I wanted to take students in the Introduction the Women’s and Gender Studies class I am team-teaching at Wake Forest to see Don Jon, but the film has already left Winston-Salem. (It’s still in Greensboro and other cities this week, so dash out to see it if you have not already.)
Virtually everything in the film touches some topic we have discussed in class: the patriarchy, how the family and various religious traditions can reinforce the patriarchy, gender roles, how porn and pop culture reinforce (and occasionally challenge) gender roles, the social construction of masculinity and femininity, how the social construction of gender is typically binary and limiting or even damaging to the psyche of both men and women, and so on.
As I wrote in an email to students enrolled in the WGS course over the weekend:
[Don Jon] certainly fits in with our class discussion on pornography and, in some ways, I think makes a more effective statement about porn than most documentaries do because of the nuance of the third act of the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and stars in the film and makes an important statement about the dehumanizing and individualistic influences of porn. I think this is a particularly powerful film because the “argument” is embedded into the narrative and comes from the unified creative perspective of a man (a smart, funny, talented, and sensitive man).
Although the character he plays certainly doesn’t start out as sensitive. The cast – Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, and Glenne Headley in major roles – is perfect.
The film is remarkably bold and ultimately nuanced, yet it coheres nicely. Don Jon’s union of form and content with vividly competing emotional tones over the course of the film draws a striking contrast that reveals in a compelling way what a steady diet of porn (and, in what turns out to be an equal opportunity indictment, schlocky romantic comedies) does to reorganize our thinking (and actions) in damaging ways.
It’s uncharacteristic for me to want to take time to see most films a second time. I can’t stop thinking about Don Jon, however, and am itching to see it again. There should be much more buzz about this movie than there is so far. It’s very good. I think it’s also an important film.
Go see it while you can still find it!