Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Critique of Mass Media and Pornography in Our Culture

by Morals & Values, Sexuality and Chastity

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, actor in the well-known sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun and, more recently, Batman, has written and directed a feature film called Don John. Out Sept. 27 and starring Gordon-Levitt opposite Scarlett Johansson, turns a critical eye to the role of mass media and pornography in our culture.

Gordon-Levitt’s words in a recent interview struck me as refreshingly critical. The danger and tragedy of the objectivization of women (and men) is almost omnipresent in our culture; it is sweet to hear the clear note of truth amongst the fallacious uproar which is mainstream media.

From an apostolic viewpoint, I think it is fundamental that we provide examples of people who are first-hand witnesses to the virtual world created ex profit by the media skippers of our day and who are willing to criticize it. Evidently, I don’t agree with him placing his arguments against the objectivization of women underneath the feminist flag. Still, as with everything, seen and shared with a critical eye and word, I think it can be a useful apostolic aid.

Here are a few sections of an interview that Time did with Gordon-Levitt (full story here):

So you’re a cynic about love, since all those romantic clichés are totally taken apart…

I don’t think it’s cynical. I think it’s rather idealistic. If you’re comparing your lover to this checklist, that’s not romantic. That’s consumerism. What’s romantic is finding the nuances and the details that are unlike anybody else—I can talk to her in a way, or she does this thing that’s completely unique—that’s where the most sexy stuff comes from, I think. You’ll miss all those details and nuances if you’re too busy comparing your reality to these more two-dimensional fantasies that you see on screen.

Does the source of the fantasy, whether it’s a rom-com or pornography, does that matter?

What I’ve been saying is no. I think whether it’s rated X or approved for general viewing audiences, the message is the same: you’re taking a person—in our culture it’s usually a woman—and reducing her to a thing, to an object for your consumption. I think plenty of mainstream media is equally guilty of that as pornography. That’s why I wanted to put pornography at the center of this movie, to compare the rest of our media to pornography. I’ve been [getting questions] like, ‘So, a movie about pornography!’ ‘So, how much pornography do you watch?’ and that’s kind of really missing the point.

Did the idea start with the pornography angle?

The first germ of the story was probably me feeling like a bit of an object myself and thinking about how media contributes to that. When I was on TV when I was a teenager, they always wanted me to be in teen magazines. I really didn’t want to be in teen magazines but it’s a strong promotional tool for a television show. I remember even then making the argument to people who didn’t get it, or who were maybe even freaked out that this 14-year-old was comparing teen magazines to pornography, I remember making that comparison back then.

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