I watched The Wolf of Wall Street (uncensored version) last weekend. Everyone was going on about it because it’s directed by Martin Scorcese, but I think Leonardo Di Caprio should get major props for carrying it off. The man can act, and doesn’t let his beautiful face get in the way. Though I suspect his beautiful face did help me get through the movie.
From the outset, I had to suspend my feminist sensibility or my eyes might just have rolled into the back of my head and prevented me from seeing ever again. The film is basically a frat boy’s wet dream. Before I watched the film, I heard people talking about the high jinx portrayed in a tone that was reaching for disapproval but was tinged with admiration.
The other reaction people seemed to be awaiting was shock. But I was not shocked. The money business is essentially a venal one, so why would the aspirations of those in the business not be towards other venal things?
Also, I’ve interacted with investment bankers. I don’t believe that they’re all flinging dwarves for entertainment but I do believe a number of them (not all) are running on coke and that the use of escort services was a perk some enjoyed until the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought the party to an end. I think some of the worst sexism has been bled out of banking industry at least, but I can’t say the same for the hedge funds and other investment firms. So yeah, not shocked. Though it was interesting to watch how heady those heady days were. And what the dreams of men are made of.
Because these are not women’s dreams. Jordan Belfort’s firm had just a few women, and they strove to be as male as possible, under their twinsets and pearls, which I suppose was the only way they could survive. However, I doubt most women would have chosen the kind of entertainment Belfort provided had they had an array of options available.
For me, the most telling moment was when Belfort tried to bribe an FBI officer. He could not comprehend someone who could not be bought. And this is a the difference between us and them. For some of us, money isn’t everything, some things cannot be bought.
I won’t say I’m indifferent to money. But I actually think I have enough money. If you tried to offer me even a lot of money to break the law, I wouldn’t do it. I might break the law for other reasons but not money. I don’t condemn people who are desperate who break the law. I have no tolerance for people who are obsessed with more more more. Unfortunately, the latter breed is more common.
Then I read Walter Percy’s The Moviegoer. The protagonist is a stock broker but he’s also on what he calls The Search, which is what it sounds like – the search for meaning. He says something interesting about money: ““Beauty is a whore. I like money better”
Money is a good counterpoise to Beauty. Beauty, the quest of beauty alone, is a whoredom. Ten years ago I pursued beauty and gave no thought to money. I listened to the lovely tunes of Mahler and felt a sickness in my very soul. Now I pursue money and on the whole feel better.
Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me then. I tattooed beauty on my back instead of money.