I watched The Wolf of Wall Street on Christmas last week and while the movie is far from perfect, I liked it a lot. But I’m troubled by the viewpoint promoted on Twitter and in blog posts on how the movie “glorifies” the endless parties of drugs, booze and sex. Yes, director Martin Scorsese spends very little time on the negative impacts of main character Jordan Belfort’s actions, and some are cheering his behavior. But while the movie was entertaining, I was still repulsed by Belfort and everything he stood for. The late great Roger Ebert put it best in this essay from back in 1992:
The most fundamental mistake you can make with any piece of fiction is to confuse the content with the subject. The content is what is in a movie. The subject is what the movie is about. Word counters like Medved are as offended by a Martin Scorsese picture as by a brainless violent action picture, because they see the same elements in both. But the brainless picture is simply a form of exhibitionism, in which the director is showing you disgusting things on the screen. And the Scorsese picture might be an attempt to deal seriously with guilt and sin, with evil and the possibility of redemption. If you cannot tell one from the other, then you owe it to yourself to learn; life is short, and no fun if you spend it disowning your own intelligence.