Everyone wants to be the Wolf.
The Wolf of Wall Street is an interesting animal. It walks, growls and breathes like any other Scorsese-movie, but I’ve never experienced him creating such a powerful bite before. Here he takes a direct stab at Western culture. Not only does he expose the obscenely wealthy in a quite unflattering manner, to put it mildly, but he also gives a stab at the common man’s reluctance to give a shit about these people’s behaviour.
“Being rich doesn’t only buy you a better life, better cars, better house, better pussy. It also makes you a better person.”
When I watched it I honestly felt that it was a little bit too much, but I ended up revisiting it only two days later. There was something about it that really got to me, and eventually I found out what:
Everyone wants to be Jordan Belfort.
Jordan Belfort and his merry little band of stockbrokers are people who can get away with anything. No matter what they do, no matter how bad they fuck up, they never have to face any serious consequences. Jordan drives on drugs? Doesn’t matter, he evades punishment. Jordan makes his captain sail out into a storm? Of course he’s rescued immediately. Jordan tricks a ton of workers into handing over their personal savings? Doesn’t matter, no one really bother digging into it. And of course, eventually the law does catch up to him and he’s sent to jail for three years. But as he so brilliantly put it himself:
“There’s one thing I forgot: I’m rich.”
In the end he was just sentenced for three years of tennis before going back to just being rich.
He’s living the dream, right?
He even has the “perfect wife”.
Well, obviously, Jordan Belfort is a horrible person. I’m not going to elaborate on this point. It’s in the movie. The thing is that he gets to do whatever he wants, and thus he’s someone that most people really want to be.
But to be him would actually be kind of awful.
“Let me tell you something. There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man, and I’ve been a rich man. And I choose rich every fucking time.”
Yes, he doesn’t have to give a shit about anyone or anything but himself, but in doing that he is actually not giving a shit about anyone or anything but himself. There is so much in just caring about others that he’s missing out on. He has a horrible personal life. He’s a drug addict. His lifestyle is extremely stressful. And in the end, his life is just completely hollow.
It’s not like he can be who he is while also being a caring, gentle human being. Caring, gentle human beings don’t go out of their way to scam people in order to enrich themselves. Good people become firefighters or FBI-agents or stuff like that, and we send them on the subway. Meanwhile, Belfort is living a cold, insensitive and narcissistic life, and we reward him for it.
And no, being kind and gentle isn’t about being good to others. It’s good to you. If anyone disagrees I will fight you on it, and I will be gentle.
Scorsese hammers one point down throughout the entire film, which is that no matter what kinds of insane, fucked up things these people do, they always get away with it. They get away with it because they’re rich, which incidentally is why they’re able to do most of those things in the first place. Some kinds of evil in our society just aren’t being punished.
“I’m telling you to solve your problems by becoming rich!”
And then the film ends with an incredibly telling shot.
The final shot is a picture of dozens of hopeful faces. They’re all attending one of Belfort’s “get rich quick”-seminars. These are all normal people, and they’re sitting there because they want to be Jordan Belfort. They want to be the Wolf. After having seen the three hours of Belfort’s life prior to this, I almost wanted to shout at them: “Do you really want to be that guy?!” But yes, they do. And that’s why they’re willing to forget all the bad things he’s done in the past: they want to be him.
And, I don’t know.
“Some guy I know, he said he just wants to make furniture.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I don’t want to put any words in your mouth or anything, but you just said that everyone wants to get rich, right?”
At least there’s hope for humanity.
NOTE: All quotes are from memory, so they might be kind of off. Please correct me if anyone spots an error in them.