Let me start this post by stating the very obvious: I am not a film critic. I don’t pretend to have a deep understanding of the film industry. I don’t analyze trends in movie ticket sales or attend film festivals and premieres.
However, I am a consumer.
Movies are made for me. For you. For anyone willing to go out of their way to buy, watch, and consume film. But as non-film-critics, do we have a say? Are our opinions heard? Maybe not, but I’m going to put my opinion out there anyway.
More often than not, I am “persuaded” to see a movie by two things: good reviews and good actors. In this case, I blame my love of Leonardo DiCaprio.
Recently my husband and I were searching for a movie to watch. As we searched through movie listings, “The Wolf of Wall Street” popped up on our Windows phone. Jesse and I had seen the trailers (which were enough to sell us on the film), so there was hardly any discussion as we each threw on our boots and headed for the theater near our house.
As we took our seats, I remained open-minded and excited. I saw the movie was rated “R,” but thought little of it.
I hadn’t thought to read any of the review and imagined, worst-case scenario, that there would be copious amounts of swearing. I went to public school; if I could handle that every day for four years, I could handle it in a movie. (Turns out there’s a whopping 544 F-bombs.)
When Jesse and I left the theater (after silently threatening to get up and leave), we tried talking about anything but the movie. After beating around the bush, I bit the bullet and let Jesse have my very, very strong opinions about the movie.
Watching the movie led to great discussions between my husband and me, I’ll give it that, but it also led to asking ourselves a very important question: Is there always a silver lining? Is there always a “moral” to take away?
That night, I posted a Facebook status warning friends and family not to take their significant other (or just themselves) to see “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The next morning, a guy I grew up in church with had this to say about the movie:
“The movie depicted the truth behind one man’s acts in a degenerate’s pursuit of money and power. The fact that many people are appalled by this is a sign of success in itself. It is meant to show that the business world of Wall Street is ugly and creates an addiction so insatiable and deep that it’s almost as if you can’t get out. Also, it’s based on true events. It’s about the way of the world and it’s hard truth to swallow.”
He later went on to say that actually experiencing things first hand “would help you understand better” and used war and poverty. While I get where he’s coming from, let’s bring something very obvious to light: You don’t have to experience something firsthand to know it exists. God. 9/11. The birth of a child. The death of a child. The birth or death of anyone, for that matter. Hurricanes. Protests. War. Poverty. Wealth. You don’t have to be shown or even given these things to know of their presence in the world. Call it “blind faith.” Call it ignorance. One thing is for sure: I don’t need these things spelled out for me to know they exist.
Though my Facebook friend may have made a seemingly sound argument for the power and presence of war and poverty–and how, to truly experience them, it must be firsthand–this is not the case for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
I don’t need to see full-frontal nudity. I don’t need to see hookers and rows upon rows of cocaine. I don’t need to see Leonardo DiCaprio raping his wife or having sex with countless prostitutes. I don’t need to see a gay orgy. I don’t need to see masturbation. And I certainly don’t need to see Margot Robbie’s vagina. Ever. Do these things exist? Obviously they do. Did I need to see them to believe them? No. Do I need to go back and experience them firsthand to truly “understand” them? No.
If you didn’t catch it the first time, I’ll reiterate: There’s no moral to this story. Sometimes, as Christians, we go looking for the “silver lining” or try to find the “lesson” in things. You might be tempted to say, “The moral wasn’t that every crime goes punished… It was that the world is a cold dark place.”
Sadly, this point of view embraces society’s enabling of abusers and con artists, and dismisses our culpability in propagating such corruption. In producing a film, or a book, or any work for public consumption, judgment and discernment are not ignorance. “Based on true events” or not, it is a duty to one’s audience to not merely display obscenity or profanity or what’s wrong with the world, but to make sense of it. (If IMDB has to post a two-page parental guide–one devoted entirely to sex scenes–maybe there is no sense to be made.)
So do me a favor: Don’t go see this movie. Don’t take someone to see this movie. Tell everyone you find thinking about seeing this movie to walk the other way. You’ll save yourself, and others, a whole lot of
war and poverty trouble.