On Mindlessly Crying “Wolf!”

wolf_of_wall_street_fan_poster_by_crqsf-d6p5x0sI recently saw the film The Wolf of Wall Street  starring Leocapro DiNardio (which is what I call him now, because I like it). I had been hearing that the movie was somewhat controversial because of its supposed glorification of the lifestyle enjoyed by Jordan Belfort, whom DiNardio portrays in the film. That’s right, I said “enjoyed.”

Let me break it down for you. . . .

Belfort was a shady stockbroker who struck it rich on Wall Street in the early ’90s and spent the next several years buying helicopters, cruising around on his yacht, sniffing drugs, and partying with prostitutes. And yes, the movie shows him doing all these things. In the end (Spoiler Alert) he gets caught and serves a breezy few years in a minimum security prison, enjoying the special privileges his wealth affords him while inside. Once released he becomes a motivational speaker, presumably earning huge sums of money teaching people how to be better salesmen. 

So the question remains: Does the film glorify Belfort’s lifestyle and minimize the seriousness of his transgressions?

It depends. What do we mean by “glorify”? It seems to me that the film’s detractors are using the term to mean “To make something look way more awesome  than it really was,” and if that’s the case, I don’t think The Wolf of Wall Street  glorifies Belfort’s lifestyle at all. But if the critics mean by “glorify” something more like “To make something look the precise amount of awesome  that it probably was,” then yeah, they do glorify his lifestyle, because they show him actually enjoying all the money and hookers and blow. 

Which brings me to my other point, which is that the film is based on a book, and that book is based on a true story about a real guy who’s still alive. The impression given by those who decry this movie because it shows someone taking pleasure in destructive practices is that Hollywood should either never tell stories if those stories are true, or that Hollywood should only tell the kinds of true stories that don’t show people enjoying bad things.

But for my part, I would rather Hollywood tell interesting stories, whether they’re true or not. And as far as whether a film “glorifies” bad things, I’m sorry, but if I were the kind of person who takes steps toward pursuing a career in the stock market so I could afford a huge bag of quaaludes and a chopper because I saw it in some movie, well, I probably should be banned not just from the theater but from society as a whole.

Are some people unduly influenced by what they see in the media? Sure, and those people probably shouldn’t see this film (and many of them can’t since it’s rated R). But for the majority of us who aren’t mindless robots who obey the dictates of culture and entertainment media, well, we can just act like grown-ups and decide whether we want to spend the ten bucks to see The Wolf of Wall Street  or not. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go break into Paris Hilton’s mansion and steal her jewelry because The Bling Ring  told me to.



  1. Jonathan PrejeanJanuary 2, 2014

    I think the criticism was that they didn’t show even one single person whose life was completely destroyed by having his life savings stolen, because that’s, like, a downer, man. In that sense, it showed the “truth” in the sense that the criminals, from their perspective, had a sociopathic lack of empathy for their victims, but the audience got no visibility into what would trigger its own emotional connection, showing the real truth of what happened. I have no idea whether this whitewashing charge is true, but given how “the rich” are often demonized, the audience might be led into thinking at least that these were “victimless” crimes like drugs or prostitution.

    Basically, the criminal got screwed for enjoying stealing money from people who really deserved it; shouldn’t we all be able to snort coke and bang hookers with other greedy people’s money? Wouldn’t that really be a better world? I’d ordinarily be skeptical about the claim, but if you think about Hollywood’s general approach of how awesome drugs and sex are while ignoring the consequences for actual human beings, the idea that they would do the same with finance isn’t really crazy. (But they should do their required public service and atonement for the Democratic party — see, e.g., Jon Corzine.)

  2. JasonJanuary 2, 2014


    Thanks for the comment.

    I would say that lots of films don’t focus on the victims of the protagonist’s actions. It all depends on the story the director wants to tell and the vantage point he is using.

    I mean, I’m sure Moe Greene’s children were devastated when their dad got shot in the eye by Clemenza, but that fell outside of Coppola’s purview.

  3. ChristianJanuary 2, 2014

    I actually don’t agree with the premise that Hollywood’s general approach to drugs and sex is that it’s awesome and there are no consequences. There are almost always consequences in movies and TV shows.

  4. JasonJanuary 2, 2014

    But I do think it’s true that the consequences for the victims are more rarely shown than the consequences for those who commit the crimes themselves. But like I said, you’ve only got two hours, you can’t show everything.

    Then again, there are all kinds of shows that deal with the other side of the coin. Damages, for example, almost always deals exclusively with the members of some class action suit against a corporation or con artist.

  5. MelissaJanuary 2, 2014

    Is there another issue at play here too, though? I am finding, more and more, that people’s tolerance or celebration of others success (whether it be financial or otherwise) is becoming non-existent. Not sure if that’s because of the economic downturn these past few years or what. I’ve been trying to gauge it since returning to the States and I’m finding extremes on either side…but it’s weird to me how jealous people get of others lives, the envy and animosity that occurs.

    Even today, while commenting on a friend’s London trip pics, there are people saying “I’m trying not to hate you right now…”…and even though it’s said partially in jest, it still bothers me. Jealousy is an ugly thing and is beginning to rule the minds of folk moreso than I remember it EVER doing before.

    Did people leave the theatre because these sights sickened them because they knew they would never reach such a point in their own lives, of that level of luxury, or were they just pissed because the guy didn’t “suffer” they way THEY thought he ought to have? MAYBE they’re pissed because they see themselves in this character…

    Maybe they’re pissed because they’re living in a society that doesn’t defend itself against big government and big business and let’s dudes get away with this shit? Maybe they’re pissed because they realized that their lard asses are sitting in a theatre watching the same shit happen over and over again throughout their lives and nothing has changed enough, in their worlds, to stop it? Ha ha ha!

    Dudes. It’s a story. It’s a movie. These cunts have to make money. Scorsese knew he wouldn’t make a dime doing an Enron documentary type of approach…that shit is depressing and enraging, even moreso than the blow and hookers. Ha ha!

    Damn, hell! Are the movies really only ten bucks aroun’ heer? Sheeit.

  6. […] Another provocative article from J.J.S. […]

  7. ChristianJanuary 2, 2014

    It was actually $11.25.

  8. JasonJanuary 2, 2014


    I have heard one Irishman contrast Americans with his own countrymen by saying, “In the U.S. when a person looks up at the mansion on a hill, he says, ‘One day, I’m going to live like that.’ When an Irishman looks up at the mansion on a hill he says, ‘One day, that bastard’s gonna crash and burn!'”

  9. ChristianJanuary 2, 2014

    Melissa, I’ve heard from 3 people who walked out. One seemed to be very religious and didn’t like seeing all of the nudity and drugs. Another person was an “anarcho-capitalist” and didn’t like Wall Street being shown in such a poor light. Another person thought they were glorifying the drugs and sex and get-rich-quick schemes. I think people (especially people of a religious bent) sometimes get upset when that stuff is shown as fun, even though the bible even says it’s fun. They don’t usually stay long enough to see the consequences or don’t read the subtext well enough to understand that it’s not being glorified like they think it is.

  10. JonathanJanuary 2, 2014

    Christian, I actually meant the actors themselves, like in real life, not the movies. Requiem for a Dream sure isn’t glorifying drug culture, for example. But rehab is as Hollywood as the Oscars.

    I think you’re right, though, and I was wrong. This doesn’t feel like propaganda to gain sympathy for the devil. In that case, this whole controversy is really projection, as you and Melissa and Jason all pointed out.

  11. OrionJanuary 2, 2014

    The extreme awesomeness of Belforts lifestyle and the lack of consequences were the exact reasons the storyteller chose this current, real life story to tell.

    The ramifications of the victims were not outside of the purview of the storyteller, it was precisely the intent of the storyteller to leave them out.

    follow me for a moment.

    I think simply asking the question “Does the film glorify Belfort’s lifestyle” indicates a deeper motive that may provide a better answer to the authors question about some outrage regarding the movie and a simple yes/no answer to that question.

    The question “Does the film glorify Belfort’s lifestyle” assumes that it is important what the creators of the story “intend” by the telling of it. Implying what most of us already believe: Story teller’s have at least some level of responsibility in the telling of the story. Sometimes that responsibility is to entertain us, sometimes to shock us, scare us, make us cry, sometimes there is a lesson to be learned, or a hidden perspective to be gained.

    Hollywood has a few responsibilities to the law in telling a story but beyond that the ultimate goal is to make money, it is a business after all. The ability to make money is a sort of a chemistry between the storyteller and the audience. You might not be able to sell tickets if the subject is not interesting to the audience, or the storytelling does not suite the audience.

    I can see why some people are outraged, there has been a lot of corporate scandal that has severely impacted this generation, making this type of movie a less suitable topic for entertainment. At the moment we are primed for a story of justice when it comes to white collar crooks. When it is portrayed in the light of entertainment, gratuitous-ness and glorified to the precise amount of awesomeness, absent of the suffering of the victims….. it might spark an emotion…

    Maybe the storyteller is willing to hazard a few tomatoes to develop this emotion in you, because he isn’t just telling a story, he is creating an association between the behavior of Belfort and disgust. This kind of storytelling is more important than simply entertainment, it is the type of storytelling that will spark debates, cause people cry wolf, stand up and walk out of the theater, write articles on the internet…. and maybe even influence society in some small way… and I doubt that the influence is moving in the direction of modeling Jordan Belfort’s behavior.

    Scorsese and DiNadrio are playing us all like violins.

    “your tears are so delicious”

  12. MelissaJanuary 2, 2014

    11.25!! LMAO! Thanks, I still haven’t really been to a “proper” movie theatre since I’ve been back…not including the fine film I saw at SIFF for free, thank you, Christian.

    Yeah, Jason…I didn’t even WANT to bring up the Irish way of looking at success because that would open a whole other can of worms for me. They despise Bono there in Ireland. They openly hold contempt for any person having some small level of success…it’s sickening, in a way. But it did pose a lot of interesting questions for me to ponder…as does this post and responses, etc.

  13. MelissaJanuary 2, 2014

    Oh, Orion…sing to me another song…

  14. JasonJanuary 4, 2014


    Maybe the storyteller is willing to hazard a few tomatoes to develop this emotion in you, because he isn’t just telling a story, he is creating an association between the behavior of Belfort and disgust. This kind of storytelling is more important than simply entertainment, it is the type of storytelling that will spark debates, cause people cry wolf, stand up and walk out of the theater, write articles on the internet…. and maybe even influence society in some small way… and I doubt that the influence is moving in the direction of modeling Jordan Belfort’s behavior.

    Scorsese and DiNadrio are playing us all like violins.

    Really good points. I certainly agree that the level of greed portrayed is indeed disgusting (so they were preaching to the choir in my case), and if they could create that association in the minds of a few more people, I gladly tip my hat!

  15. My Pal Jason Stellman…January 9, 2014

    […] … on “The Wolf of Wall Street”. […]

  16. AlexJanuary 10, 2014

    It’s a pretty solid social commentary on the corruption and imbalance in our System.

    Wall Street, Big Money, Big Finance, etc write the rules/laws..essentially, through their lobbyists who influence and control politicians and the political process to a large degree. In a hierarchy of competing special interests, Big Money has a lot more control over one segment of the Laws than any other Group has over the laws that govern them.

    In the case of “Wolf”…I think the story portrays that dynamic rather well, while sexing up the story with better looking better sounding made-for-entertainment than the real life players…but that’s typical of movie making. The underlying dynamic is quite sound and reasonable.

    Scammer/Narcissist sees opportunity in Wall Street, the laws that govern Wall Street are intentionally lax to protect “all” in Big Money in case they (or a friend) gets popped as most cheat in that arena to one degree or another, Scammer/Narcissist knows the downside risk is minimal compared to the upside run of fun and money he can amass, Scammer/Narcissist finally gets popped. The “penalty” is pretty weak as expected, Scammer/Narcissist does a quick easy stint, still has lots of money, parlays it into another career post-prison as the new punished and reformed Wall Street guy…and life goes on.

    Meanwhile, the taxpayers and the rest of us footed the bill in several forms.

    It’s a good story of how f’d up our current System is and the Moral Hazard it creates…and even when “justice” is served on Wall Street, it’s quite laughable. This guy would’ve served much harder/harsher cold justice had he been poor and got busted selling marijuana.

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