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Watch This: Addiction to Pornography & Romantic Comedies in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Trailer for Don Jon

Posted on the 23 May 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who for years was mostly known as the long-haired Tommy Solomon from 3rd Rock from the Sun, has written, directed, and produced the upcoming film Don Jon.  It is not due to be released until October 18th, but since everyone else is putting up trailers right now (see: Wolverine, Man of Steel) they figured what the heck and threw up the first Don Jon trailer on the internet today.  Check it out:

This is Gordon-Levitt’s screenwriting and directorial debut, and he was able to coral a fantastic cast consisting of Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Brie Larson, and Glenne Heady.  He even offered Angels in the Outfield co-star Tony Danza a Quinten Tarantino-style shot at career revival by casting him to play his father in the film.  Plus, Anne Hatheway and Channing Tatum stop by in cameos as the stars of a particularly egregious romantic comedy.


Gordon-Levitt and Hathaway from a hitRECord.org event, a DIY website Gordon-Levitt operates in addition to his acting career.

However, those who did not follow the steady stream of reviews of the film to have come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival might be surprised to discover what the film is actually about.  That’s right – at long last, somebody has finally used film to take on the topic of internet porn addiction.  Well, sure there is already a movie more bluntly titled Confessions of a Porn Addict (2008), but I like to think it doesn’t count because, well, it doesn’t fit my argument.

The numbers about internet porn are these (according to techaddiction.ca):

  • Worldwide profit = $4.9 billion; U.S. profit = $2.84 billion
  • 12% of all websites are reportedly pornographic in nature
  • 25% of all search engine terms are pornography related
  • 8% of all e-mails are pornographic
  • 40% of “sex addicts” lose their spouses, 58 percent suffer considerable financial losses, and about a third lose their jobs
  • 56% of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites

“Want to watch some internet porn together?” is probably not the best opening line.

Here’s the thing, though – Gordon-Levitt has repeatedly stated that Don Jon - even though it was originally called Don Jon’s Addiction – is not about addiction to internet pornography, per se.   His argument is about how we allow our cultural ideals to be formed by our sources of entertainment, specifically film and television.  He views romantic comedies as presenting the potential for just as corruptive a influence on the female view of romantic relationships as pornography on the male view of sex.  Talking to Yahoo! Movies in January, Levitt argued:

“Hollywood romantic comedies and porn are largely about meeting expectations. There are certain clichés, you always see them. Jon details his checklist of what he wants out of a porn video. And then he later details the checklist of what you see in every romantic comedy. And it’s the same thing, the love at first sight, the first kiss, the breakup, the make-up, the expensive wedding, and they ride off into the sun. These are all these things that you expect. You start looking for that in relationships. You start trying to experience those things, but those things aren’t real. Those things are sort of forced and overly simplistic. Real life is much more complicated than that, and much more unique than that, and actually much more beautiful than that if you can appreciate it for its unique beauty in every moment.”

This is something which feels more true than it actually may be, as psychologists and counselors have disagreed for years over the impact of film upon behavior, in this specific case romantic comedies upon ideals and expressions (as highlighted by TIME in 2008).  However, it would seem inarguable that the stories we entertain ourselves with help form our cultural ideals, and the failure for spouses to simply intuit exactly what you need and want in the manner film spouses display can be a consistent source of disappointment.

Friends With Benefits Movie

Don Jon is not the only recent movie to offer a meta-commentary on romantic comedies, or even feature a film within-a-film which was a parody of romantic comedies.

This is all pretty heady stuff, though.  After all, the film is a comedy, right?  How does it look?  Not bad.  The button of the trailer, featuring Don Jon singing along with an embarrassing song only to stop when he is noticed and pick back up when his observers depart, certainly speaks to an embarrassing reality with which I may or may not over identity.  However, the reviews for the film out of Sundance were relatively mixed, and I got the sense that the ideas presented by the film might be more interesting than actually entertaining.  Those of us non-film festival going many will find out for ourselves October 18.

What do you think?  Is this kind of an odd choice for Gordon-Levitt coming off of Looper, The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, and Lincoln last year?  Will this be one of Johansson’s good performances?  Will we be able to adjust to Gordon-Levitt’s Jersey Shore-esque accent?  Will Julianne Moore forever be approached to star in films involving dirty movies?  Which 2013 porn movie is going to be better – Amanda Seyfried’s Linda Lovelace biopic Lovelace or Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon (neither of which received particularly strong reviews at film festivals)?  If you have thoughts on this or any other factor, let us know in the comments.

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