After my last post on pornography, I felt it was only fitting that I follow that up with my take on the new movie by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, called “Don Jon”. If you haven’t seen the trailer, it’s about a young man who is into fast cars, hookups and porn. Oh, and he claims to be religious. Bet you can’t guess what religion he is! *Cough cough poorly portrayed Catholic! cough cough* Surprised? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, it’s about his struggle with pornography and how it begins to affect other areas of his life.
I was intrigued by this movie, wondering how real Joseph Gordon-Levitt was going to get. Would Hollywood really paint an accurate picture of pornography use as “unhealthy”, or would it be more of a joke, all the while maintaining that pornography isn’t “a big deal” and “everyone does it”?
Turns out, JG-L did an okay job. Keep on reading for my movie opinions. Oh, and if you’re one of those people who hates spoilers, you might want to stop reading here.
Britt’s Top 7 Criticisms: The Kinda Good and The Really Bad
- Gratuitous porn scenes. Yeah, okay we get it. He’s addicted to porn. Does that mean you have to show us what kind, in detail every time he uses it? No! I appreciate that the clips were short, but still. For someone who hasn’t seen or struggled with internet pornography, it was shocking and I ended up closing my eyes a lot. Sometimes I had to plug my ears, too. Once it got so bad I thought I would have to walk out. So verdict? While the plethora of adult material made the addiction all the more real, it was gratuitous and I feel the audience could have been spared a bit. Also, I worry that anyone struggling with a pornography addiction would get way-triggered during this film, and do not recommend it if that is the case.
- It highlighted several hallmarks of true pornography addiction. Jon, the main character, checks in regularly with a priest and admits as many as 35 pornography/masturbation incidents over the course of one week. He describes pornography as better than real sex with a woman, and that he can’t go without it. When his addiction gets worse, he begins to isolate himself, disregard his personal hygiene, neglect his friends and family, and can’t imagine having a real relationship again. When he goes too long without viewing pornography, he has flashbacks about it, and actively craves it while having conversations with real people. From what I have read and learned about this addiction, the character’s experience seems to be inline with the real-deal addiction.
- Audience response was disappointing. I was sadly surprised by the lack of audience empathy. During one of the many times Jon sought out his computer compulsively to watch porn (again), he sat and agonized over it before finally giving in. What did they audience do? They laughed at him. His face was sallow, his eyes were sunken in, he was alone in a dirty apartment, and reeked of misery. He had become a slave to his addiction, and the audience laughed at him. I was taken aback by that. I admit I’m crazy sensitive, but c’mon people. This isn’t a laughing matter.
- It highlighted (oh-so subtly) how objectification is not good. Don Jon had a hookup routine: He’d get all dolled up, hit the clubs, scout for a “dime” (a girl rated as a “10” in looks only), make meaningfully raunchy eye contact with said “dime” (or an 8 if he really had to), dirty danced with her, made out with her, took her home, slept with her, watched more porn while she slept, then sent her home. He did this routine over and over again, and when women would complain he would respond, “You knew what you were getting into.” Women were just made up of parts to be discarded. Though as his addiction grew along with his unhappiness, he slowly started to realize how objectification – either IRL or online – led to a feeling of emptiness and un-fulfillment. By the end of the movie he realized that he felt that way because he wasn’t connecting with women as real people, but as objects. He began to make eye contact, ask for their names, and have conversations about life before he slept with them. Ugh, you were so close Jon! So, okay, he didn’t make a complete turn-around in the whole no-sex-out-of-wedlock thing, but maybe he’s on his way?
- It highlighted how the treatment of women is learned (partially) by your parents. Tony Danza did a stellar job playing a chauvinistic, disrespectful parent. When Don Jon brings home his girlfriend for the first time, Tony says, “Son, I didn’t realize you got such a good lookin’ piece of meat!” Uh, gross. He goes on to quiz Jon about how good her body parts are, before gazing longingly at the young woman’s behind while she isn’t looking. You could almost make out the drool. It was awful to watch, and again the audience laughed at the father-son antics. Cue my heart breaking.
- It highlighted how the treatment of women is learned from secular media. Porn sites weren’t the only triggers for these guys. The objectification was done for them on every football game commercial, mall store ad, and dirty dancing song at the club. Jon talks about seeing this stuff as a kid, how “every guy does it”, so what? It was so ingrained in his environment, that he assumed it was the norm, and that the norm must be “good”. I wish the movie did a more thorough job of showing how demeaning media is towards women, making them look like all of their worth is packed into their physical attractiveness. It’s pervasive in this culture, even in our restaurants. My complaint over Hooters and other places like that deserves its own blog rant.
- It (of course) made the Catholic church appear cold, insensitive and nebulous. The priest in the confessional sounded bored, and the only thing he said besides “Say 10 Haily Mary’s and 10 Our Father’s”, was “Have faith, my son.” Jon’s response to that comment was to make an exasperated face, and leave the church. The audience laughed, and I cringed thinking, “Awesome, another movie that stereotypes the church and furthers misunderstanding.” It’s almost like when I see counselors portrayed in movies and all they say is “How does that make you feel?” I want to throw my popcorn at the screen when I see that. COUNSELORS DON’T TALK THAT WAY IN REAL LIFE. And if they do, find a new one! Same thing with the church – don’t typecast us! Learn what we are truly about! If you’re gonna use us, use us correctly. Excuse me while I facepalm myself with one hand and shake the other at the sky.
And that is my take on the movie, “Don Jon”. I could write about it forever, but I think I’d lose my readers. So, I’ll end this now with one final, inconsequential thought:
Watching anything with Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes me want to watch a marathon of “3rd Rock From the Sun”.