Wolves, Wall Street, and Society’s Moral Compass

The Wolf of Wall Street burst onto our screens recently, bold and brash and colourful; an affirmation of our love of big films with big budgets and even bigger characters. But it is the film’s characters that have caused quite a stir amongst movie critics and casual viewers alike. Based on a true story, the film documents the exploits of Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a pump-and-dump stockbroker who has more addictions than the Jolie-Pitts have adopted kids.

While the film has enjoyed mass success and gained a cult following, it has also been slated for glamorising Belfort and Co.’s lifestyle of sex, drugs and ruthless ambition. The implications of this are that as soon as one sees Scorsese’s three hour Iliad of vice, you may succumb to this lifestyle of gilded corruption. After all, Jordan Belfort is just one of the countless few who have climbed their way to the top at any cost.

The debate around this film poses the question: is morality innate, or do we develop a sense of morality through culture and education? Belfort’s character is so extreme that anyone could recognise the sheer immorality of his actions. This is a morality tale, but from a new perspective; by presenting an audience with a corrupt antihero, it is in our own hands as to how we react to his iniquity.

The real Jordan Belfort claims that the flick is a “cautionary tale”, and that his demise towards the end of the film will prohibit people from following in his Gucci-clad footsteps. This is without forgetting that he got off lightly – only serving 22 months of his four-year sentence, and is still enjoying a life of comfort and fame.

It appears that they always land on their feet.

But, such is the human condition – there will always be people who are willing to compromise their morality in order to live fast and get rich. Could you sleep at night, knowing that you had pocketed $200 million from unknowing investors? If so, well, then you certainly are a wolf in sheep’s clothing!

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