By Jared Young

Mailed on May 07, 2012

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Dear Michael Fassbender's Penis

Dear Michael,

Everyone is talking about you. As the breakout star of Steve McQueen's ode to impassive sex and emotional vacancy, there's no denying that you have a commanding screen presence. It was hard to take my eyes off you--yet I think your contributions to the film are being overlooked. Indeed, it's when you're out of frame that you do your best work.

You play the very busy penis of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a handsome single fellow of undefined professional orientation who lives out a teenage male fantasy in his barren New York bachelor-pad: sex with prostitutes, sex with socialites beneath the New Jersey turnpike, sex with himself in front of his laptop. When Brandon's sister (Carey Mulligan) shows up to spend a few nights on the couch, and, in a drunken fit, beds one of his colleagues, it's your jealous twitching that drives him to seek solace in ever more dangerous - and wanton - sexual scenarios.

But the truth is, while you're clearly working hard throughout, it's the one scene in which you're not working that best exemplifies McQueen's diagnostic treatment of Brandon's peculiar fetish (which, really, is a broad, all-encompassing fetish for everything dispassionate and mechanical). The moment most difficult to watch isn't when Brandon has you dipping in and out of two prostitutes, or even when, desperate for release, he takes you into the back room of a gay night club--it's when, seemingly on the precipice of finding himself in a real human relationship, your disinterest sabotages the affair.

Though it's full of sex, Shame is by no means a sexy film. Even the scene you share with Carey Mullligan's vagina (in which, unseen, you are nonetheless a threatening offscreen presence) has a medical coldness to it. Which is the point, I suppose. To be titillated by Brandon's exploits would be contradictory; he, himself, isn't titillated by them. Only, perhaps, by the idea of them.

Clearly you and Mr. Fassbender work well together. The scenes you share (in the shower, in the bathroom stall at his workplace) suggest an intimacy long in the making. I hope to see you collaborating again sometime soon. Maybe the next X-Men movie? Surely Magneto, in those burgundy tights, surrounded by teenage runaways, has a few psychosexual issues that need to be explored.


Jared Young

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