Posted on LinkedIn Influencers on September 27, 2013
Almost exactly one year ago I attended a board retreat for The Sundance Institute, and it was during this retreat that I asked the then Director of the Documentary Film Program, Cara Mertes, if she knew of any documentary films that dealt with the issue of internet pornography.
As a mother of a 16 year old son and a 13 year old daughter, I am concerned with the prevalence and availability of online pornography, especially considering that today, nearly every electronic device can access the Internet at any time in our quest to become ever connected.
Much has been written about the problems of an entire generation growing up with unfettered access to a brand of sexuality that is glamourized, objectified, and at its core, fake, but I wanted to know if the issue had ever been put onto film. While Mertes said she hadn’t heard of any such films, my fellow board member, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, piped up that he had just made a movie about that very subject.
Needless to say, I proceeded to talk his ear off about my feelings on the subject and how concerned I am as a mother and I promised to see the film when it was released. When I asked him “why this subject?” he said it was because he wanted to explore how we as human beings objectify one another. This man is deep, as well as extremely talented as an actor, entrepreneur, writer and director! I caught a tweet from him that his next project is a documentary about neuroscience.
Four months later, Don Jon’s Addiction premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and I made sure I was in the audience. The film marks Joe’s debut as a feature film writer and director, and tells the story of a New Jersey lothario, nicknamed Don Jon by his friends because of his penchant to bed a different woman every week, who finds these causal hook ups lacking when compared to the experience of watching online pornography.
The opening scene at Sundance was him masturbating in front of his computer and I thought “holy smokes should I head for the door?” I hung in there and I am glad I did. When Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and Esther (Julianne Moore), these women teach him two very different perspectives on love and relationships, and forces him to reevaluate his positions of romance and sex.
While the film is billed as a comedy, I was surprised at how many meaningful and profound things it had to say about navigating relationships in the digital age, and while the film does not preach, it does illuminate just how ingrained the attitudes of pornography can become, and how seriously it can impact the connection between men and women. It also had me laughing out loud!
Don Jon’s Addiction, now renamed as simply Don Jon, opens in theaters today, and it is my hope that this film can be a launching pad for a larger conversation about the dangers of online pornography. While it will not be known for years to come the full impact this modern phenomenon will have on an entire generation of young people ( and people in general) , it is clear that some are already recognizing the warning signs and are taking steps to address it. To me this is an interesting example of a feature narrative film that is in fact tackling a big social issue. Would I call it a social impact film? Not sure I would go that far.
Reddit hosts a support community called NoFap, and while a simple google search reveals dozens of online resources and recovery sites for those looking for help in dealing with a pornography addiction.
As a parent (and a human being), I worry that we are only beginning to understand the magnitude of the problem, and I applaud Joe for providing such an extremely intelligent, moving, funny, and genuine entry into the conversation. It could have been a little less hard core for me personally but in the end, it worked. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for Don Jon‘s success this weekend, but more importantly, I hope the film gets people talking about this pressing issue. I know it certainly got me thinking.
Jacki Zehner and Laura Moore