MovieChat Forums > Shadows (1958) Discussion > Ben rejecting woman at party-POSSIBLE SP...

Ben rejecting woman at party-POSSIBLE SPOILERS

I've seen this movie three times now and find it fascinating and perhaps ahead of its time. Though dated, it still seems pretty intense in its depiction of racial tensions and family discord.

There's one uncomfortable scene that puzzles me, in a movie full of uncomfortable scenes. Youngest brother Ben is at a party being given by oldest brother Hugh. It's a mixed gathering of black and white people, mostly musicians and artists. Light skinned Ben, who hangs around with a group of white men, as they pick up women in bars, is seated next to a black woman. She apparently has been drinking a little too much, and seems to be coming on to him, in what she means to be a seductive way, urging him to have a drink, and he keeps trying to ignore her. She keeps sort of teasing him, touching him and talking in a friendly way, and seems oblivious to the fact that he doesn't appreciate her attentions.
She finally says or does something that annoys him to the point where he shoves her or strikes her, I'm not sure which, and what follows happens so quickly, it's unclear but I think she either hits him, or throws her drink in his face. Everyone is running around yelling and carrying on, and Ben and Hugh practically come to blows, as younger sister Lelia tries to intervene. As I recall, Ben goes storming out of the party, with Hugh hollering at him to come back.

I think what really sets off this confrontation is that the woman says something to Ben about his needing to accept being black, and having a relationship with a woman like her. Perhaps she senses that he's trying to pass for white and he resents her trying to educate him about who he is. All the women we see him with in the pickup scenes are white, and it seems like racial identity is a big part of his set of issues.

So much is suggested, but not clearly explained in this movie, and maybe that's part of what make it so memorable.

Any thoughts on this? There's something about this movie that grows on you. I feel the need to keep going back and see it again, even though it's not easy to watch.

And when he crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him


mlraymond, please post spoiler warnings in your post title when you reveal plot points, it's just polite!



I think what really sets off this confrontation is that the woman says something to Ben about his needing to accept being black

Hmmm! I don't recall her ever saying such a thing to him, nor do I remember any such overt mention of race at all during the film.

I think you are mixed up and adding modern politically correct dialogue into it in your mind.


From what I recall, the most straightforward scene where they actually mention race is when the two brothers are in Lelia's room and she gets upset at Benny and he doesn't know why. He presses Hugh to find out what he said to upset her and Hugh mentions something about a problem that happened the previous night. Upon further questioning, Hugh says something vaguely about racial problems or something along those lines.

The second is when Tony comes back to their apartment to apologize and when talking to Benny he says he wants Benny to tell Lelia that after thinking about it all there is no difference between them.

Aside from that, I don't remember any other scenes where race is verbally mentioned or alluded to.


I just finished watching this movie and I remember this part particularly standing out to me. And I actually rewatched the scene just to make sure I was correct in the way I felt.

In the scene the woman comes up to Benny, who seems to want to be alone for whatever reason, and she essentially asks him to forget about his mood. She says something along the lines of "You're not kidding anybody" and that's what I feel like you could possibly interpret as her thinking he's struggling with some racial issues, but I really don't get that from this scene. What I think she meant was that he's being a loner, brooding over possibly not fitting in, feeling like his life isn't going anywhere, whatever it is, and that maybe he's doing it for attention. She even says something like "Maybe you just want to be coaxed" as in coaxed into the party. He said he does prefer being coaxed, but he doesn't want to be coaxed by her. To try and loosen him up, she tries to get him to drink some alcohol which he then says something like "I don't drink" or "I don't want a drink". She keeps pressuring him and puts her hand on his shoulder. He finally has enough and shoves her hand off. She gets upset and throws the drink in his face. He then hits her and that's where Hugh comes in and the bigger commotion starts.

Ultimately, I didn't find this scene to be really about race, but more about him not connecting with the people around him and him being quite introverted, preferring to keep to himself or think about whatever he wants to think about. She was just interfering at a time he didn't want to be bothered. That's what I got out of it.


It might have been about race, but if so, I wasn't overt. It could have been that he was rejecting her because she was obvious, while he himself was passing for white and keeping company with white friends. On the other hand, he may have just been wildly over-reacting to an overly sexually aggressive woman.


spoilers here:

Ben gets mad at this moment because the woman completely cuts him down and, somewhat correctly, reduces him to a person just trying to do what everyone else at the party is doing very well: talking and relating to others happily and without self-consciousness.

her analysis of ben is partially true, and it makes ben angry for at least three reason: 1) because it has truth to it 2) because ben is an artist and views his 'plight' as more than just something he does because he's not social. 3) ben really does want to remain on the outside looking in, at least for now. he may see more value in it than mindlessly yammering with people, and he's happy on the outside, even if it doesn't appear that way to a happy, less thoughtful/brooding person like the woman, and even if it is a masochistic happiness.

by reacting somewhat violently like he did, ben was showing that his persona is real to him and not just some ruse he puts up to hide his desperation while he waits for someone like this woman to talk to him.

he was also showing that he did not need the woman. clearly she was interested in him and he probably could have at least had sex with her, but maybe that makes him scared because he's insecure for whatever reason. maybe he thinks he's bad at sex or can't compete with black men, or is just afraid of being rejected if he puts his real self out there for her.

his reaction also shows the anger of introverted people towards the extroverted. the inescapably thoughtful to the mindlessly happy. if ben could be like the rest of the people at the party, maybe he would. but at this point, he can't.

maybe this is his character change that is hinted at at the end of the film. maybe since he has vowed to stop toying around with girls and having connection-free sex like he has been doing, he's going to actually try to socialize, expose his true self, and make a real connection with someone. or maybe not. maybe he'll just steer clear of women altogether.

to relate this part of the film to race you have to start stereotyping people. it contrasts the brooding white artist, who has to try so hard to be cool, with the effortlessly social, cool and artistic african american. maybe part of ben's anger is towards african americans like his brother who can make money off their art, be considered cool, get girls, and be social and happy at the same time, while ben seems to make no money from his art and thus has to act tortured to make it seem or feel like he's doing something hard and important and that no one will ever appreciate but which is somehow, inherently a higher endeavor than any art that is accepted and liked by people.

there's a lot going on in this scene.


A follow-up:
My computer stopped working in mid-October, so I only recently got the chance to read these responses to my original post.

It didn't occur to me to add a spoiler warning; usually I would.I want to thank everyone for thought-provoking answers. There's some really good analysis going on here.

My confusion about just what is being said at the party derives from the casual, indistinct style of speech you find throughout the movie. It seems plausible to me that the woman flirting with Ben at the party isn't suggesting anything racial at all, but teasing him about posing as a brooding artist, and that's why he gets mad at her.

The other part where the dialogue is very indistinct occurs where Ben and his buddies are picking up women at a bar and the discussion between Ben and the woman he's talking to is really indistinct. I can never quite tell what they're saying, but I get the impression he's trying to intrigue her by presenting himself as a mysterious sort of character.

I will now add a spoiler warning, for the sake of future readers. Thanks again for all who responded.

And when he crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him


keeping up with the black man?, lol
First off this holds no merit because A. ben is of the same heritage as his brother, and B. it just holds no merit, you could just as well be talking about mods from the swinging 60's or the players club of the 50's, the majority of which were white

as much as this scene is being deconstructed could the possiblity ben just doesnt like black men be assumed? would seem to fit with his identity crisis



Yeah, I didn't get that scene either----I got a DVD of it, so I'm going have to watch it again after reading these intriguing posts,lol----was trying to find it for years, and glad I finally did. But yeah, you and the other posters have some really interesting interpretations of that particular scene.