Movies That Make Me Think: Don Jon

Okay, let me say this: Don Jon is an R-rated movie about a 20-something guy with an addiction to pornography.

That information might be enough to turn away quite a few people. But I actually think that Don Jon is an excellent film, and it’s made me think more than any movie in quite some time. So even if you’re not interested in the movie, I hope you keep reading.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and starred in Don Jon, which came out in fall ’13 to good reviews and not much money at the box office. It was recently released on DVD.

Gordon-Levitt plays Jon, a stereotypical Jersey Shore meathead type. He frequents clubs with his friends, objectifies women using a 10-point scale (10 being the hottest), and sleeps with someone new every week.

What makes him interesting as a character is that he readily admits that sex doesn’t appeal to him nearly as much as pornography. He describes pornography as a way to let go, to be free, to be complete. Regardless of your views on pornography, as a viewer it’s unsettling to watch Jon describe it. He uses pornography as an alternative to real human connection, and it’s sad to watch.

That juxtaposition alone would have made for an interesting movie, but in walks Scarlett Johansson as Barbara Sugarman. She plays up the part of a blonde bombshell, the epitome of sexy, and she and Jon start to date.

I don’t want to give away too much, but Barbara adds some really interesting things to the movie, especially in relation to romance movies. She loves romantic films almost as much as much as Jon loves his porn, and the movies have a twisted impact on the way she thinks a “real man” should act in a relationship. Movies portray a “real man” as one who will sacrifice everything and do anything for his woman. As unhealthy as Jon’s porn addition is, Barbara’s romanticized perception of a man comes across just as bad.

The movie gave me tons to think about, particularly in terms of how I connect with women. I’m single, and I’ve been single for a while. Looking back at the last few women I’ve dated, I feel like I wasn’t completely there. I was with them, going on dates, cooking, kissing, etc, but was I really there? Or was my mind wandering off to games and Kickstarter and my book and my grocery list and even other women? What’s keeping me from being present?

Anyway, that’s for me to figure out, but in the meantime, I just want to recommend Don Jon to you. I know it’s a bit of a risk to watch, given the content, but I think there’s a lot of interesting ideas there.

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3 Responses to “Movies That Make Me Think: Don Jon”

  1. Leandra says:

    Ugh. I’m on the other side of the fence with this one. Jeff and I rented this a couple weeks ago based on reviews I had heard about it, and that it portrayed how unhealthy pornography is to the health of your relationships, but we were sadly mistaken and extremely disappointed, not to mention morally sick. Being on the more conservative side of Catholics, I really wish we hadn’t exposed ourselves to those images. I know you point out the fact that clearly that’s what the movies about so it’s going to have some images in it, however the amount of images/actual porn video you watch is ridiculous. You can’t unsee some things and those images are hard to forget. I wish someone would’ve said just how graphic it really was and we never would’ve picked it up in the first place. The underlying (positive?) message of the movie was not enough of a reason to expose our souls to such degrading images, and for those of you who are more on the conservative side, I highly don’t recommend this movie. Sorry Jamey.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Leandra: That’s fair. I think the movie could have been just as effective without showing those quick clips (I don’t think any clip lasts longer than a second–they’re really rapid-fire clips).

  2. […] Don Jon: This movie made me think more than any other film this year. In fact, I wrote a whole blog entry about it. Even though I think the pornography could have been completely removed from the film, […]

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