On The Wolf of Wall Street
Before I get to anything else, there is something I must stress above anything else about this film: it is not a film you wish to see with your mother. If you see it with your mother – regardless of how “Liberal” and raunchy in her taste of humor she is, unless you are the sibling or half-sibling to Doug Stanhope by his mother – it will be nearly impossible to enjoy what is a thoroughly entertaining and well-made feature. Take that warning for what it’s worth and let’s move on.
There really isn’t much to say on this film save a few key points. The first and one I find to be the main essence of the movie, asides from representing Capitalism and its true colors, is that it shows both that many Capitalists are deprived from both the standpoint of the Puritan and the Consequentialist – as Marx points out the hypocrisy of “Bourgeois morality” in The Communist Manifesto – and that because most people have not had their critical thinking faculties exercised, they are psychologically stunted from living in an environment of Capitalism and religiosity and because they have internalized the cultural propaganda of their time the majority will inevitably see this film as a depiction of moral monstrosity for the wrong reasons. Not because of the lives the main character and his employees potentially ruin, as well-as other evils of the Capitalist system, but rather as something that is horrendous because of the debauchery of the sex and drugs portrayed, which is one of the best parts of the film.
This shows not only the glaring errors in Puritanism, but of Capitalism being a defender of it while violating it with rampant consumerism, and relaying on the same logic in-parts as Puritanism’s main ideological perpetuator namely religion while Capitalism of course is what manifests it materially. Drugs are of course a rampant problem in America, but this is so largely for an economic reason, as well-as a cultural and psychological one that Capitalism produces by encouraging Consumerism to increase the sales of the material items it produces. Also while drugs may ruin a individuals life, it doesn’t compare to the horrors of living in a society of Free-market Capitalism that gives no consideration for the worker, and the stark apathy that results from a combination of Consumerism and Fatalism or Nihilistic surrender.
Not only does the film showcase the archetype Capitalist, but it generates a reaction that may seem to the simple to be an anti-capitalist response through Puritanism but really is a vanguard of it by enforcing the prevailing conditions of ignorance and stupidity among other things. Puritans don’t need to defend every element of the Capitalist system and in fact can’t; but instead, because they are against the Secularism, Consequentialism and Intellectualism required to actually improve society they are in-effect Reactionaries who always pine for a time that will never be again and in doing so keeps the bright potential of the future from melting the frozen stagnation that is our dank present. To summarize, the film is a representation of Capitalism, the Conservative reaction is a representation of what Capitalism does to the average person.
Towards the end of the film the song, “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson” is playing while FBI agents are arresting employees of Stratton Oakmont. One of the lines of the song is, “we’d like to help you to help yourself,” which both illustrates the façade of individuals “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” when they really are just selling out what integrity and ethic they had by buying into a get rich quick scheme that actually bared fruit. It also reminds me of that insipid line that passes for wisdom in Christian circles, “God helps those who helps themselves” which is essentially identical to the adage, “God works in mysterious ways,” essentially saying God exists and is beneficent even though the interworking of the cosmos and the fate of billions on the planet attest to the contrary. This is crucial because it highlights the similarity between Capitalism proclaiming that all poor people are in the conditions they are in because they didn’t work hard enough (Or because the rich were taxed too high so they weren’t allowed to properly spread their pixie dust to the poor. And by pixie dust I mean cocaine, instead the poor are left with crack.) and that Man is essentially in the mess he is in because of his own doing, either him himself or Man in general because two people bit into an apple when God said it wasn’t kosher. Both ideologies totally lack materialism or even the most basic understanding of cause-and-effect and blame the victim for his burdens for defense of malevolent tyrants whether they are a Totalitarian corrupt despot or his saccharine demonic Reaganite spawn.
It’s interesting comparing the film to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street which is now approx. thirty years old. Jordan Belfort seems to be a more honest and lifelike portrayal of an archetype Capitalist. Gordon Gecko is too dignified and composed, while Belfort is similar to the woman who he helped by giving her a job and twenty-five thousand dollar advance. She may wear hundred dollar suits, vacation to luxurious places, own numerous pieces of realty with exorbitant prices and eat at places of fine dining with French sounding names but she’s still essentially an uncultured half-wit. Just as Belfort responds with indignation and obvious signs of pettiness and low self-esteem when the FBI agent doesn’t fall sway to his bribe and rather ambiguously identifies his immoral existence for what it is. Also his simplistic talk about people who are contemptuous of the rich being essentially losers who’s proper place is working at McDonald’s is more realistic for the average rich person most-likely, as is his defense of accumulation of capital by saying “you could donate it to a church or save the spotted owls” forgetting of course if it weren’t for Capitalism and Christians advocating “Capitalist wealth creation” and charity rather than real solutions, as well-as making the problems in the first place, charity and financing small-scale environmental action wouldn’t be necessary. Also he mentions donating to political parties, which everyone but the most ardent “pro-establishment” drones realize is a major problem and antithetical to the nature and functioning of a legitimate and effective Democracy. The average rich person thinks more like Jordan, and argues for Capitalism when he is honest with himself more like Jordan, not using the language and mentality that Gordon does in his “Greed is good” speech.
Jordan however is a relatively bright man who found a loophole in the system and exploited. This is an element of him along with his thrill-seeking behavior that I rather like; though I begin to hold contempt for him when it goes to the degree of his worship of money and simple pleasures, or rather I find contempt in the essence of Hedonism and materialism in his actions. This may in-fact be in-part a contradiction, but I’ll simply state that I like the creative quirky person who would think of throwing midgets at dart boards, or who doesn’t care about living to others moral standards, but then not the person who has almost no moral standards of his own and destroys that lively interesting person with drugs.
A film whose protagonist is a likable villain and whose antagonist is a by-the-rules FBI Agent – who I think overall the American people have a reason to dislike if they’re anything like many police officers – The Wolf of Wall Street is a film that shows the realization of American Dream, and allows the audience to come to the realization – if intelligent and virtuous enough – that it’s not only a sickly fabrication but a nightmarish reality of constant craving and emptiness which is the bankruptcy of the American culture. And not for – or at-least not initially and primarily – the reason that Puritans and Christians would give, but because it produces both the sickly psychology and perception of the “holier than though” Puritans and the Consumerists who are its vapid superficial (superficial both in their being and in them being only a surface confliction with Christian Conservatives) anti-thesis forever chained to it in juvenile rebellion. Instead, it is far more conducive to be intellectual materialists and scientific socialists who can break away from Puritanism by not only laughing it off and not playing the role of its stereotypical nemesis, but of producing the mentality and means of truly breaking free from humanities oldest sickness. Which is something we must understand and embody, for in various parts of the world, we see the epochs of Spiritualism and Puritanism come to a close, and with the death of the Republican Party we Socialists will rather have to contend with the Age of Liberalism, more subtle Capitalism and the seemingly new seemingly conflicting archetypes, namely the apathetic consumer and the ineffectual social justice warrior.