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.

Feb 13

Antivalentinism, Singles Awareness Day, “(500) Days of Summer”

Antivalentinism: According to a past Wikipedia listing that’s no longer available (Update to post, 4/10/12), this “…refers to a set of criticisms of Saint Valentine’s Day (February 14). These tend to fall into two categories, one anticonsumerist and the other an objection to the ‘forced’ observation of romantic love.”

Antivalentinish alternatives to celebrating tomorrow’s holiday are honoring it as Singles Awareness Day (SAD) or participating in Anti-Valentine’s activities, otherwise known as “anti-V.D.”—a deliberate play on words.

You could consider reading a brand new book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, by Eric Klinenberg.

A contemporary movie that may exemplify antivalentinism—it’s wound up on both anti-Valentine’s Day lists and pro-Valentine’s—is (500) Days of Summer (2009). Here’s why: Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a greeting card writer, thinks he’s found his soul mate in Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who digs him, but not the soul mate stuff. And we the audience know this is a fatal mismatch right from the start. Because our narrator tells us:

This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met the one. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie ‘The Graduate’. The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. Since the disintegration of her parent’s marriage she’d only love two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing. Tom meets Summer on January 8th. He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.

Paralleling Tom’s process of trying to figure the whole thing out, we see the unraveling of romance in non-linear time, jumping back and forth between better times and worse.

At one point, feeling particularly cynical and hopeless about love, Tom goes off about it at his job. With regards to a certain greeting card that could be considered representative of antivalentinism:

…How ’bout this one? With all the pretty hearts on the front, I think I know where this one’s going. Yup, ‘Happy Valentines Day sweetheart, I love you.’ Isn’t that sweet? Ain’t love grand? This is exactly what I’m talking about. What does that even mean, love? Do you know? Do you? Anybody? If somebody gave me this card, Mr. Vance, I’d eat it. It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’M responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything. Sorry, I’m sorry, I um, I quit. There’s enough bullshit in the world without my help.

And here’s where you might want to stop reading this post. I mean it: Spoiler Alert Ahead!

Towards the end, we find out that the benefit to Summer of Tom’s deeply held beliefs in true love is…that she’s now been able to find true love after all—with someone else.