The controversy surrounding Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street seems to have already run its course. Following some very negative press, highlighted by Christina McDowell's letter to Misters Scorsese and DiCaprio, a defense mounted across the internet and things seem to have settled down. To recap, if you weren't paying attention, or if you blinked, The Wolf is based on the life of Jordan Belfort: broker, gazillionaire, drug addict, criminal, who made it to the top with hyper aggressive salesmanship in which lying was SOP, and the only thing deemed a no-no was taking no for an answer.
The apparently short-lived controversy stemmed from the belief by Ms. McDowell and others, that the movie glamorized Belfort and his associates. Ms. McDowell potently describes her personal experience with this story; how her father, a Belfort associate, ruined many lives, and very nearly ruined hers. The defense is that the movie does not in fact glamorize the Belfort world. The excess is pornographic, the perversion, on both the sexual and basic human level, is, well... see the movie if you want. With a director like Scorsese, there is a lot of energy, and with an actor like DiCaprio there is obvious sex appeal. But this is a guy who we see getting sodomized by a dominatrix, who we see crawling down stairs when unable to walk, and who we see very nearly kill his own daughter in a drug-addled haze. There is some obvious glamour in extreme wealth and I think it is important that this movie shows it, but I find it hard to argue that it glamorizes anything,
As an artistic piece, I think it is too long and gets redundant, but that's up to you. As a social artifact, I think it is doing exactly what it should; telling an important story with a point of view, which then allows us to consider and argue the merits of the subject.
If I were going to devote some time to getting indignant about the message of a current major motion picture, it would not be focused on The Wolf. It would be focused on the movie that AdWeek said is changing the way movies are marketed. For if Jordan Belfort was guilty of taking mediocre stock issues and ramming them down our unsuspecting throats until we cave, what, dear God, is Paramount doing with Ron Burgundy and Anchorman 2?
The fact that the Will Ferrell character has turned our local television channels into 24/7 home shopping networks devoted to selling the Dodge Durango is mildly annoying but not groundbreaking. The fact that he, along with his news team, have appeared on pretty much every single talk show in the first, second, and third world, simply makes me turn off those talk shows that much faster. And the fact that Paramount and Tumblr appear to have conspired to make sure not a mouse click goes by without finding some reference to the movie, may indeed just be modern marketing at its most aggressive. But are we crossing lines when websites like MSN, Yahoo, and yes, The Huffington Post, feature advertisements for the movie prominently on their homepages? Or when the Newseum in Washington features a large, well-publicized Anchorman exhibit? And what to make of CNN, whose news personalities filmed spots in which they spoke about the fictional newsman Ron Burgundy?
Maybe it's just all good clean fun. Just 21st century marketing. Just another example of what passes for news these days and what passes for entertainment. I imagine if I liked the movie better I'd be chuckling right along with everyone at Ron Burgundy riding a tandem bike with Daft Punk. To me, the movie consisted of an excellent premise and some very funny moments (mostly featuring Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig), along with a lot of very flat jokes, an unfathomable and boring third quarter about Ron's blindness and a shark, and a climax which unapologetically ripped off the first movie in a longer and less fresh way. It's not a bad movie. It's just that there are a lot of better ones out there.
Jordan Belfort couldn't make a crappy stock have value. He could just keep talking until you believed him. Paramount is still talking and nobody seems to mind. After all, it's not a crime. I just kind of wish they'd all shut up already.