Do you feel uncomfortable with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s free market, three-hour long depiction of drugs, sex and 1980s excess? Are you unhappy with what you suspect might be ‘a celebration of greed’? Do dollar bills being used as ticker-tape make you want to puke in a bin – and not because you’ve overdosed on a handful of ‘ludes’?
Dear conscientious one, here are some thoughts to help free you from the terrible burden of worrying about the moral welfare of others. Hopefully, once you’re read them you will feel lighter, more streamline and able to move on to someone who actually deserves your concern. But first…:
- Have you actually met anyone who has come out of seeing The Wolf of Wall Street and said, “Yes, this is how I want to live”? So far, I have only met people who (like wonderful you) are worried about how other, less wonderful people, might find the film aspirational. Who are these impressionable types with their cotton wool heads and zombie eyes? How are they currently functioning without your guidance? Maybe you could go and find one, ask them and see how they respond.
- Try pinpointing the parts of the film that concern you. Perhaps it is the cheery disregard for others in order to become rich? Or the fact that stockbroker Jordan Belfort spends all of his ill-gotten gains on prostitutes and yachts rather than, say, going to the theatre or subscribing to a Save the Whale charity?
- Next, think about Jordan crawling down his country club steps, overdosing on drugs and dribbling spit. Or what about when he backstabs his friends, gets left by his wife and has a candle stuck up his arse? Do you know anyone who wants to be like this? Do you? Really?
- You may be concerned that Jordan doesn’t ‘learn’ anything. Perhaps you were looking forward to a scene at the end where he delivers a monologue about ‘the error of his ways’. But lots of popular characters in films learn absolutely zilch. What does Withnail learn about drinking and taking drugs? Or Hannibal Lecter about the negative effects of eating people? I think the last time we saw him he was on a plane with a lunchbox full of brains.
- Sometimes it’s a painful film to watch – but is this really a problem? Isn’t it a good thing that you feel uncomfortable when Jordan and his friends start referring to a member of a ‘dwarf-throwing’ group as ‘it’? Or an apprehensive-looking woman has her head shaved for £10,000? Instead of feeling conflicted, why not congratulate yourself for being so right-on?
- You may have got caught up in the energy, razzamatazz and “doesn’t Scorsese compose beautiful shots” moments which occur directly before the above scenes. But that is your choice. Nobody is forcing you to enjoy depictions of drug taking, objectified women or owning a helicopter. Maybe the film is simply holding up a mirror and asking you – like the crowd of desperate wannabe millionaires in the final shot – to consider just what you are prepared to buy into.
- Still think wealth and excess are being glamourised? What if they are simply being presented as they appear in real life, with all their bombastic glitz? What if it is just you – and only you – who finds them glamourous? If so, maybe you need someone to educate you about ‘the error of your ways’, possibly through a monologue. And then you can go to the theatre – before relaxing to the music of those whales you saved.