John Byon | Un-muzzling the Wolf
Real Talk | Admiring the Wolf of Wall Street isn't necessarily a moral failing
January 15, 2014, 5:45 pm · Updated January 15, 2014, 9:58 pm·
“The Wolf of Wall Street could make a blind man see.” One of my high school teammates recently tweeted this message, and judging by the number of favorites the tweet got, many men share the sentiment.
Even for those who do not fully believe in magical healing powers, it would be outrageous to say that they do not feel at least some degree of admiration for the unbelievable lifestyle of the Wolf.
I, for one, turned to my friend several times while watching the movie and told him that I am going to be just like Dicaprio’s character when I grow up. Beautiful women, inane quantities of money, endless surges of endorphins and perhaps some Icona Pop blaring in the background — what more could a guy want?
I can already hear the vicious, self-righteous criticism coming at me in vast telepathic waves. How could a Penn student, who should be educated, intelligent, and socially-aware, express such backwards, immoral thoughts? Surely this columnist is avaricious, misogynistic and above all, a prick.
My respectful response to the critics: Get off your high horses, please. I am none of the above. As much as I disapprove of people who are actually like that, I really do not appreciate hypocrites who delude themselves into believing they do not have the occasional moral blip in their thoughts. Self-awareness and honesty are the first steps to being a good person, and most people are not angels whose every thought is a mix of liquid gold and virtue, including you critics. Such thoughts merely reveal our imaginations, whereas actual actions reveal our true characters.
When men, especially those with great ambition and other alpha tendencies, see figures in pop culture like the Wolf, they feel a twinge of envy. This is okay. A real life example is the Instagram following of Dan Bilzerian, who has of late garnered much publicity for his apparent daredevil lifestyle of drugs, women and poker. Last week, I sat in my buddy’s basement, and we looked through Bilzerian’s pictures for over half an hour. Indeed, we admired the snapshots of his life, but we also recognized the absolute lunacy of it.
Yes, there are people whose moral blips in their heads become actions. But in reality, the proportion that actually desires and pursues such lifestyles is minuscule. Those who do are either inherently evil or, more commonly, corrupted by extreme ambition and money. On a moral compass ranging from the Dalai Lama to Stephen A. Cohen (insider trading whiz and fellow Wharton alum, god bless), I believe that most of us draw ethical lines where our decisions can negatively impact other people, especially our loved ones.
Perhaps I am being naive and giving people too much credit, but I think most men agree with me. As much as I would love to manage a $15 billion hedge fund like Cohen, I would not enjoy a criminal investigation that results in billions of dollars in reparations. Similarly, the Wolf predictably loses his family and serves time in jail. Bilzerian had had three heart attacks by the ripe young age of 30. Props to him for surviving, though.
The point is, we should not have to take ourselves so seriously and constantly have to think like Jesus. I understand people like the Wolf should not be idolized because it could encourage bad behavior, but there is no harm in admiring them for the entertainment value.
Actions define us more than anything. If someone has cowardly thoughts but acts courageously, then that person is courageous. If someone fantasizes a little about living like the Most Interesting Man in the World but acts like the mostly good human being that he or she is, then that person is a mostly good human being. It is unfair to judge a man based on factors that are much less meaningful.
As for all you self-righteous people, I apologize because this column itself is self-righteous. But I don’t care, I love it.
John Byon is a Wharton freshman from Ridgewood, N.J. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @johnnybyonny.com.