Thursday, February 06, 2014

A Wolf in the Hand is Worth Two in the Street

What's in your wallet?
On a large enough scale, the profane and the sublime eventually intersect and become indistinguishable. It's one of the countless indefinable, constantly shifting, and oftentimes unrecognizable lines from which the tangled web of both our cultures and our psyches are woven. Human perception is sort of a paradoxical endeavor in that it is dependent upon creating boundaries and making distinctions that are always arbitrary and subject to constant change. It's kind of weird to think about, but our understanding of the world and ourselves and every achievement and failure, every triumph and tragedy, every altruistic deed and act of pure debauchery, is dependent upon absolutely necessary yet completely meaningless distinctions.

Which is not to say that I embrace nihilism or believe that everything is meaningless. Well, actually, everything is meaningless. People, places, events, natural phenomenon, etc., are only meaningful insofar as they are attributed meaning by us. Humans are the meaning-making animal. We are a species of Prometheuses, bestowing that mystical fire of relative significance upon all that we see, and our gaze stretches far indeed.

Now I wish to follow the gaze of Martin Scorsese and his latest film The Wolf of Wall Street. This is, by far, his most postmodern work as it serves as a deconstruction of the subjectivity of morality. While there are hints throughout, the real key to the cipher was the final shot of the final scene. The movie focuses on the exploits of the real-life Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a Wall Street savant who made millions swindling people, often blue collar workers spending their life savings on the desperate hope that was peddled to them on the edge of a diabolically mesmerizing sales pitch. However, the final scene is a reversal as the camera turns its focus on the audience of a get-rich-quick seminar run by the only slightly hard-done-by Belfort. And as we look at their blank, eager faces, we see a twisted reflection of ourselves. At the same time we despise men like Belfort, we are also fascinated by them.