - his ferociousness with her was to make up for what happened with Marianne and to get back in control of his uncontrollable sexual appetite. And then lastly, he has that menage a trois with the two ladies and that was the end of a dreadful night - he looked so ashamed and disgusted by his behavior, but he couldn't help it. So that was three sex scenes with women. When you break it down this way, the gay scene did not shy away from the situation.

The film is bold enough as it is, and I don't think that they could have actually filmed the man on his knees with his mouth and hands actually on Brandon's penis, and making head bobbing motions of someone performing oral sex. That's for porn, not a high-art, well-acted NC17 film dealing with a sensitive psychological disorder. We KNOW what was going on, and that's it. Some people can ask, 'Hey, why wasn't Brandon filmed having anal sex?' Well, considering that he is primarily heterosexual, if he is going to be with a man, a blowjob would suffice. But we're going into speculation territory of a subplot of the film that was not developed - this is only a 99 minute film, only so much is going to be revealed and the rest we have to come to terms with on our own.

I urge you all to read the complete article because it helps explain the continued paranoia and discrimination against genuine gay sex/gay romance storylines. Shame is not a gay film, but it has a homoerotic scene in it that has caught a lot of people's attention. And then again, because 'gay scenes' are so few and far in cinema, when we do view one, those who are not used to seeing them, are sadly freaked out and some are disgusted... even though straight males love anal sex themselves, film studios make movies with them as the primary demographic, and most straight American males, cannot, deal, with, gay plots. The solution? Hollywood needs to find its balls and help support the funding for more Indie productions of films that will cover this topic. The more gay films there are, the more opportunities people will have to hear about them and maybe one day, have the maturity to watch a gay themed film, just like how gay people have to watch heterosexual love/sex films since the creation of Hollywood.

Buffet of choice

Let me say this just real quick. See, this is why it is dangerous for salacious comments to be removed from the larger article, taken the fuck out of context, and then cut and pasted into an inferior "article", to rile up a few people and raise some eyebrows. I have seen some comments at twitter, ONTD!, and tumblr today about Michael's comments from the UK GQ article that will be coming out this week. At, they deliberately hone in on ONE particular bit of the interview which talks about something that Michael pretty much avoids talking about: His personal dating life. If you wonder why he doesn't parade his private life around, now you know. Shit is taken out of context and judged. Check this out:

He is aware that many women would love to date a celebrity because of the enviable lifestyle.
“Sleeping around? I don’t think it’s a cliché. You’re travelling around a lot and perhaps lonely and you want some kind of connection again. You’re in a position where people treat you differently,” he told the February issue of GQ magazine. “Maybe a lot of people are in denial and think that it’s down to their looks and their charm that a lot of women proposition them, but the fact of that matter is they are living with what appears to be an attractive lifestyle. Your opportunities are multiplied again, so there’s more of a buffet of choice.”
Michael – who plays a sex addict in Shame - does his best to resist temptation. The 34-year-old hunk doesn’t want to be led astray or lose focus on his career. However, he admits it isn’t easy to ignore the attentions of a beautiful woman.
“I think you just have to keep an eye on things. I’m not immune to anything, but I’m aware of my weaknesses and the beast within,” he explained. “Like anything, if you feed it enough times, it starts to take control. That thing of being seduced, and you’ve just got to be careful. But that’s no guarantee that I’m not going to go crazy and destroy the sweetshop.”

All day today, so called fans are wondering now if Michael is a manwhore. What? And some are scratching their scalps red with the "sweetshop" word. Clue #295: Wait until you read the entire damn article FIRST before jumping to conclusions. Once you do that, if you are still concerned and perplexed, then talk about it. This is why we don't discuss his personal life here at FF, people make personal investments on what and who he likes and dates, and based on this information, then determine if they still want to like him or go see his films. Clue #428: Michael Fassbender is Human.

This is all I will say on this topic. GQ magazine is a men's magazine that has on one month, a handsome fully clothed male celebrity, and the next month, a nearly naked beautiful female celebrity. One glance at any GQ issue, on any continent, you know that at least 70% of the issue is about sex. So be warned, the UK GQ is not the American version, but I am so very interested in reading Michael's article and seeing those handsome pictures of him.


Veronica W. said...

This post right here is why I'm a fan of yours Simone and all the hard work you do here. It's because you've got it right. I did some defense on Tumblr today about the GQ article myself. As true Fassinators, we have to be better than the drama and gossip out there about our favorite German-Irish actor. Keep up the positive energy and the good work. I know I am honored to be a Fassinator following your mature and intelligent lead!

Simone said...

Wow, thank you so much Veronica, that means a lot to me. I went to bed after writing this thinking that no one would respond to it as it may alienate people.

I'm honored to have people like YOU who come here and read Fassinating Fassbender. :-)

Anonymous said...

Very good post!! It's a shame hollywood and most of the world aren't ready for gay love storylines.. but we are in the way of normalizing it.. I think it helps a lot when heterosexual actors play gay roles ( i would love to see fass playing that role..but not one which is stereotyped... I mean, there is a lot of bullshit about how a gay man is, and usually we mistake gay for feminine when there are plenty of manly gay people..and I don't think we get a lot representation on films)...and it's also a shame a lot of actors have to lie all their life about their sexuality just because they don't want to damage their carreer..I hope michael won't be one of those...( just kidding.. but I rather think of him being gay or bi, makes me happier :D.. and i Know i'm against the odds)
I'm not one of those who would feel bad for the gay scene in shame.... and I understand the meaning of it from what I read (but I haven't seen it yet.. so i will wait to make comments on that)... Anyway loved your post and sorry for my english, it's not my first language! love the blog too

Simone said...

@Anon, thank you very much for your smart comments. I understand exactly how you feel. Please do let us know what your thoughts are of Shame when you see it.

dshultz said...

I really wasn't fazed when I saw this little snippet of the article. I don't mean to say that Michael IS a manwhore or that it's ok to be one, I just don't think it matters. He's in the prime of what I hope will be a long life, he's on the wave of enormous success, he's handsome, talented, and, hey, guess what, single! It's the 21st century for God's sake, what do people expect? If he doesn't want to be in a long term relationship, alright then. If he wants to have casual sex, then that's his right. He's a great actor, and seems to be a great guy, and if he likes sex, as long as he's not an addict, that's fine by me, and it should be for everyone.

I think that the idea that Shame shied away from gay sex is absurd. There aren't very many ways to convincingly film simulated oral sex, and they're not going to actually perform the act, so what are you going to do? Well, do exactly what the film does.

Anonymous said...

Of course i will come to comment my thoughts of the film! I'm really interested on the subject of sexuality from a psichologycal point of view so I hope the film leaves up to my expectations... I'm sure it will.

Anonymous said...

Newbie to your site and enjoyed the post. I also read the excerpt of the GQ article on the net and I have to say I thought ..oh shit the storm starts here.
I think there are going to be lots of interpretations about what he is talking about, especially in the light of his star rising and because of the theme of Shame.
People are going to be jumping to all sorts of conclusions and he will be labelled a "player", "man-whore" and maybe even a "sex addict". Another down side of being in the public eye, but he is only human too.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it will create such a polemic story.. it's a men magazine, he probably didn't say exactly those words, and what he really said is rewritten to impress more men and give him the image of a manly triumphant who can have sex when and with whoever he wants..Or maybe they're trying to get more atraction to the film by creating a little bit of polemic I'm just saying this because after watching his interviews and videos it doesn't seem coherent he would say those things unless he would've been speaking in a joke tone... He just doesn't seem to be that kind of guy.

Iris said...

Wow what a shock! a young, healthy, human man who likes sex!
What a surprise. i think the main problem is his honesty(i think in time he will learn to be less open and honest in interviwes).

I havent seen "Shame", I need to wait until March...grrr...

Anonymous said...

Michael Fassbender is Human? I don't think so. He's a mutant :d

UK Expat said...

Hi Simone!
I stopped by Sainsbury's to buy this GQ to read the entire article. And you were right, the article had VERY LITTLE to do with what has been excerpted on-line.(It's actually a funny article, poking fun at George Clooney for quite a bit of it.) Furthermore, I think that Michael Fassbender has been ridiculously open and honest in all of his interviews and if people can't handle the honesty, it's really their problem, not his. :)

Anonymous said...

I am Irish and also a gay man, I'm the same age as Fassbender too. I thought Fassbender was brilliant in Shame, and the movie over all was an extremely moving, powerful and poignant piece of dramatic film making. The gay scene can be interpreted in a few different ways, that's the beauty of the film too- it doesn't offer easy viewing, nor easy conclusions or answers for audience.

Personally, at first I thought the gay scene in the club was a bit negative towards gay men- but upon reflection I don't think it was intentionally so. The whole movie is pretty much about how damaging sex can be- particularly when it becomes an addiction and a compulsion. I don't think the gay scene was significantly any more or less negative in its depiction than the heterosexual scenes. And anyhow- to be honest the gay scene (even just the commercial mainstream gay bars and clubs) are very sex- orientated. I can only imagine in bigger cities like New York and London what the gay scenes are like- but even in the smaller more conservative cities of Europe- they can be meat markets. Great film though- and fantastic performance by Michael Fassbender, and Carey Mulligan too. I'd urge anyone to see it, it's stark, affecting, pulls no punches but really quite beautiful too.

Simone said...

@dublinfella36 - hello! I know exactly what you mean about that gay bar scene. And upon a recent viewing of Shame, the entire segment of those back to back sexual scenarios were all connected to his break down boiling point.

The sex with the prostitute in the hotel, harrassment of the girl at the bar then getting beat up by her boyfriend, then the gay bar, and then the threesome... he was in agony and found no release from any of those situations. So I think that's why the 'tone' of the gay bar scene was used.

If any of this makes sense to you.

Thanks for posting and keep visiting!

Martha said...

Just happened to catch that someone had posted something on this story. I once set out to read all posts on Fassinating Fassbender but I guess I didn't get very far. Interesting comments. I do agree that in most things I have seen gay men are depicted very stereotypically. I remember reading the GQ article completely and just the short clips in a few other places. Even when reading the clips I knew what he meant. People have a way of interpreting things to their way of thinking. I for one never read that on thought he was some man whore.