Don Jon (2013)


Sex and Porn. There I said it. This is a movie with both things. Are you out of your comfort zone yet? Are those two words too scary for you? For those who are brave enough, let’s continue.

Originally titled “Don Jon’s Addiction” at its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes a few pot shots at the infestation of pornography in our sex-drenched American culture, as well as a few shots at writing, directing, and acting. While perhaps not as chuckle-inducing as the movie poster declares (the word “HILARIOUS” is plastered over the front of Levitt’s Jersey-shaved head) the newly titled, “Don Jon” illustrates Hollywood’s attempt to tackle the issue of pornography addiction–a slightly feeble attempt, but at least they are doing something.

“Don Jon” is sometimes over-the-top, and other times necessarily explicit. It is filled with dark imagery that may be all-too-familiar for some viewers. It is unfortunately vital to further understand why pornography is a rampant addiction for our main character, Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He is called the Don by his two friends, solely for his ability to leave the club with any girl he chooses. And he does do that. Night after night. The next day, he walks past the same powerlifting female poster on his way to the gym. He gets swole lifting weights, all the while muttering something under his breath between reps. What is he muttering? Fast forward to Sunday morning mass at his local Catholic church. He stops at the same confessional booth every week, and with a toothy grin and pride, says the same stuff. You know, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. I have had premarital sex four times this week, and I have viewed pornography 34 times since last week.” The priest responds with, “Say ten hail Marys and ten Lord’s prayers.” Jon smiles, kisses his rosary, the curtain closes, and he’s off to the Sunday meal at home with his family.

If you believe in psychology, and you simply must, then you believe that for the most part, a son’s behavior and lifestyle is defined by how he was raised, specifically by his father. This comes to life as we meet Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) at the dinner table. A revolting excuse for a husband who drops “f” bombs like a WWII bomber over Hiroshima, Jon Sr is so focused on the television that his wife hardly exists any longer. There is one particularly well-done scene where the family sits around the table as yet another scantily-clad woman wearing nothing but sand from the beach eats a sauce-dripping cheeseburger in a commercial comes on the TV. Both Jons are held captive by the image. Angela (Glenne Headly), Jon’s mother and Jon Sr.’s wife, seems to sit alone. She has lost her beauty to Jon Sr. entirely. She has become another object for him, and he discards her for what he lusts over on the television. It’s an extremely powerful scene, and perfectly describes the dark power of lust and the loss of self-control. That being said, Jon continues his daily ritual, and by night, despite his sexual adventures with countless women, it all pales in comparison to his viewing of pornography afterwards.

Jon eventually meets a girl unlike the others. She literally is the only girl who seems to shine bright in the dark club he visits. Enter Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). She’s the kind of girl who believes in romantic comedy love. You know, knight in shining armor type of crap. She doesn’t give into his sexual desires immediately like other girls do, so he ‘pursues’ her for a while. *SPOILER* Eventually she finds out about his porn addiction and breaks things off with him. “You’ve been hiding this from me ever since we started dating! Everything has been a lie!” she says. We finally start to see the impacts of porn in a relationship. Pornography is absolutely not glorified in “Don Jon”, don’t get me wrong.

At one point, he is asked, “What is it about porn that you don’t get from actual sex with a real person?” His response, “I lose myself.” Now, the end message of “Don Jon” isn’t that premarital sex is bad. The conclusion of “Don Jon” is that pornography not only desensitizes someone to sex, but can emotionally and mentally destroy a person’s capacity to develop intimacy and relationships with others.

I have yet to see Steve Mcqueen’s “Shame”, a film more about sex addiction than pornography. “Don Jon” looks to tackle pornography head-on, and does somewhat of a good job. After all, we live in a culture that allows rape to be a common thing. How long will we let something go on before it’s too late? The end result of “Don Jon” is somewhat positive, and hopefully can open up conversation about why pornography is as destructive as it is. It’s just not okay.

Now, for those of you readers who don’t actually know me in person, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so naturally my beliefs carry over into the rest of my life, including how I watch movies. I believe that pre-marital sex is bad, and pornography is a sin against our Creator as well. From a moral standpoint, I would say “Don Jon” succeeds in opening up discussion on sex in our society, however from my beliefs, I must say it misses the mark in other ways. God doesn’t say “Don’t do this just because I said so”–although it might seem like that initially, it’s more complicated than that.

God doesn’t set these rules and standards to keep us prudish and boring (trust me, true Christians are actually really fun to be around). He sets these laws out because they protect intimacy and feelings, and they keep us safe. They protect us. Sexually transmitted diseases aren’t part of God’s plan for us. Pre-marital sex is bad because it’s usually between people who aren’t committed to one another. They aren’t ready to love and protect the other person for the rest of their lives. It’s not only risking pregnancy outside of a committed marriage relationship, but it’s also giving yourself away to someone who isn’t your husband. You aren’t saving yourself and your whole self for the man or woman who wants nothing more than to love you completely. Plus there’s a whole conversation about Christ’s love for the church and how we have to fully give ourselves over to Him, and we can’t be distracted by other things, otherwise we aren’t committed totally to Him. I should also mention that despite your decisions (be it porn, or pre-marital sex), the Lord will never condemn you, if you only just turn to Him. You are not leftovers, or dirty laundry or whatever analogy suits you best. When He sees us, He finds delight in us and loves us, no matter what awful things we have done against him.

Perhaps these last few paragraphs were for a different blog post. But maybe not. You can choose to disagree with me, but like I’ve said before, it always comes back to making sure you are cautious about what your mind ingests. To follow that up, it’s so important to talk about movies and books and everything in our culture. Otherwise you just end up taking in a bunch of garbage and you don’t know what to do with any of it. So just be discerning about it.

Alright. “Don Jon” was an okay movie. I can only hope this film starts a trend of carefully-written filmmaking that talks about the issues that need to be hit. Pornography is definitely one of them. Be careful, folks.


6 thoughts on “Don Jon (2013)

  1. I do tend to write about twice as much as I need to. It’s a curse, I suppose. Something as ‘taboo’ as pornography is something that needs to be talked about. Thanks, Cara!

  2. Most excellent!!!!!! You actually made me want to see this for the right reasons 😉 Thank you for picking tough cultural topics that are secretly destroying lives.

  3. I never read movie reviews. If I do, I only read just a couple sentences. This is the first one I actually read completely through, and I’m glad I did! I have only seen a few commercials for this movie and from the little bit I’ve caught here and there I thought it would be a movie glorifying pornography and I was very disappointed. I’m really happy that they’ve taken such a huge step in finally coming out to say that pornography DOES have negative effects in your relationships and it IS a big deal. Thank you for taking the time to write about this!

  4. Okay, now I haven’t seen the movie, so maybe I’m wrong here, but I’ve heard that the entire movie is just packed full of porn and graphic sex scenes… So if the purpose of this movie is to show the negative effects of porn, why did they make a porno to make this point??…

  5. The theatrical cut is actually much less graphic than the film was when it first premiered at Sundance in January. The reason for the inclusion of “pornographic content” is to emphasize it’s hold over Jon, and the repetition that it represents in his life.
    He does engage in sex with girls he meets, and like I said in my review, this is not a perfect example of how sex in movies should be treated. I believe that his time spent with the women he meets is to show how “real sex” is different from “fake sex (porn)”.
    Also, the pornographic clips are fast cuts and don’t exist to ‘turn on’ audience members. Obviously the filmmakers wouldn’t have made this movie so people can get off on it. That would defeat the whole purpose of what they have done here.
    So, yeah, it’s pretty graphic most of the time. It’s not perfect as I said, but it is effective. Ideally, it’s getting Hollywood to where it needs to be.
    Thanks for your questions and comments! I love discussing this stuff.

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