Movie analysis - "Wolf of Wall Street" (2013)
Movies are a great form of entertainment to which many people are accustomed to. They can even lead to some kind of addiction but keeping in mind that they are also very educative. The knowledge can be positive to the viewer and can also instill, to a certain level, some negative behavior/actions/thinking. That is, however, not important in this paper. The matter at hand is that movies can be analyzed from various perspectives and as for this case; the movie “Wolf of Wall Street,” the social psychological perspective will be applied. There are concepts/principles that will be employed in the analysis of the movie to determine and understand the actions and behaviors of the characters depicted in the scenes of this amazing, audience-captivating movie. This paper, therefore, seeks to display some of these concepts creatively, comprehensively and of course, from a social psychologist’s perspective.
It is imperative to note that the movie got much attention after its release and consequently, a lot of criticism. The language used, the sexuality displayed and the drug use portrayed contribute to the list of the factors that got the movie the attention that it has. It is because of the great criticism and scrutiny that was accorded to the movie that has led to this analysis in a specified perspective. The obscenity, indecency and profanity displayed in the movie have even led to its banning in some countries. Some of these will be discussed later in the advancement of this paper.
In the movie, there are a number of scenes that can be described using some of the concepts that are at play. These include the cognitive dissonance theory, the group thinking theory, the self-fulfilling prophecy and the deindividuation theory. First, there is a scene where Jordan takes Naomi, a girl she met at his party (where he intended to announce the taking of his company to another higher level) to dinner one night. He is so amazed by her beauty and elegance that he ignores the calling from his wife, Teresa, at that party. As the affair goes on, Jordan’s wife bursts him doing coke on Naomi’s breast in the limousine outside a hotel, just as they had come from their dinner. Teresa is agitated and pulls Jordan out of the car and smacks him severally on the face. His efforts to give an explanation prove to be futile. Teresa gets emotional and teary and asks Jordan if he is in love with the girl. Jordan goes silent and Teresa walks away. Jordan feels bad about hurting Teresa but just after three days, he files a divorce.
The best concept to describe the above summarized scene is Cognitive Dissonance. This concept/theory suggests that one experiences excessive mental stress and discomfort due to the fact that the person holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time. Despite holding a certain belief or value, that person still performs the contradictory action. It is due to the struggle of human beings to attain internal consistency that they experience inconsistency (dissonance). This is according to Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance.
Secondly, when Jordan is sent to thirty six months in federal prison, he experiences something new. Notably, Jordan was to be set free on the condition that he will expose all the other perpetrators but he did not fully comply, as he tried to save his friend and acquaintance, Donnie. Unluckily, evidence is found that he tried to help Donnie who was also arrested. FBI agent Kyle Chandler is glad that he managed to finally put away Jordan for the illegal money laundering that his company was involved in. As Jordan arrives in prison, he is seen playing Tennis and in his voice, he says that he was terrified to be there. He adds that, for a brief moment, he forgot that he was rich and that he then lived in a place where everything was for sale.
The above scene is best described using the deindividuation theory. The theory is elucidated as, the losing of self-awareness in groups, the loss of individuality and personal responsibility that may occur when one is involved with a group. Deindividuality cannot only cause a person to be a spendthrift and over generous, but also cause them to engage in mob violence. There are certain actions that one is expected to do as a member of a group such as gangs, religious groups, the military and police officers. Actions such as shaving in the military as a sign of uniformity indicate the group cohesiveness.
Yet again, Jordan is the main highlight in this concept. It is unarguable that he started from a humble beginning, without even a broker’s license, but he gradually climbed up the ladder professionally and socially, to become a millionaire. The moment things begin to go the other way, the group falls apart one by one. Brad was said to have died of a heart attack two years after serving three months in prison and Rugrat was arrested. When Jordan is convicted and says that, for a moment, he forgot that he was rich, the deindividuation concept is clearly depicted. It was while he was in his company, the Stratton Oakmont, and in the company of his inner circle friends that he lived lavishly, spending money aimlessly and doing drugs. While in prison in the company of no one he realized for once that he was not rich. The group cohesiveness faded to zero percent and self-awareness set in.
Deindividuation is also depicted when Donnie visits Jordan, who at that time was under house arrest. In their conversation, it comes out that Jordan is no longer doing drugs and alcohol. He sips from a bottle of beverage and when Donnie asks, he says that it is alcohol-free. Donnie also asks how it feels to be sober and Jordan says that it sucks. It is yet again clear that deindividuation was depicted, because, since the time Jordan was separated from his group of friends, he had stopped using drugs and alcohol.
Thirdly, the self-fulfilling prophecy is another concept displayed by one of the scenes. On his first day at work at Wall Street, he meets his smooth-talking, easygoing boss Mark Hanna. He also meets abrasive and foul-mouthed co-boss, Peter DeBlasio who treats him to lunch. During the lunch, Peter fills in Jordan on a number of things including doing drugs before and after work. Peter orders drinks and tells the waiter to continuously serve them after every five minutes until one of them passes out. Jordan is astonished but at the same time excited at the whole fun his boss is having. In the conversation, Peter gives two secret strategies useful in order to succeed as a stock broker. He advises Jordan to use cocaine, claiming that it kept the brain sharp and fingers moving faster.
As the lunch progressed, Peter takes a sniff of some of his cocaine using a small teaspoon and continues to hum and beat his chest to some rhythm which as seen later on, Jordan joined him in doing the same. The boss gives some more advice to Jordan. He dismisses that the well being of their clients is any of their concern. All they do is take money from their clients’ pockets and puts it in their pockets. To add on that, he mentions that if a client wants to go home rich, one should create a situation, another stock for the client to invest in so that they can get more of his money. In the lunch, Peter also mentions that no one knows the change that the stock market will undergo least of all, them. Peter says that it is all a fake and uses the term, “fugazy.”
The self-fulfilling prophecy is concerned with the prediction that causes it to become true directly or indirectly. This occurs due to the positive belief between belief and behavior. The theory goes further to explain that it is first a false definition of the situation causing a new behavior that makes the original false conception come to reality or happen. The theory in simpler terms means that a belief or delusion that is declared as the truth might actually influence its occurrence in the same way.
Jordan and Peter, during the lunch, are best described using the self-fulfilling theory. From all Peter’s advices, none of them was actually true. Jordan was, however, so excited about making money that he did not see the true sense of the path that he had just been led to. It can be seen later on in the movie that Jordan became a successful broker yes but was addicted to drugs, money and sex. All these were influenced by Peter during that single time they shared lunch. It is also seen that Jordan went to prison, after first being under house arrest. The self-fulfilling prophecy is totally exhibited by that scene.
In general, there are more than single or double scenes where the same theories apply. The above discussed were most evident in the movie. The social effects as analyzed through the concepts are also mentioned in the paper. Effects such as doing drugs, addiction to sex and adultery got the better of Jordan and his friends, the founders of Stratton Oakmont. They cared less about the social aspects of their lives. As long as they were rich and money was flowing in nothing else mattered. The involvement of the FBI in their company’s affairs helped them to realize that they were messing up their lives. All in all, “Wolf of Wall Street” has more to offer than just its entertainment. There are lessons learnt from the movie; lessons that are important values in the lives of the rich.
Wolf of Wall Street. The movie.