Saturday, June 2, 2012


I'm wealthy and accomplished and get plenty of sex. Yet this movie thinks something's wrong with me.

"Shame" is about a successful guy, played by the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender, with a high libido. Internet porn, call girls, and even regular gals -- all within the same week. The status quo is interrupted when his lovable goofball sister needs a place to crash. She mucks up his lifestyle. She makes him feel guilt, shame I guess is the word I should use, since that's where the filmmaker wants me to go, about his sexuality.
He tries to have a "normal" relationship with a co-worker. He can't perform. He needs it fast and kinky. Involve the heart and he's not interested.
He's not a family man. He cares for his sister, sure, kind of, but would rather not talk to her if possible.
By the end of the movie, we're led to believe this is all awful stuff, his predilection for sex and his preference of solitude. His sister tries to kill herself. We're led to believe he's mostly to blame. If he were a better brother with a wife, she's be OK.
Nonsense. This is an NC-17 movie with PG themes. Who cares if all he wants to do in life is get his rocks off and be alone? That's perfectly fine! I envy him in a lot of ways, with my family and monogamy and modest life. Naturally, I prefer mine to his, I would definitely grow lonely, but if he doesn't -- why pass judgment?
And I hate how it's shot. It's pretty, all right, but who cares. Visuals should serve the story. In this movie, the visuals serve themselves.

Wo be unto they that play with their joysticks.

In the same vein, there's a new pop science book out called "The Decline of Guys." It's about how porn and video games are making men isolated, ineffectual, and unable to thrive in relationships.
The Walkman and iPod didn't kill us off, but by gum the PlayStation and YouPorn sure will.
This is nonsense. This wouldn't be worth addressing if not for the fact that most people believe it.
This premise is flawed from the outset. Culture does not works this way. Human beings are not blank slates on which behavior is written. Anecdotal stories about how men are perceived and conventional wisdom is not scientific fact. A world without porn would not make gentler, more thoughtful and romantic men.
So before Internet porn and video games, men were more romantic, better conversationalists, and all around superior to us 21st century lug heads? Of course not.
In cultures where these media are non-existent or suppressed, do men thrive and women swoon?
Why only these media? Why not books and TV and movies? Why not politics and live theater and music? Why not iPads and Twitter? Why not art galleries? Why don't they have the same alleged deleterious effect?
Porn and gaming are easy targets because so many men use them with considerable frequency. But some version of porn and gaming is as old as civilization and somehow humanity has forged ahead. The worst criticism one can level at games is that they are a waste of time. But so is so much else we find enjoyable. To suggest that they somehow are ruining men is to misunderstand how the mind works, how behavior is formed, and to ignore the reality that if porn and games were as pernicious as believed, this world would have gone to pot a few months after Pac-Man and Marilyn Chambers arrived on the scene.