Arcade Fire’s video for ‘We Exist’ has Andrew Garfield, playing a transsexual, showing up at Coachella:
Here’s the thing:
We know that this video is good for Andrew Garfields career. It gives him credibility and acts as a counterbalance to having just starred in Spiderman (a major blockbuster).
We know that rednecks beating up a transsexual feels a bit obvious and contrived (and no matter how it’s spun, it’s a bit self-sabotaging for Garfields character to go to a redneck bar).
We know that a rock video taking a stand and “speaking out” against an issue is practically a cliche and has been done a hundred times before.
We know that the politics of sexuality is talked about an awful lot. And that sometimes it feels over-discussed.
We know all these arguments. And in the next few days they will be recycled endlessly in any discussion of this video.
But all these arguments will miss the real power behind this video: which is the universality of overcoming shame.
You don’t have to be a transsexual to know how horrible it is to feel shame. And you don’t have to be a transsexual to know how hard it is to work through shame.
Shame is something every self-aware person eventually has to work through. It’s as much the process of becoming an adult as anything else.
And that’s why everyone gets goosebumps when Andrew Garfield starts heaving and breathing heavily walking up the stage at Coachella.
It’s because we all know the power of what is being exposed here: it’s shame, and it’s coming out publicly.
Note: I’m still not sure the last line of this post is clear. My point is that the way to work through shame is to expose it. Shame is most powerful when it’s held deep inside someone. When it’s exposed publicly, shame loses power.