Societal Review: William Shatner’s shame

An Artist's Response To Racism

Hank Johnson, Staff Writer

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Back in 1962, little-known director Roger Corman released a film by the name of “The Intruder.” It starred a pre-Star Trek William Shatner and had a modest budget of $80,000, or $650,000 in today’s money, so it was a tiny movie. It had a quiet release and was almost completely forgotten… Until 2014.

Fast forward 52 years, and William Shatner has released 8 musical albums with varying levels of success. Then he releases “Shame,” an exactly one-hour long album that is just an edited version of his 1962 movie “Shame.” The mystery begins when trying to find any information about it. The only places that it can be found are Spotify and random mp3 download websites. But to truly understand why Shatner released an album comprised solely of an old forgotten film that he was in, we must understand what the film was.

It takes place in a sleepy southern town just on the verge of Brown V. Board of Education. Black students were beginning to integrate into schools and people were not happy. Then comes along the young, handsome, and charismatic William Shatner, otherwise known as Adam Cramer. He says he represents the Patrick Henry society and he starts to slowly but surely incite violent dissent against blacks and their entrance into the previously segregated school. He burns crosses and rouses the whole town except for one man to support him. By the end of the movie, Cramer convinces the townspeople to lynch a wrongly accused black man for attempting to rape a white woman. They proceed with this until Cramer is proved a sham.

Now that we understand the movie, why did Shatner re-release this film on an album format?

It was released on September 21st, 2014 only a few months after the controversial deaths of Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Freddie Gray, and the death that incited the Ferguson riots, Michael Brown’s. So did Shatner release his album at this time just to drum up press about this relatively unknown movie? Or did he release it because he felt ashamed of playing that racist character all those years ago? The worst case is that he released it simply to capitalize on the tense times incited by those deaths and riots. Personally, I hope it’s because he felt it was a topical and important message that deserved to be known now and forever. That message being: racism is a horrible, vile thing done by horrible, vile people, but whenever humanity has gone astray there will always be some level headed people to lead us back to what’s right and true.