Photo Cred: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan
Disclaimer: I didn’t watch the Oscars. Not live, not replay, not at all. I did, however, catch clips online. So, I’m basing this off soundbites. I know what it’s like to have people make grandstanding statements, assumptions, and decisions off 20-30 second soundbites, then assume they have the whole context, I don’t.
As with most things, I have mixed reviews, most of which, I’ve managed to keep to myself. Because a) unlike you, I’m trying to mind my own business, b) as I said, I don’t know all the information, or have the nuanced context to make a sound informed decision, c) anything I have to say is rooted in my own lived experiences, and therefore, projections.
But I study shame for a living and as a student, so I did want to share some of my thoughts, more so for educational purposes, to show us how shame obstructs our interpersonal relationships, among other emotions.
This blog is using Dr. Brené Brown’s work on shame to highlight the 3 ways she’s found that shame gets in our way. I’ve found this framing really useful in my personal and professional life. Dr. Brown identifies three primary functions of shame that disrupt healthy interpersonal relationships: (a) shame that “move[s] us away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets”; (b) shame that “move[s] us against by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame”; and (c) shame that “move[s] us toward by seeking to appease and please” (p. 46; emphasis in original). I think all 3 of them show us how each one operates.
1. Shame Moving Jada Away
We can all agree that getting roasted is a form of public humiliation, even if light-hearted fun. Shame might be a strong word to use here, maybe embarrassment might be a better word. In any case, it in a sense moved her away from Chris.
You could see it on her face, she was uncomfortable. She adjusted herself in her seat. She rolls her eyes and physically moves back in her chair. She obviously couldn’t hide or cover because she was literally sitting in the front row at the Oscars. But she did withdraw so to speak and kept silent. This type of shame is the more passive-aggressive of the three. Her not laughing was her own silent protest, which I’m here for. Shame is not an easy emotion for anyone to process. It's physically painful. Having to navigate that on live television is not easy, or so I imagine. That’s all I’ll say about that. My love to Jada in all of this. She was just trying to mind her own business and got thrown into chaos.
2. Shame Moving Will Against
This next one is the aggressive form of shame. Again, I can’t say for sure if any of them felt shame per se, I’m making generalizations.
But I’m assuming Will felt some type of way after briefly laughing (whether it was at the joke before or the reference to Jada that he chuckled at, I don’t know). But if he didn’t do something after that laugh, I can just imagine that car ride home. I know what it's like as a Black woman, to have people dog you, and for those that you love to join in and clown you too. It’s painful. Personally, grounds for a fight when we get home, if not, divorce (why I stay single).
In any case, Will did what he did. This could be seen as an example of shame that moves us against by trying to gain power over another, by being aggressive, or by using shame to fight shame. It’s the tit for tat power struggles. It’s when someone comes for us, and we hit them back even harder. Here is where you find retaliation, violence, revenge, sometimes, even murder and death. Don’t sleep on shame, it’s not a benevolent emotion. People kill other people for how they shame them, especially publicly. Think of women that are murdered for simply saying no and turning a man down. Ego, pride, unprocessed and unhealed wounds, all of it. That slap had a lot to do with how we lash out when shamed. Why I pray Will is getting emotional support. Taking anger management courses online saved my life. That’s all I’ll say about that.
3. Shame Moving Chris Toward
This is the aspect of interpersonal shame that rarely gets spoken about. It’s a passive form of shame. The deer caught in headlights response. This is when someone shames us, and we go into a fawn state. We want to please them, we want to make things right, and we want to move closer to them. That slap was as much a public shaming for Chris too. Let’s not forget that. He was clearly shook and humiliated as well. He didn’t escalate the situation. He didn’t fight shame with shame. He didn’t cover or hide. He simply was stunned. (In a sense, he enacted the first type of shame that moves us away, but more so through performing like he was okay, and stepping even more into his host role). You see him moving forward and trying to make things better. He’s as confused as any of us were. He conducted himself professionally. The respectability politics police give him a standing ovation for not cutting up and being "ghetto." We commend him for that.
And also, stop clowning us when in company. There was a whole room full of others he could have gone for, who don’t have an autoimmune condition. It’s a side-eye for me.
That’s all I have to say. No long ting. Pay attention to those three ways that shame moves us away, against, and toward one another. Emotions are powerful. Shame is expensive. It’s tied to other emotions like fear, anger, and rage. Messy, messy emotion, but can be productive. Check out Dr. Brené Brown’s work. Feel free to like, subscribe, and share. Donate if you want to. I appreciate the support. Thank you for listening.
Until next time, in solidarity.