Welcome to No Shame November! This week we’re diving into the pop culture we love that society tells us we shouldn’t.
Shame tends to be an isolating feeling. It convinces you that you’re repulsively strange or incorrigibly flawed, that no one else could possibly understand you or even want to. Worse, it has a way of feeding into itself, making it impossible to even consider reaching out to someone who might get it.
Still, sometimes, someone manages to reach out to you even in the middle of all that turmoil. And sometimes, that someone is pop culture.
It might be a movie that reflects your anxieties back at you, reassuring you that others have been there before. Or a show that encourages you to open yourself up to the world, risky as it might be. Maybe it’s just someone reminding you to be true to yourself, and who cares what anyone else thinks.
Whatever the case, in honor of No Shame November, these are pieces of art that made us embrace the stuff that embarrassed us, or want to free ourselves from guilt and shame altogether.
Erin Strecker, Entertainment Editor
I’ve never been a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but man, do some aspects of that show ring close to home—especially as the series has gone on and gotten away from Who Rebecca Will End Up With and instead turned its sharp eye towards Rebecca’s inner emotional life, and the fear and sometimes self-hatred that go along with that.
There are plenty of moments on that show that make me feel seen. But one that always rises to the top of the list is this musical moment from Season 3, when the thing that Rebecca wants so bad (a healthy relationship with a guy she really likes) faces a hurdle from her own mind, plagued with self-doubt.
“Just knock on the door!” I screamed while watching her wait outside her ex’s apartment. Alas, the fear was too strong and she bailed instead. The scene powerfully illustrated to me the ways your own mind can let you down, standing in the way of something you want with all your heart.
Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor
I do not like to talk about my feelings. I don’t even like to have feelings, and I’m not a particularly emotional person to begin with. Humor and sarcasm are where I live, and earnest sentiment makes me cringe.
Which is why Sense8 took me by surprise. Created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski, this show is nothing if not earnestly sentimental—starting with its premise, which takes empathy to its most radical and literal extreme. I laughed at it at first, and then laughed with it, and then began to sob with it.
Along the way it gently encouraged me to be more open, more vulnerable, more honest. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still not really a feelings person. But it did make me less embarrassed about having them in the first place, to the extent that these days I’m even comfortable talking about them on Mashable dot com for posts like this. Progress!
Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter
Groundhog Day the musical only ran for seven short months on Broadway. In that period, I saw it six times. The musical reframes the story of shitty weatherman Phil Conners becoming trapped in an exhausting time loop as an exploration of the “loops” everyone gets stuck in, most prominently the unyielding monotony of depression. Like most musicals (and like the movie it’s based on) it ends on an optimistic note, but Phil’s struggles with suicidal ideation, nihilism, and hedonism form the bulk of the show’s plot and pathos.
As someone who identifies with Phil, someone who occasionally lives with the feeling that nothing matters when every day feels the same, I found Groundhog Day’s musical journey incredibly uplifting to watch. When it lingered on Phil’s dissatisfaction and (frankly terrible) coping methods I saw myself, and when it presented its thesis—that life is really fucking hard, everyone gets stuck, and the way out is voicing your pain and connecting to other people—I cried. Like a child. Six times.
I was ashamed to feel stuck before Groundhog Day. Now I know that I have agency over changing it. And if I don’t change it tomorrow… perhaps the day after.
Jess Joho, Entertainment Reporter
For many of the women who believe they can fuck their problems away, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag was the first time we saw our deepest, darkest inner monologues spoken directly into a camera with no hint of shame.
“I’m not obsessed with sex,” the unnamed character of Fleabag says to us candidly, breaking the fourth wall while sitting on the toilet. “I just can’t stop thinking about it.”
Yup, that’s exactly it. Representations of promiscuous women usually turn us into sex-crazed male fantasies. But Waller-Bridge’s masterpiece was an unabashed rallying cry, and hard look in the mirror. For the first time, I saw the complexities of my sexuality—in all its brashness and vulnerability—reflected in her unwavering gaze.
Also, what woman hasn’t seriously considered taking a good-looking dog as her date to a party? …Just us? Ok. Nvm.
Kellen Beck, Entertainment Reporter
On the now-defunct podcast TalkRadar, the main topic was video games, but often the hosts and guests would dive into their other personal interests, whether it was comic books, wrestling, niche comedy, or old cartoons. They approached everything so openly and with so much passion that it made me feel comfortable exploring these other interests where I previously felt I didn’t belong. Since listening to that podcast, I’ve felt so much more open to enjoying things, and I now believe there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.
Whether it’s enjoying cartoons that are marketed toward kids, or getting really into wrestling even though some people think it’s not mature, or just openly enjoying a movie or video game that the public at large thinks is terrible, it’s all fine. There’s nothing that you should feel shame for enjoying, because everything has some sort of quality that can be appreciated by somebody. I live my life now openly enjoying pretty much everything I love.
Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
By the time I moved to New York after college, most of my friends were months into steady corporate jobs or the next stage of their schooling. At 22, their lives were conspicuously stable, and I was sharing a bed with my friend in a sublet, sweetening my tea with stolen sugar packets while browsing for jobs between temp work.
Enter Broad City, the show about young women hacking it in New York that I didn’t know I needed. This messy, hilarious, but ultimately kindhearted show legitimized everything about my New York life; the tiny apartment, the scraping for cash, the lengths my roommate and I would go to to feel like we were saving money but also sucking the very marrow of our 20s.
Carrying multiple free drinks before the end of an open bar or transporting a coffee table across town on the bus were no longer the shameful antics of two barely-there millennials—they were just your average Broad City moments, and they added a cinematic quality even to our frequently janky lives. Growing up has meant shedding parts of my Broad City life, but the show helped me shed my shame and own the hustle.
Ali Foreman, Entertainment Fellow
Netflix’s rom-com Set It Up meant a lot to me, and surprisingly, not in the romantic sense. (I needed to see Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs hook up in an office setting as much as the next person, but that wasn’t the life-changing part.)
When Set It Up started streaming, I had just begun a new writing job—why yes, at Mashable—and I was cripplingly nervous about embarrassing myself. Watching Harper struggle in her own writing career with the agony that is impostor syndrome made me feel less alone and gave me the courage to tenaciously pursue my goals. I didn’t end up camping out at a local Mexican restaurant in a bathrobe, but I came pretty close.
I learned to embrace the reality that I was going to plow through dozens of bad first drafts and make countless mistakes on my way to becoming the writer I hoped to be. While I’m still far off from realizing all of my potential, I have confidence that I will get there because I am constantly, constantly practicing.