City Lights

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In City Lights, one of Charlie Chaplin's absolute masterpieces, there is a memorable scene (commented on by Levinas, among others) which establishes the link between this object and shame. After he swallows a whistle by mitake, the Tramp gets an attakc of hiccups, which leads to a comical effect - because of the movement of air in his stomach, each hiccup makes the whistle blow and thus generates a weird sound of whistles comign from inside the body; the embarrassed Tramp desperately tries to cover up these sounds, not knowing what exactly to do. Does this scene not stage shame at its purest? I am ashamed when I am confronted with the excess in my body. It is significant that the source of shame in this scene is sound: a spectral sound emanating from within the Tramps' body, sound as an autonomous "organ without body," located in the veyr heart of his body and at the same time uncontrollable, like a kind of parasite, a foreign intruder - in short, what Lacan called the voice-object, one of the incarnations of objet petit a, of the agalma, that which is "in me more than myself."

Slavoj Žižek

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