It's commonplace for teenagers to ponder what their romantic future may hold. Ideally, I'll fall in love, marry, and have two beautiful babies with a guy with Chris Pine's eyes, Josh Hutcherson's jaw, James Franco's intellect and the combined charismatic personas of each One Direction member. Realistically, I'll be eating whole frozen pizzas, alone, while watching Friends reruns until the sun explodes.
"I want to marry a Wall Street-type guy," A friend said one night as we verbalized our predicated love forecasts. "Clean-cut, always wears a suit, you know?"
Wow. That actually seemed like the perfect career for my celeb-conglomerate husband-to-be. We could live in New York. I would be working for some trendy publication, and he would be doing whatever "Wall Street-type" guys do. It would be totally perfect, and we would be totally happy and I would achieve that certain je ne sais quoi that all young people aspire towards.
This thought process all occurred prior to viewing The Wolf of Wall Street.
Filled with depravity, debauchery and an impressive use of profanity, the movie (by some miracle of the MPAA gods) earns its R-rating, and certainly isn't fun for the whole family. Dripping in glamour and oozing in scumbag charm, there's never a dull moment. While not all moviegoers are enjoying the wild extravaganza that has been brought unto us by filmmaster Martin Scorsese, it's an important movie for teens on the cusp of adulthood to absorb.
It's no secret that the entertainment industry romanticizes all aspects of life from a variety of angles. We're expected to believe that the happy couple will always make it, and the team will always win the big championship title and whatever else Gossip Girl and He's Just Not That Into You will shove down our throats in order to make us believe that everything is going to work out for us. Wolf is glamorous, and although it seems outrageous, it's hard to believe that it really deviates so far from the truth.
Jordan Belfort, a real life Wall Street creep, conned a countless number of people into investing in practically non-existent companies, consumed enough drugs to sedate the entirety of America, cheated on his wife, and despite his plethora of illegal activities, served the absolute minimum amount of jail time necessary. Worst person of the 21st century, right?
Apparently not. Post-prison, Belfort became a motivational speaker (like, what?!), has yet to pay off his government financial dues, and has the King of Blue-Eyed Beauty, Leonardo DiCaprio, playing him in a Martin Scorsese-directed movie that's garnering both critical acclaim and awards buzz. Is he winning?
While every bit of Wolf is entertaining, jaw-dropping, hilarious and cringe-worthy, the idea of marrying Leo himself (despite the fact that he smokes e-cigarettes -- please don't harm your sweet, air-breathing lungs with those toxins, you real life Disney prince!) is a lot more appetizing than the thought of being within 10 feet of a Wall Street stockbroker. In fact, the film calls into question why we idolize and make a spectacle out of corrupt figures. Yes, they wear nice suits, and they look important, but they're gross, so why do we aspire to be like them?
I can't say that this movie didn't make stockbrokers look cool. It did. They do dress well, and they do make lots of money, and they have this sixth sense of persuasion that makes you wonder if you're sharp enough to tackle their job. The people in this movie did face repercussions, but they still became rich, and Jordan Belfort played TENNIS in PRISON in SWEATPANTS. It looked more fun and relaxing than school.
But cocaine and quaaludes don't look fun at all. The image of my sweet Disney prince popping pills will forever be seared into my memory. Not to mention the drooling, sweating and five-minute crawling sequence courtesy of a particularly comical amount of illegal substances. Watching Belfort physically endanger his wife and child was disturbing, and the most blatant example of greed destroying an individual.
Why is any of this even relevant to teens? Because Belfort isn't always disgustingly heralded as a god-like hero of Wall Street. In the beginning of his career, he is considered "lower than pond scum." At the tender age of 22, he's made to believe that an immoral code is attached to being successful, and when you're young, you want to make a name for yourself. Is it really so unusual that a young Belfort fell for the mysticism of Wall Street?
Being young and impressionable sucks. We see an advertisement for Proactiv and we want to buy it, not because of the customer testimonials, but because Justin Bieber flashes his thousand-dollar smile and convinces us it'll make our skin clear enough to be as hot as him. We find out our English teacher's opinion on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest so we can write an essay agreeing with their outlook, compromising our own beliefs in exchange for a higher grade. We lose a lot of our own personal idiosyncrasies in order to get into the college of our dreams, snag the job of our dreams, move to the city of our dreams or marry the person of our dreams. Belfort was seemingly innocent for a moment in time. Aren't we all?
Wolf teaches us to be better. It shows us what not to do, in a three-hour long cautionary tale of money and madness. For 10 minutes, Jordan Belfort is a young man, wanting nothing more than to be successful, a feat he will conquer by any means necessary, which is something we've all done at one point or another. It's okay to aspire towards greatness, but is it really worth losing yourself?
As great as these stockbrokers look in Tom Ford and Armani, I'll stick to eating DiGiorno and crying over Ross offering to take Rachel to prom. Maybe I'll even pop in the Titanic DVD and try to remember a time when DiCaprio characters had floppy hair and viewed women as beautiful works of art, rather than sexual conquests. At least, until my perfect husband comes along.