Oct 07

“Don Jon”: Addictions Include Internet Porn and Romance

“Sure, sex is fun, but not nearly as satisfying as porn, Jon explains in the film’s flashy opening voiceover, articulating a troubling value shift few have had the courage to raise…” (Peter Debruge, Variety, about Don Jon)

Don Jon is a new comedy that’s essentially about certain addictions. Internet porn is one, the other is romance. Each is shown to have the potential to set up unrealistic expectations. Each can thus block one’s ability to achieve genuine closeness with another person.

The official movie description:

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a strong, handsome, good old fashioned guy. His buddies call him Don Jon due to his ability to ‘pull’ a different woman every weekend, but even the finest fling doesn’t compare to the bliss he finds alone in front of the computer watching pornography. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a bright, beautiful, good old fashioned girl. Raised on romantic Hollywood movies, she’s determined to find her Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset. Wrestling with good old fashioned expectations of the opposite sex, Jon and Barbara struggle against a media culture full of false fantasies to try and find true intimacy in this unexpected comedy written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Rounding out the main cast of characters are a few others. Jon’s seen at family dinners with his “caricatured macho dad (Tony Danza) and hysterical mom (Glenne Headly)” (David DenbyThe New Yorker). And an older woman played by Julianne Moore eventually enters the picture and apparently serves as some sort of guide to him.

What’s Don Jon Being Compared To?

Peter Debruge, Variety: “Where Steve McQueen’s ‘Shame’ took the more obtuse art film approach to this sex-obsessed phenom, Gordon-Levitt weaves the topic into a broadly accessible romantic comedy, one that ultimately uses its in-your face style to sneak a few old-fashioned insights about how self-centered guys can learn to respect their partners.”

What Do We Learn About Porn Addiction?

For someone who gets continual gratification from porn, dating before sex is deemed the “long game.”

Robert Weiss, LCSW, Director of the Sexual Recovery Institute (The Huffington Post):

Even the way that Gordon-Levitt treats pornographic imagery in the film–as a rapid-fired succession of different, astoundingly attractive women– mirrors the way that porn addicts report behaving, in that they are always switching from one video to another, always searching for something newer, better and more exciting. For a porn addict, each hot new image hits home like a blast of crack cocaine. Each new image is a fix, and the more you fix, the better you feel.

What Do We Learn About Addiction to Romance?

Weiss (The Huffington Post) has this observation:

Barbara’s obsession is as potentially real as Jon’s, even if it’s portrayed in comic fashion, as we have long known that women tend to value an emotional connection more than sexual body parts. Thus, Barbara objectifies romantic relationships in much the same way that Don Jon objectifies breasts and buttocks, and with the same basic results, too, in that no one in the real world can live up to the unrealistic fantasies.