Hipster heartthrob turned A-list celeb Joseph Gordon-Levitt recently finished writing, directing and starring in Don Jon. I was lucky enough to be invited as a fellow Thelma contributor’s guest to an early screening of the film (shoutout Victor’s Klout score) at which JGL appeared to give this quick introduction. I took in a pseudo coming-of-age story about a guido and the New Jersey princess he falls in love with. As his character moves through the film, he learns more about himself as a result of the interactions he has with his best friends, family, girlfriend and also Julianne Moore. I hope that (and this rest of this article) won’t spoil the movie for you. I’ll be doing my best to avoid mentioning anything that isn’t made evident by the trailer below.
Pornography is a central theme in the film and the only thing Gordon-Levitt’s intentionally douchey character is more obsessed with than himself. Don Jon was even advertised on popular pornographic websites, which I definitely know because I read this article and not because I visit popular pornographic websites. Gordon-Levitt’s intimate relationship with porn is made evident from the movie’s opening audio clip of a Macbook booting up. While most films’ grandest reference to pornography consists of the discovery of a stash of nudie mags underneath a bed or behind a loose brick, Don Jon brings to light the culture surrounding this taboo but incredibly prevalent section of media culture.
42% of all internet users view pornography, with over 12% of all websites hosting some type of smut. Males are 543% more likely to watch porn than females, and the film emphasizes the relationship the fouler sex shares with content so directly targeted towards them. Specifically highlighted is the disconnect between porn and real sex. In the real world, the sausages delivered by pizza boys tend to stay inside their boxes and outside the bathrobe-clad housewives who answer the door. However, pornography isn’t the only media called out for it’s distorted representation of reality in Don Jon.
Scarlett Johansson’s character is just as much a product of the unrealistic expectations brought on by exposure to media; however this time the culprits are the rain-soaked lovers of today’s modern romance films and their effect on females. Gordon-Levitt and Johansson’s relationship is representative of the clash between the “ideal” relationships portrayed in movies like The Notebook while pornography presents the “ideal” sexual encounters that might occur in Edward Penishands (IMDB).
Boiled down to its simplest elements, the conflict surrounds women’s assumption that they will find a man willing to give up everything in their lives for them, while men are holding out for a woman that will give up everything in the bedroom. Both of these beliefs have been hinted at in each medium for many years, but with today’s prevalence of media in culture, these expectations are drilled farther into the heads of today’s millennial daters than ever before. Girls are waiting for the perfect man from their maiden viewing of The Little Mermaid, and today’s boys are doomed from the moment they first Google the word “boobies.”
These aren’t the only commentaries on modern media culture in Don Jon. Tony Danza as Gordon-Levitt’s father can’t take his eyes off the football game during family dinners while his mother is exponentially more excited about his new long term relationship than he is. JGL went so far as to explicitly state that the film is about media culture in his recent Reddit AMA, and it’s safe to say that he accomplished his goal shedding light on the effect of rampant media consumption on our individual psyches and society as a whole.