Shame Meter: Best Picture Nominated Films- Bohemian Rhapsody

Dr. Bill Senyard here with another Gospel Rant #109. I am looking at just how much shame is evident in the eight Oscar Best Picture nominated films. Why? I mean who wants to talk about shame. Psychologists will tell you that shame innately hides. Who wants to admit that anyone has shamed us. Or if they have, that I can’t just make a decision to get over it? But the more we know about shame, the more we can see its destructive disintegrating effects in our lives, relationships with each other and most importantly with God. Clearly we can see shames fingerprints in the eight best picture nominees. I hope that this will help us talk about shame openly in our own relationships and identity. Many have asked where they can go to learn how to preach the Gospel to their own shame. Check out Lots of stuff, and resources about how to preach the Gospel to guilt, shame, relational attachment wounds (insecurities, fears, anxiety and avoidance) and addictions. Real stuff for real people in the real world.

Bohemian Rhapsody is the controversial Queen biopic starring Rami Malek as mega-talented gay lead singer superstar Freddie Mercury. Freddy is born, Farrokh Bulsara, a British Indian Farsi, to a conservative Zoroastrian refugee family who believes in wise choices, careful life planning and hard work at a career that is stable and safe. His father doesn’t mince words with dreamer artistic flamboyant Farrokh. It seems obvious that Freddy just like typical young adults, doesn’t want to be told who he is and how to live his life, but also, he desperately wants the respect and love of his Father. He knows that his career and sexuality choices do not live up top his dads expectations and certainly believes that his father would be ashamed of him. So his lashes out. “So how did [all of your life choices] work out for you dad?” Shamed people can quickly shift up into a fear cycle (fight, flight, freeze, etc.) in this case, fight and say things, do things that are way counter purpose if they were thinking straight at the time. This certainly didn’t make his father more proud of him, right?

OK, so Freddy rejects his father’s life philosophy, but clearly isn’t sure what he wants or who he is. The film could be described as Freddy trying to find himself, find community and real friendship and family—and failing over and over again. Like most people who struggle with shame, Freddy has a hard time distinguishing between healthy relationships and unhealthy ones. Shame disintegrates our ability to form deep intimate bonds. Ironic that superstar Freddy with 1000s of adoring friends is so lonely so much of the time. Did you know that 1out of 3 adults over 45 in the US are categorized as lonely? I think that shame has a lot to do with it.

So who is Freddy? Those who want to hurt him label him as a “Pakkie.” He struggles with his sexuality (straight, bi-, gay). Early scene where he is trying to find his look and tries on women’s clothing. He wants to be accepted and outrageous at the same time. He explains “I cant think of anyone more outrageous than me.” One wonders is this his preference or is he desperately needing the attention and approval that he didn’t feel he got from his family. One lover-turned betrayer says of Freddy, “He’s a Frightened little pakkie boy who Is afraid to be alone.” Cruel, meant to hurt, but also insightful. One of Freddy’s lovers says to Freddy, “Come and find me when you like yourself”. Yep, that’s shame MO.

I would suggest that the movie portrays Freddy desperately looking to feel loved for who he is. He only seems to find that at the end of the movie and his life.

Now having said that, his shame, and search for family is one of the things that made Queen so vastly popular. When asked by an agent Who is Queen, Freddy says—and I think that he is spot on,

“We are four misfits who don’t belong together playing to the other misfits. The outcasts right at the back of the room who are pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them. We are a family.”

Prophetically, they were lonely artists looking for who they really were (dentist? Scientist? Baggage handler?), living up to some, any expectations of people whose opinions they care about, acceptance, love and family– singing to and on the behalf of so many others who are lonely and looking for acceptance, love and family. Great scene at the Live Aid concert where people—real people—people, like me, like most of us, who I suspect were also looking to live up to expectations set for them by their own mirror, family, friends, career, critical conservative fathers—and now here at Wembly Stadium, find themselves together with the Royalty-of-outies–Queen. [bctt tweet=”Queen gives these regular people who regularly fall short of all the expectations around them, a voice. Powerful stuff.”]

Listen to some of the lyrics of Queens hits. Check out the portrayal of survivors and underdogs, looking for a win, looking to be honored, looking to be somebody.

Can anybody find me somebody to love?

Ooh, each morning I get up I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet
(Take a look at yourself) Take a look in the mirror and cry (and cry)
Lord, what you’re doing to me (yeah yeah)
I have spent all my years in believing you
But I just can’t get no relief, Lord!
Somebody (somebody) ooh somebody (somebody)
Can anybody find me somebody to love?

I work hard (he works hard) every day of my life
I work ’til I ache in my bones
At the end (at the end of the day)
I take home my hard earned pay all on my own
I get down (down) on my knees (knees)
And I start to pray
‘Til the tears run down from my eyes
Lord, somebody (somebody), ooh somebody
(Please) can anybody find me somebody to love?

Everyday (everyday) I try and I try and I try
But everybody wants to put me down
They say I’m going crazy
They say I got a lot of water in my brain
Ah, got no common sense
I got nobody left to believe in
Yeah yeah yeah yeah

Oh, Lord

Got no feel, I got no rhythm
I just keep losing my beat (you just keep losing and losing)
I’m OK, I’m alright (he’s alright, he’s alright)
I ain’t gonna face no defeat (yeah yeah)
I just gotta get out of this prison cell
One day (someday) I’m gonna be free, Lord!

Find me somebody to love

Do you hear the disintegration and shame, denial and hope, wishful thinking? Me too Queen!

Or this hit

Buddy, you’re a boy, make a big noise
Playing in the street, gonna be a big man someday
You got mud on your face, you big disgrace
Kicking your can all over the place, singin’

We will, we will rock you
We will, we will rock you

Buddy, you’re a young man, hard man
Shouting in the street, gonna take on the world someday
You got blood on your face, you big disgrace
Waving your banner all over the place

We will, we will rock you, sing it!
We will, we will rock you, yeah

Buddy, you’re an old man, poor man
Pleading with your eyes, gonna get you some peace someday
You got mud on your face, big disgrace
Somebody better put you back into your place, do it!

We will, we will rock you, yeah, yeah, come on
We will, we will rock you, alright, louder!
We will, we will rock you, one more time
We will, we will rock you

Dreams unachieved. Me too Queen!

Or check out “The Show Must Go On”, written during Freddy’s struggle with AIDs. Per Wikipedia, The lyrics are full of allusions, metaphors and other figures of speech, making it somewhat difficult to understand. Thinly disguised tragedy ahead is announced. In the end, the text refers to the determination, the furious desire to live (“I have to find the will to carry on with the show”) in spite of vanishing strength (“inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking”).[7] 

Then the theme song for hopefully outsider wanna be insiders. “We Are The Champions of the World.”

I’ve paid my dues
Time after time
I’ve done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes 
I’ve made a few
I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I’ve come through

We are the champions, my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions of the world

I’ve taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it
I thank you all

But it’s been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
And I ain’t gonna lose

Bullied, overlooked unnoticed, mistake riddled (why do I keep making them? And yet, I will cry out again, We are the champions—my friends, all of us, not just those over achievers. Me too Queen!

We all get it and feel it. Look, here’s a thought, maybe Queen music is like a personal take home shame meter. So if you notice while you are listening to the Aids Live Africa scene and felt tears forming and you just want to cry out, “Me Too Queen!”, then you have some shame most likely.

[bctt tweet=”In a shame culture you can only know if you are acceptable, good or bad if the culture says so.”] That would includes friends, family, fans, etc. Do those around you exclude you or honor you. Honestly, it is pretty fleeting. You can be voted off the island in a moment. Shamed prone people will jump through any hoops just to not be ejected. It hurts too much. Our brain registers loneliness as a pain. Shame cultures are built on threats of exclusion, this religion or that, this mother tongue or not, this skin color or not, this socioeconomic background or that, on the pop charts, or not, included in Live Aid or not, signed to this record label or not, this sexuality or not. This political party or not. This extreme of this party or not. In such a shame culture, you can’t just disagree. If you don’t buy in totally, we exclude you and shame you.

See, it is a never ending horrible game of Risk. You could be included today based upon ‘x’, but then tomorrow, excluded because of ‘y’. [bctt tweet=”There are no permanent standards in a culture based upon exclusion, just the shifting judgment of the crowd, today. Remember “Crucify him?””] In the end, the toxic mix doesn’t make anyone safe and accepted for long. Talk about stress and identity confusion. [bctt tweet=”Shame cultures are a bouillabaisse of over sensitivity, overreaction, and frequent moral panics. Who are you? Which side of the wave are you on?”] Are you going to be excluded, rejected and shame if you say something? Or not?

Per the movie, Freddy found acceptance and peace, a loving relationship toward the end of his life which tragically ended due to AIDs.

Jesus-Followers, we are not immune to the seismic waves of our shame culture. An argument could be made that we are part of the problem in many ways. The vast majority of Millennials believe that the church of Jesus is intolerant, exclusive and homophobic. I would prefer to be known as those who proclaim a gospel that can free any shamed or shaming person from the stranglehold of shame. This gospel is so powerful that it can make the most self-despising person, whether they have an overbite, they fail to live up the expectations of their fathers and think that Dad is ashamed of them, they want to try on women’s clothes and make-up or not, or how outrageous they want to be, no matter what mistakes they have made to-date, no matter how lonely, how rejected—it can make that person feel the height, width, length and depth of the love or Christ for them as they are right now. [bctt tweet=”Shame has an enemy. Shame has an antidote. This new power not only can erase shame (just a little now, not perfect, that’s Heaven) but can displace it with a powerful affect of honor and love.”] Imagine if Freddy felt, maybe he did, I do not know, that God—strictly because of what Jesus did 200o years ago, just how proud he was of Freddy or Farroukh, whatever he wants to call himself. What if God called Him, and Freddy heard it,  beloved son with whom he was well pleased. (light on, light off—if you’ve seen the movie you get it.). What might have changed?

In heaven strictly because of what Jesus has done for me, on my behalf, not at all based upon what I’ve done, I know that I’ve found somebody to love.

Shame meter? It has to be over an 8. I am going for 9. Freddy is a poster child for a person who is so disintegrated by shame in their identity and relationships that it isn’t until the end until there is some shalom. I get it, no judgment. The movie is an expose of our shame culture as well. I don’t like how shaming we have become. I also get it that I am part of the problem. We definitely need to be talking about it as Jesus-Followers and learning how to preach the Gospel to our shame first and then to others.

Oscar? Yep, I think that it will win a couple of Oscars, certainly best actor for Rami Malek, maybe best editing and sound editing. It can win best picture. I think it should, but it is not getting much Oscar buzz. Too bad.

Want to know more about how to preach the gospel to your shame? Check out website