The Wolf of Wall Street: Greed Glorifier?

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I recently watched Martin Scorsese’s newest movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, and as a movie, I couldn’t help but be entertained by it but as a person, I couldn’t help but feel affected by it. Objectively speaking, it was enjoyable to see how crazy the situations DiCaprio and company were getting into by the sheer force of greed.

But morally, what kind of message do you take away from it? It’s pretty easy to say “Whoa, calm down guy. It’s a movie.” But surely your tongue doesn’t slip out of your mouth as your eyes glaze over when you watch a movie like this; you’re paying attention, absorbing what you’re being fed; so what do you get from it?

Does it really glorify greed or are you meant to take away whatever it is you want to take away?wows1

You may have heard about the open letter written by the daughter of one of the men that worked for Jordan Belfort in his time as a white collar gangster. Here’s an excerpt if you don’t feel like clicking the link.

“You people are dangerous. Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals. We want to get lost in what? These phony financiers’ fun sexcapades and coke binges? Come on, we know the truth. This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.”

She goes on to talk about how Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio are glorifying all of the above and all other kinds of greedy debauchery similar to how Tarantino was accused of using last year’s Django Unchained as a way to use offensive material to push ticket sales and play off of others’ own violent fantasies.

This film focuses more on the important things though; like the details and safety hazards of midget tossing.

This film focuses more on the important things though; like the details and safety hazards of midget tossing.

With all the love critics and audiences are showing for Wolf it’s no wonder why someone affected by the real life crimes would not want to watch a movie based around those lives. Especially one that seems to draw many in by the humor in the film while in reality, many were severely hurt by said actions.

Many of the scenes involve heavy drug use, hookers, drinking, all that stuff- and all done with money. Lots of it. Main wolf Belfort speaks like a modern day Gordon Gekko with speeches that empower money to empower you. “I want you to solve all of your problems by getting rich.”

Life's a party and then you party.

Life’s a party and then you party.

It’s at the end of a dramatic speech he gives to employees while they’re at the top of they’re game. And you feel it too. At times we really do feel that by having more money than you could ever want, where are our problems? They’ve all been replaced by the question of what you feel like doing that night. Bills and the “real world” just don’t matter much anymore. It’s all covered.

And while it’s easy to abandon ship as the FBI closes in (It’s bound to happen in a Scorsese film), it doesn’t seem to take away from the American dream we hear about so often- Make as much money as you can, push as hard as you can and eventually people will only have a problem with you because they want to be you.

You might ask yourself throughout the film, “Do I do enough? Or am I lazy?”

Yes to everything. Sure, whatever.

Yes to everything. Sure, whatever.

Yet in the film, you can be just as easily be turned off to the lifestyle that ruined two marriages for Belfort, gets him sent to (rich) prison for three to four years after having gotten his friends and colleagues arrested as well and though he landed back on his feet, there are always going to be a large chunk of people that absolutely hate him and with no valid argument to the contrary.

And it’s not because they want to be Belfort; but because he did terrible things to “suckers” for the purpose of making money and making himself happy at the moment.

Do these things attract you? Or are you repulsed by it? It seems for many that Scorsese’s decision to make a movie about these types of people is validating in and of itself. It deems their actions and crimes worthy of attention. It says that it was worth the time to commit the acts because, hey, look at the crazy times we had. I mean, do you have a movie about the things you and your friends did?

Did YOU hang out with Matthew McConaughey?

Did YOU hang out with Matthew McConaughey?

But at the very least, lead actor Leonardo claims that it does not condone the behavior shown in the movie. He went onto say this as quoted in the Hollywood Reporter:

“…he [Scorsese] allows you, as an audience — guilty or not — to enjoy in that ride without judging who these people are. Because ultimately, he keeps saying this: ‘Who am I to judge anybody?’ I mean ultimately I think if anyone watches this movie, at the end of ‘Wolf of Wall Street,’ they’re going to see that we’re not at all condoning this behavior. In fact we’re saying that this is something that is in our very culture and it needs to be looked at and it needs to be talked about. Because, to me, this attitude of what these characters represent in this film are ultimately everything that’s wrong with the world we live in.”

It’s an interesting viewpoint from the guy that helped promote the real Jordan Belfort’s current profession as a self-help seminar speaker in a thirty second taped ad.

But it does all make sense, doesn’t it? Everyone loves the Joker, don’t they? The scarred psychotic clown from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series may already be one of the most quoted characters in movie history yet his actions in the film are just friggin’ sick.

So is the problem with Wolf that they depict the story of a real guy who did many of the things we see in the film (It’s interesting to know what’s true and what isn’t)?

There’s one scene that seemed to be the closest thing to passed judgement on Belfort and his crew throughout the entire film in my mind.

From all the excess and crimes displayed, it was only when the new firm, Stratton Belmont, begins its first celebration as the new kids on the block- a marching band, champagne, and strippers. Howlin’ Wolf’s Smoke Stack Lightning begins to play as some of the lights are knocked down and the rest flicker. Slow motion is put into use as Belfort smiles on a sort of 1980s Sodom and Gomorrah while white collared rip-off artists are snatching naked women out of each others hands like cavemen. It’s more or less, what one of the posters itself depicts.

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“Look, Marty and I, we don’t like these guys, let’s put it that way. None of the people that made this movie likes these people, at all.” is what DiCaprio claims.

And all in all, it’s believable. While many will not only enjoy Belfort’s success as a character in Wolf and ignore any consequences he may have faced (Much like other famous characters featured in other roller coaster ride crime stories), that’s entirely up to them.

Ultimately we’re not shown anything that would trick your mind into believing something that wasn’t already there to begin with.

The real Belfort has a much less, uh, DiCaprio feel to his look.

The real Belfort has a much less, uh, DiCaprio feel to his look.

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