Relationships & Sex on Screen: “Don Jon” (2013)

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Don Jon is a film that explores how everything from Internet porn to religious ritual can keep us unwittingly disconnected from genuine relationships.

Don Jon

Photo: Relativity Media

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the title character, with his father, played by Tony Danza.

Writer, director, and star of the film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt uses the topic of online porn addiction as one daily habit among many that may keep people comfortably disconnected with life and close relationships.

***Spoilers Ahead***

The film appears to be about addiction to Internet pornography, and how the main character depends on it (literally in one instance, when he discovers he is unable to masturbate without his laptop). This does not seem to be a problem in the beginning—perhaps it was not a problem at all. Don Jon knows what he values in life: “my body, by pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, and my porn.”

He has seemingly perfected each of these domains. His body fat is low, is apartment is immaculate, his car is pimped, his family still eats together on Sundays. His religious practice is treated like another notch on his GTL do-do list, giving him a dose of pride after every successful confession to his priest. He appears to have good relationships with his two best friends, yet they really only serve as company until he gets the next woman in bed as fast as Barney Stinson.

He has control. His life is clear. Each component of his life, from porn to exercise to religion, is perfect.

Until it isn’t.

Meeting a “10” in Barbara Sugarman (played by Scarlett Johanssen) will change him, but not because she brings him up to new heights. Looking a little deeper, she is his mirror-image, and what functions as “porn” in her life are princess parties, rom-coms, and making over her man. He goes along with it at first. Her porn is socially acceptable.

The relationship comes to a halt the second time she finds out about his prolific porn use (naturally, he lied about it the first time), and he is forced to come to terms with his own shame and self-absorption.

Check out the movie for more, including Julianne Moore in a sort of sex-surrogate role. She meets Don Jon on his level, and that is what helps him begin to change.

Adam Fisher, Ph.D.

is a postdoctoral fellow at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. He has a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from IU. Adam's professional interests include couple and sex therapy, religion, and gender.
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