Shame Analysis

Sebastian Blum

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Note: This article is based on a movie that is rated NC-17, due to the sexually explicit material, and such material will be present (referenced) within this article. If you are disturbed or easily offended by such content, do read any further. It is also recommended that, for a full for understanding, the movie should have been watched beforehand.

Many people will ask why a 15, soon to be 16 years old is watching a movie that is NC-17, which focuses heavily on sex addiction. The only response that can be given, is that the movie is not so much about the sex that drives it forward, but the weight that comes with that sex addiction that makes it so interesting.

The movie starts off with Brandon, a 30 something, New York City broker, though it is never really specified that, that is what he does. He lies in bed, naked, covered in blue sheets, which symbolises his isolation. He stares up at the ceiling, while his alarm goes off. The alarm he clearly doesn’t need, since he is very much awake, but has because that is what society tells him too.

When he is up, he dresses up in very dully coloured, though elegant clothing, and is waiting for a train in the subway. The clothes he wears symbolises his need to blend in with those around him, to hide himself from the public so that they do not see the true him, his private life, which for obvious reasons, wants to keep private. After waiting for a while, he finally gets onto a train and spots a woman sitting across from him. Within this scene, the viewer comes to realise Brandon’s sex addiction, as there is the sound of sex playing in the background, and the scene cuts to a flashback to him having sex with a woman, before walking around his apartment, naked. The viewer comes to understand what drives Brandon. The interaction between Brandon and the woman on the train is now seen differently. It is no longer a harmless glance but shows Brandon’s true intentions, a menacing goal that he has planned. The scene then cuts to Brandon’s apartment, as he is hiring a prostitute. It becomes clear that the only thing that drives Brandon, is lust. Cutting to the next morning, he is seen walking around naked again, continuing the same pattern as he done many times before, showing that he is a very organised man. The next shot is that of Brandon on the subway, again, however it different now, since Brandon’s face is now blurred. Showing a man wearing a mask, showing that he hides this true persona under this mask. The woman on the subway is clearly flirting and she shows that she is possibly interested. However, she crosses her legs, showing that she has changed her mind and that she no longer wants the idea of having sex as a possibility. But, Brandon doesn’t register this and continues to stare at the woman without breaking it. He wants her, whether or not she wants him. The next shot is a flashback of Brandon masturbating in the shower. In the mirror, the viewer sees his reflection. This shot shows a self-reflection about Brandon’s life and shows that he faces it head-on, yet looks down in shame. In the last effort of the woman on the subway, in the next shot, she gets up, trying to rid herself of the conflict she is in, and as she puts her hand on the steel bar, it is apparent that she is married. Brandon does wither and stands up, standing behind her. While she runs off the train, he runs after her, but loses her in the crowd. While losing her, he rotates a full 360 degrees, showing the world, him. He is vulnerable to the world, as doing so, descends back down the staircase, returning to private life.

In a meeting the next day, he is oblivious to everything around him, as he gazes off into the distance. This changes when a voice says, “I find you disgusting,” which leads Brandon to focus. He knows what he does is disgusting and he is ashamed of it. It is something he cannot escape. When it is brought to his attention, he is fully aware, but when he discovers that those words were not directed at him, he instantly loses interest and gazes back off into the distance. His attention is yet again brought back when he notices that his computer is being taken away. As the viewer should have perceived by now, knowing what they know about Brandon, the computer is almost definitely infected by some kind of virus, due to pornography. He starts to get nervous, and his go-to when he gets nervous is to masturbate. He rushes into the stall in the bathroom at work. He wipes down the toilet seat. He follows the set of rules that guide his life. His public life is very clean and does not want it to be dirty. He proceeds to masturbate.

While returning home, the viewer can see that Brandon is very wealthy, and lives in a very nice apartment, however, he does not have many things. The viewer only ever really sees a table, light, and a blender. All his walls are coloured white, representing the meaninglessness of his life, except for the sexual part of it. As the night moves on, he watches pornography, while his sister calls him twice. His sister, through only voicemail, is clearly the opposite of what Brandon is. While Brandon has said little to none, his sister has said plenty. While Brandon chooses to be private, it is clear that she isn’t. The framing of the scene shows Brandon facing his laptop with the phone to his back. He is choosing his sexual life over his sister.

Later, Brandon goes to the club with his friend and boss, David. David is shown to have the same lust for women as Brandon does, however, he is unable to act upon it. The scene shows that no matter if Brandon is home alone or with his friends at a club, he will always find his release.

Next scene finally introduces Brandon’s sister, Sissy. He comes home, hearing music, and suspects an intruder. He grabs a bat and goes to his bathroom, where his sister is showering. The scene helps build both characters. The scene shows that Brandon is drastic when something new comes into his life. He lives a life, in which he is almost programmed to do the same thing over and over again. He first tries to solve the problem by using violence, but since it is his sister, he can’t do so. He is instead forced to confront himself. He is standing in front of a naked woman and must treat the situation very differently than to most. His sister is the only thing in his life that stops his sexual yearning. Many speculate that there may be a history of abuse within their family, whether it be sexual or some other kind, but is never confirmed. It also lightly hinted that their relationship may have been slightly incestual, but, again is never verified. It may be that their troubled past has led them to where they are now. Brandon clearly doesn’t want to have any part of her, she clings to him. In the background, the song “I Want Your Love” plays, and was put on by Sissy. She wants support from him, but he does not want to help. When he exists, he turns off the song, seemingly rejecting the love she wants from him. Later that night, Brandon is forced out of his pattern and watches pornography on his bed, not the table in the dining room, which he is used to. Sissy is forcing him, unintentionally, to do something that he is not used to and is uncomfortable with it. He overhears the conversation she has with someone on the phone, as she repeatedly says “I love you” on the phone. It is clear that she will beg for acceptance from anyone, but it is clear that the only way she can get this, is from her brother. Brandon realises this and feels compelled to help her.

The next morning, she pushes her luck by wearing an earring from one of Brandon’s partners. She then goes on to drink orange juice straight from the jug, not using a glass. Brandon starts to find her almost incompetent. She lives her life the complete opposite to Brandon. While he is organized and neat, also having a job, Sissy is desperate, lacks certain manners, doesn’t have a job, and needs someone to cling to.

In the next scene, Sissy is standing awfully close to the edge of the train platform, and Brandon pulls her back. She then tries helping him by taking a piece of fluff from his coat, but rejects her help. This shows that Sissy can help Brandon, she can be a helpful part of his life, maybe even to help the addiction he has, but he continuously pushes her away. But, playfully, Brandon takes her hat and put it on his own head. Her hat is red and is completely different to the usual washed out colours that Brandon normally wears. This hat opens him to the world, very much like Holden’s hat from The Catcher in the Rye.

That same day, at the office, David invites Brandon to go to a club. Brandon agrees, so long as they attend the club that Sissy will be playing at.

Later that night, at the club, Sissy sings “New York New York” and takes Brandon by surprise. His sister has much more value than he previously thought. This song is very significant, due to it showing Brandon that he cares a lot for his sister, which takes him by surprise. For one of the few times in the movie, the real Brandon comes out. Not the sex addict and not the fake office man, but the one who genuinely feels emotion.

After the song, Sissy comes to join both Brandon and David at their table. Brandon puts up his shield and simply says that the song was “good” though it made him cry. While Brandon gets up to go to the bar, David starts to hit on Sissy, and comes to learn that she doesn’t know how to drive. This reinforces the fact that Sissy is very dependent on other people if she wants to get from point A to point B. It also shows that she has a dependency on herself, and she shows that she used to cut herself when she was younger. It shows that Sissy only feels like her life is worth living if she is with someone who cares for her. David realises how dependent she is on other people and takes advantage of it, by offering to teach her how to drive. Meanwhile, while all this is happening, Brandon sits in silence, watching the two, and clearly unhappy since he feels protective of his sister. But, David is Brandon’s boss, so he is in a position, that even if he doesn’t like it, he cannot do much to stop it.

When driving back in a taxi, David and Sissy are making out next to Brandon, and David is wearing one of her hats. This shows that connection that she and Brandon had earlier, is shattered. She is willing to lend it to anyone who shows her some affection. Brandon is deeply hurt and feels like their bond is broken, as she proceeds to sleep with David in his apartment upstairs. Brandon waits downstairs, as he is too ashamed to go upstairs. When he does go upstairs, he is faced with his addiction yet again. He can hear Sissy and David in the next room. He is conflicted about his addiction because it is something he can’t just look down and avoid, he has to hear it. Conflicted, he goes out for a run. The run symbolises him trying to escape his addiction, however, the camera follows him just as his addiction.

When Brandon finally gets back to his apartment, he tries to go to sleep, but Sissy crawls into bed with him, but Brandon barks at her to leave. Her getting into his bed after David shows that she is wanting his support, but Brandon does not want to give back.

The next day, at work, Brandon gets his computer back and is called to David’s office. David is Skyping his family. Showing this shows that David has no boundaries and is willing to sleep with other people even though he has a family. Unlike Brandon, who commits to not being with anyone, David is willing to break the trust of his family. David then starts to confront him about his computer, stating that the computer was full of pornography. However, David sways it off, saying that it was probably his intern. Because Brandon is so successful, people expect to act in a certain way, and with this, he can hide in plain sight.

The next scene, he is standing in the street and looks up. Two people are having sex against a window. This symbolises what Brandon wants. To be open about his love, and his addiction to sex.

Later that night, Brandon goes out to dinner with a woman from work, and the idea of marriage is brought up. Brandon is against the idea, showing that he is responsible enough to know his boundaries. He says that he can’t imagine sharing his life with only one other person. He goes on to state that the longest relationship he had only lasted 4 months.

Later that evening, while walking home, the two discuss when and what they would like to be. Brandon says he would like to be a “musician in the 1960’s”, while she says “here and now”. This shows Brandon’s discontent of where he is. He wants to be somebody else, but he is trapped in own, shameful body.

When Brandon gets home, he looks around and thinks he’s alone. He goes into the bathroom to masturbate and Sissy walks in on him. Creating a scenario that is almost the complete opposite of what happened earlier in the film. When the tables are turned, Brandon responds with violence, grabbing her tightly, while she cries out in pain. She confronts him in his most vulnerable state and he cannot handle that. It gets worse when she turns on his laptop and there is a naked cam girl. Brandon’s secret is coming out, but not in the way he wanted it. Disturbed, Sissy leaves. Then, Brandon makes the decision to rid himself of his life. He throws away all his pornography, sex toys, and laptop, trying to make a fresh start. Through doing this, it doesn’t help because his secret it out.

The next day at work, Brandon and Marianne (the woman he went on a date with), go to a hotel together. Brandon snorts cocaine. This perfect balance he had in his life is now broken. He is turning to drugs to fill his satisfaction. His sexual addiction has slid into the world of drugs.

Brandon and Marianne start kissing on the bed. She removes her top and bra, while Brandon prepares to have sex. However, Brandon cannot get an erection. He is unable because is not used to a passionate relationship or love. He is used to quick fixes, that rely on being aggressive and not tender. This shocks Brandon and he lets her leave. The next scene shows him still in the hotel room, but having sex with a woman against the glass, just like the couple he saw earlier in the film. He is now putting his sex life out for the world to see. The camera follows the woman as she enters the bathroom, and she is facing a mirror. She shows a look of shame, reflecting that everyone, to some degree, has this addiction. The next shot is of Brandon looking out into the water, dreaming of something more.

Brandon, back home, is watching cartoons, before his sister comes home. They begin to discuss how David is married and how Sissy is clinging to him. She then moves her attention to Brandon, asking him for a hug. As the conversation continues, the passion Brandon felt for her earlier has disappeared. He now only feels contempt for her. He pushed her away, telling her that she needs to leave.

In order to escape the loneliness Brandon feels, he goes out that night, looking for somebody. He hits on a woman in a bar before the boyfriend beats him. He even goes into a gay bar, showing that he is reached his lowest point. He is looking for company and he is looking anywhere to get it. He then gets a call from Sissy, saying that she needs his help, saying that they are “two people that come from a bad place” and saying that it is “not their fault for the way they are”. He chooses to dismiss this message and has a threesome with some women in an unknown apartment. It is clear that towards the climax, he is not happy, he is with two women he doesn’t know, and it will be just another visit that will soon end and will continue to reinforce his addiction.

While on a train back home, there are paramedics running past the train, making Brandon think something has happened to Sissy, so he runs home. The significance of the scene is to show the impact of his sex addiction on his life. The viewer never really sees Brandon pay for his addiction and he always seems to get on fine, but now the viewer sees the consequences of it. When Brandon comes home, he sees Sissy lying on the floor with blood everywhere and her wrist slit. Brandon sees this as his fault, as he was busy having sex, while his sister was trying to reach him for help. His need for sex overpowered his need to help his sister.

The final scene of the movie is Brandon back on the subway. He sees the woman from earlier in the movie, and she is clearly dressed a lot nicer. He makes eye contact with her then looks down, thinking if his addiction is worth the pain he has caused. To him, it is. He looks back up, the woman moves over to him, holding the railing to show that she still has her wedding ring on, and the screen cuts to black. Leaving the movie’s ending, ambiguous.

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