3 thoughts on “Film “Don Jon”: Love, Porn and Patriarchy

  • October 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful review, Linda. I appreciate your perspective and I can only hope that a small percentage of the people who see the film will be able to see past the surface content to the deeper issues you observe here. I was on the fence about seeing Don Jon, but your review has inspired me to hop over to the “go watch it” side. The negative effects of pornography on intimacy and relationships is an emerging issue in the public consciousness that deserves much more attention and public discourse.

  • October 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Great review of a great film!

    Elsewhere at this website, Rob Weiss is less enthusiastic about it. I wrote the following comment to his blog, which I think is worth copying and pasting here, with some minor changes and amplifications:.

    When it comes to interpretation of the film Don Jon, understanding of the Fundamental Attribution Error is crucial. The wonderful Ph.D. social psychologist Lee Ross created this theory in the late 1970s to counter what he saw as a disturbing trend in psychological thinking. Ross came to believe that too much individual human action was ascribed to psychological roots, instead of to their social context. The reductionist example is when we see a person fall for no apparent reason, we ascribe the fall to their clumsiness (depression, addiction, whatever psychological disorder we want) than to the fact that there was a crack in the sidewalk.

    As with social psychology, so with Don Jon. Many may ascribes Don Jon’s predeliction for porn to psychological factors like low self-esteem, childhood trauma, and intimacy disorder, and an attachment deficit problem. Filmmaker Joseph Gordon-Levitt sees it differently. He points out the social context of what’s going around Don Jon, such as the myriad tolerated addictions (to texting, to romance films, to Catholicism, to alcohol) and the overload of sexualized imagery in Don Jon’s world (which is our world). Even Barbara’s emasculization of Jon in the hilarious Swiffer scene, where she essentially forbids him to be with her if he’s going to — gasp! — want to clean his own apartment is tolerated.

    Then, Jon meets a still grieving widow in Julianne Moore. Moore’s Esther and Jon form a relationship. It’s not a love relationship. Esther and Jon will never get married. But it’s a relationship that is certainly standing on emotional as well as sexual grounds. They connect. The emotion is real and inventive and mutually satisfying. The sex is inventive and mutually satisfying. In fact, it’s fantastic on its own terms. With this relationship comes a sea change for Jon. He sees change is possible, much as the soldiers finally returning to America from Vietnam saw change was possible. Those soldiers gave up heroin, most of them without treatment. Jon gives up porn, without treatment. No 12-step, no treatment. Just a far better situation.

    Without a doubt, there is some small percentage of porn and sex addicts who need intensive treatment to confront their self-destructive behavior. For them, it’s psychology. But beware the Fundamental Attribution Error, as Don Jon so ably points out. Early in the film, Don Jon would have scored 20 or more on the SAST test, and Patrick Carnes would have mandated treatment and 12 step. But that’s not at all what he needed, as the film so ably points out.


    Again, great review!

  • October 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks Cynthia, you seem on the same page. I’ll have to read my friend Rob’s review! But I’m not anti treatment or anti 12-step. If you think about it what do they do in 12 step programs? They talk to you. They make themselves available to you 24/7. And they offer a different way to go from what you are doing. It’s all about relationship, whichever way you slice it. And for the record, it’s pretty much impossible to force even the most die hard sex addict into treatment let alone recovery even if you want to. It’s very much a self defined problem. Also it is hard to see when it’s the water you swim in. As a recovering addict myself I know.


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