Shame Meter: Best Picture Nominated Films- A Star Is Born

Bill Senyard here with another Gospel Rant #110. I am looking at just how much shame is evident in the eight Oscar Best Picture nominated films. Why the obsession with shame? Look, if there was an epidemic of small pox that was affecting virtually everyone in a certain community, and no one was speaking about it or even recognizing it, would it be obsessive to try to get dialogue going? But shame isn’t smallpox. It is shameful—Captain Obvious right? Who wants to talk about it, or even admit it? I was watching one of the nominated documentaries “Period. End of Sentence.” Period is about a small rural community in India where feminine napkins are a revolutionary new product in this heavily patriarchal society. There is an outfit stateside that sponsored a Napkin making machine, which has the possibility to revolutionize—or at least make a dent in how women are treated there. It is too often the case that young girls in their period avoid going to school, or older women feel that they can’t get jobs. They must take embarrassing steps to cover up their supposed shame which leads to mockery and sense of being broken. It is a real deal that is preventing women from achieving their goals, or even having them. The product is rightly called “Fly”. Now women do not need to feel like social unclean pariahs once a month and can “fly.” Very cool.

So, let me tie this in with shame. First there is the obvious connection that women were enduring monthly shame. Identity level monthly sense of uncleanness. But secondly, I was caught up by the interviews with both men and women who struggled to talk about women’s periods. You knew that the interviewee knew what the question was all about, “Do you know what a woman’s period is?”, and yet they couldn’t say, or even denied they knew anything about it. Its shame was hidden deep in the social psyche. Even women couldn’t talk about it. No judgment. I am seeing similarities with shame here in the US. We are ashamed to dialogue about even the possibility that shame is affecting our happiness, our sense of identity and worth and our relationships, with each other and with God.

Back to the movies. Today I am ranting about shame in the movie “A Star is Born.” It is nominated for Best Picture, Best Song, Best Actor, Actress and others. It was snubbed for Best Director—too bad. It could win for Best Picture—doubtful, but definitely one of my top two films of the year. It definitely should win best actor. Bradly Cooper does a brilliant job playing salt of the earth, self-deprecating, shirt off your back, gentleman, music lyric/message purist, alcohol and drug addicted country and western superstar Jack Maine. Even down to the authentic southern drawl and naturally downcast eyes that rarely meet yours. It is a great performance and one of Cooper’s best roles (along with American Sniper). This is his fourth Oscar nomination for acting. If it weren’t Rami Malek’s brilliant performance as troubled superstar Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, Cooper would be a shoe in. In my opinion.

So what are the links between addiction and shame? I am going to bring an extensive quote from Megan Bronson in a very helpful Phoenix Society article, “The Dynamics of Shame and Addiction.” (https://www.phoenix-society.org/resources/entry/breaking-free-of-the-addiction-shame-cycle) I will give the reference in my website blog, www.gospel-app.com. It is a long quote, but well worth the time to read it and mull it over. Here’s Dr. Bronson.

The cycle of shame and addiction feed into and off each other in an often desperate attempt to escape the uncomfortable and painful feelings of unresolved loss, grief, and trauma that become trapped in the mind, body, heart, and soul Click To Tweet when unprocessed and unreleased.”

“Feelings of grief and trauma include anger, rage, fear, anxiety, sadness, a sense of isolation, guilt, shame, a sense of aloneness, hopelessness, helplessness, and a loss of self. Compulsive behaviors, such as substance abuse, food addiction, exercise addiction, compulsive gambling, work addiction, relationship, love and sexual addiction, codependent behavior, or being trapped in perfectionism, can become attempts to relieve and control unresolved emotional pain and traumatic feelings. The emotional, physical, and cognitive energy that becomes trapped when unprocessed and unresolved can continue to be triggered and lead to the compulsive and shameful behaviors that we call addiction.”

Jack’s character was dealing with serious family of origin issues, in particular he was the son of an alcoholic father, his mother died in childbirth and his only brother was quite a bit older. It is clear that these issues are complicated deep and unresolved for Jack. Lots of pain to deal with, in his case to self-medicate. No judgment.

Back to article. “In the process of recovery from addictive behavior, it is helpful to understand the difference between guilt and shame. Feelings of guilt are a message from our moral conscience that we are doing or have done something that violates the code of our inner moral compass.

Shame, on the other hand, sends the destructive message aimed at our “core self” that we ourselves are basically bad, unworthy, and forever flawed. Guilt says a behavior is not okay while shame says that we innately are not okay.

Shame is defined as a painful feeling of humiliation and disgrace leading to a loss of respect and esteem for oneself. Shame drives the core self into hiding and hiding feeds into compulsive behaviors to escape the pain of that shame and sense of unworthiness. Shame is not just related to the helplessness and hopelessness generated by trauma but also begins forming in childhood when children are criticized in a way that attacks, shames, and demeans the core self. This degrading sort of input is especially damaging when the sense of self is developing during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Such statements as You are a loser, (or stupid or fat), You will never amount to anything, You’re not as smart as your brother, You can’t do anything right are all shaming statements. Sometimes the tone of voice or nonverbal behavior that conveys disdain and contempt can be shaming all by themselves. It is helpful for children to receive both positive and negative feedback that is behaviorally specific; however, it is destructive to use criticism in a way that demoralizes and attacks the self of the child.”

Bronson summarizes, “It is helpful to look at addiction as a survival response.” Click To Tweet

Jack is a tragic character who begins to find some respite for his shame in his accepting adoring relationship with Ally (played by Lady Gaga). That band-aid begins to be pulled off as Ally pursues her own success more and more, no doubt feeling like abandonment to Jack. I am not judging Ally, I am just saying.

Jesus Follower, we have been giving something very rare and very powerful. Because of what Jesus did on our behalf 2000 years ago, we can access by faith, by asking, power that comes from God thought the Holy Spirit in us that is designed to 1) defeat shame in our inner being, and 2) replace it with a deep residing sense of honor (See Eph 3:14-21). So take all of our mommy and daddy issues, all of our family of origin stuff, all of the abuse, disrespect, bullying, criticism, being overlooked, PTSD, the whole tamale, roll them up in a huge ball (its bigger than we thought)– even so, the dynamic, intimate, adoring relationship that we have with God now crushes it, not perfectly this side of Heaven, right, but baby-steps by baby-steps, we can begin to feel freedom from shame’s vile fingers—just a little bit—just a little more today than yesterday.

We have prayer cards available on the Gospel-App.com website, (https://gospel-app.com/product/ga-prayer-card-50-pack). The basic card has four “preaching the Gospel to yourself” prayers. The last one is a “preaching the gospel to your addiction” prayer. The idea is that if you say it two times a day for 30 days, the power of its truth can begin to penetrate your mid-brain, noticeably so. To put it in more spiritual terms. It is a fleshing out of the simple uncluttered Gospel to my addiction. Paul writes that the Gospel is the power to believe. Believe what? A lot of things, but key among them is this. Strictly because of what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago, God “has” to love you, He does love you as much as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Spirit. He loves you as you are, the addict—whether you self-medicate today or not. It is the Holy Spirit in you who can make you not only aware of that honor today, but can make you convinced that it is true of you, even in the midst of your shame. Here is the Preaching the Gospel to your Addiction Prayer.

Addiction Prayer

Jesus, I am back. I did it again, the very thing that I swore that I wouldn’t do. I couldn’t seem to help it. I am far more broken than I ever thought. I am ashamed.  I am riddled with remorse and guilt, and fear. I am just tired. I need to ask, Jesus, did You die for that sin, my most recent one against You, others and myself? The actions driven by my addiction? You did? It is paid for? Completely? Make me believe that, now.

I need to ask another question. Do You still like me? Love me? As I am, not as I should be? You do? As much as You love Your Father, and He loves You? You do? Make me believe that too.

I have another question. If I was to look up into Your eyes right now, would I see that You adore me as I am, the addict, knowing that I promised to kick the habit and didn’t, knowing that I will probably disappoint You again, and again? I would see Your adoration for me as I am, again? That is the Gospel? Make me get that now. Empower me to look up. Give me the capacity to willingly take this burden off and hand it to You again. (Gal 5:16)

Addict, get the prayer card now. Get a couple and lay them around your house or apartment. Do it twice a day for thirty days and see if you notice a difference. See if you need your self-medication just a little less than you did yesterday.

Shame Meter? I give it a 65. Shame is one of the leading antagonists in the movie, a key driving part of the narrative conflict. But with the arrival of Ally, Jack’s shame is noticeably reduced. You begin to think that there is real hope for ongoing day-by-day recovery—until the unexpected tragedy at the end (a bit of a tease spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the movie). There really could have been a happy ending, and they all lived happily ever after (assuming that Jack kept going to AA daily).

I suspect that unfortunately, Star will only get a single Oscar, for best original song. Too bad.

Take Heart Child of God.

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