Forget Porn Addiction, Let’s Talk About Connection: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Don Jon”

I saw a movie tonight that I thought might be interesting because it is written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (the youngest from the 90s sit com Third Rock From the Sun about a “gaggle”? of aliens landed on Earth), whose work I have admired since that wacky sit com was on the air. But this is neither a discussion of Gordon-Levitt nor a movie review. What I want to address is what I think this movie is capable of doing. I think that the potentiality of “Don Jon” to provoke heart felt and interesting conversation between, (primarily straight mainstream younger), couples is quite profound.

If you don’t know the story, it’s “basically” about a good young man who loves his body, car, family, women and porn. It’s a film style Bildungsroman located in contemporary New Jersey. Now, Jon may be challenged around authentically connecting with others, but he is also little different than the others around him in his disconnect – except maybe he watches more porn. His girlfriend, Barbara, albeit gorgeous and perfect, has rather one sided ways of seeing her potential love mate. It is Esther, played by Julianne Moore who really brings in what it’s like to be fully living in the present, because, due to recent misfortune, she does not have much else left. Consequently, she also shakes up Don Jon.

Most critiques land on the the discussion about porn addiction, (whether it’s “worthwhile” and I’m sure some sex pos people will say it’s not pos, but I disagree). But this is not a simple story about porn addiction as many will suggest, rather, it is a story about how social media can influence views that are not realistic. In Gordon-Levitt’s own words, “I think that there’s not a substantial difference between a lot of main-stream culture and pornography. They’re equally simplistic, reductionist.” Barbara, for example, is just as driven by her romantic comedy genre, (that is also much more widely socially accepted btw), and finds porn “disgusting.” Further, the larger discussion around porn addiction is actually a very controversial subject, look up what sexologist’s are arguing around re: compulsion vs addiction (this article defines more than argues). He seems to be trying to convey how the media influences people and their choices implicitly and explicitly – period (see NPR Review). Another criticism is that “hot” stars like Johannson and him can hardly convey said message, but it’s Julianne Moore’s character Esther, whose ever present flawed and beautiful self busts open some myths to allow Don Jon to start to see things a little differently. Yes, she too is a beautiful Hollywood star, but like Gordon-Levitt and Johansson, Moore has consistently chosen provocative and intelligent characters and these characters come out pretty damn “real” to me – even in two-dimensional phases.

Why am I going on about this movie? Because as a sex educator and a long term advocate for honest, communication, connected sex, and a pro porn and romantic comedy watcher, I think this film can bring about a dialogue amongst academics, activists, couples, lovers, colleagues and friends. In short, I think it is rather revolutionary. I look forward to having more dialogue about porn addiction, romantic comedies, communication, and connected sex. Love to hear your thoughts…

2 replies
  1. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Having known of Joesph from third rock, I saw the metamorphized version of his adult self in a film called 50/50. His character had a rare form of cancer. Seth Rogan, always the comic foil, got to demonstrate some range within that typeset, and has an uncanny and frankly untapped skill as an actor. Being good at goofball is an occupational hazard for him. Regardless, I will now watch anything where Gordon-Levitt is involved artisicially.

    For me, sex addiction turned out to be an affection addiction. Sex is a source of bliss and can be used effectively to either treat symptoms, or as I found out by accident (with the help of some extraordinary dommes – no, extraordinary women) to heal the underlying cause. As an added bonus, they collectively tossed my salvaged spirit out onto the road towards enlightment. Who knew? Certainly not me.

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