Joseph Gordon Levitt: Women should be treated ‘not just as sex images’

Joseph Gordon Levitt

Joseph Gordon Levitt is down to the wire promoting his baby, Don Jon. It’s his directing debut, and he also wrote and stars in the movie alongside Scarlett Johansson. Of course the subject of pr0n is coming up in nearly every interview that he does for this movie. He’s already talked about how pr0n is fine even though he’s “aware it can be hateful toward women.” In this discussion with Variety, JGL elaborates on his own personal beliefs and relates them to feminism. Joe says he’s definitely a feminist, and he thanks his mom (Jane Gordon) for guiding him in that direction. I’m including some stuff from the George Stroumboulopoulos show and tossing in a quote from Tony Danza (who plays Don Jon’s dad) too:

Joseph Gordon Levitt

More on Don Jon: “It’s a movie sort of about mainstream culture and I believe that saying ‘the medium is the message.’ So I feel like this movie has a different impact in the form of a mainstream movie at a multiplex than it would being presented as a more niche movie.”

It’s not the pr0n itself but the way you use it: “I don’t think any particular form [of media] is inherently good or bad. I think it depends on how you use it. There are movies that are beautiful, healthy, communicative works of art and there are movies that are less healthy sort of traps and you could say the same for any form whether it’s videos on the Internet or television shows or music videos or commercial. That’s really why I wanted to have pr0nography (in the movie) to compare our larger media to that. I think the comparison first of all is really funny, but effective. I hope it makes a point.”

Relationship advice for other Don Jons: “If you’re not present, if you’re not paying attention to the person right in front of you, but instead you’re comparing them to these expectations — then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Because the truth is, real life is so much more rich than any two dimensional image, but you’ll miss all that nuance if you’re busy comparing your life to these fantasies and wishing it was something and trying to get it to be that, rather than approaching with wonder for what it is.”

He’s a feminist: “My mom and dad are very much people who were active in the ’60s and ’70s in feminist movements as well as civil rights or anti-war movements, and I think they raised my brother and me to have some of those values and to think of women not just as sex images — even though lots of images in the media are constantly saying that.”

Tony Danza on a simpler time: “When I was a kid, if you wanted pornography, you either had to raid your uncle’s stash of Playboys, or go to the store and buy a magazine. You had to pick it up, walk up to the counter to a guy that probably knew you from the neighborhood, your neighbor lady walking by as you’re standing there — it’s a tremendous governor on behavior. Now it’s easily available to the youngest kids.”

[From Variety and George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight]

It sounds like Joe has his head on straight when it comes to reality vs. fantasy in relationships. Damn, he sounds more aware of human nature than most guys I’ve ever met. Sigh. I’d like to show him some “nuance.”

At least JGL is prepared for this press tour and hasn’t gone and said something dumb like pretty girls usually aren’t funny. Maybe he’s grown as a person since he said that crap. He must have rehearsed any and all possibilities for questions relating to pr0n. What he said about not treating women like sex images seems like common sense. Yet I think we’ve all met guys who have no idea how to separate real women from ones who appear in skin mags.

Joseph Gordon Levitt

Joseph Gordon Levitt

Photos courtesy of Relativity Media and WENN

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56 Responses to “Joseph Gordon Levitt: Women should be treated ‘not just as sex images’”

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  1. T.fanty says:

    Okay, firstly, while it’s nice to hear, I don’t think that someone recognizing that women are people should be applauded.

    Secondly; I keep seeing the trailer for this movie and it looks so very bad.

    • Mindy says:

      Apparently some women have walked out during screenings. Also, I have seen 2 reviews that suggest that the attempt to parody falls flat and the movie just comes off as sexist.

      He just rehearsed female friendly responses but his core is still rotten, I think.

      • aem says:

        Eh, every woman I know who’s seen it in advanced screenings has really liked it. Myself included.

      • Sonya says:

        aem–that may be the case for you. However, I have had quite a few close friends who went to the advance screenings and hated it. One who walked out before it was halfway over, because she felt the movie was that revolting.

        That’s my impression, too. I feel that the feminism-nods in the press tours are amounting to little more than candy-coating a real piece-of-shit film.

        Words are nice and all; substance is actually nicer.

      • Just me says:

        yes and some people thought he used too much the word”f*g*t”.

      • Etana says:

        It didnt feel like satire in my opinion. It felt like an opportunity to express his women issues and get away with it.

        Spoiler ahead:
        And I didnt understand the dynamic with Juliann Moore. Did he start to respect her because she was hot or because she was a person.

    • Aura says:

      I do think that it’s not JUST p0rn he’s parodying saying that it creates unrealistic expectations- but also romantic comedies

      • Etana says:

        I found that equivalency really messed up. Are romcoms really as harmful as porn? Do all women watch romcoms? Do all women not watch porn? These are fair questions since he keeps insisting that this film is some kind of social commentary.

    • carol says:

      I agree, it should not be applauded because it should be standard operating procedure

  2. Erinn says:

    I needed a JGL post today. Already a crummy start to my day and it’s only 8:30 here.

    I like what he said. He’s not coming to some revelation like “OH, wut? Women are people?” I think he’s just stating what his parents always enforced.

    • LadyMTL says:

      Dang, I hope your day gets better! :(

      As for JGL, I like what he said too. I don’t think he meant it to sound all revelatory or whatnot, I just think his mom raised him right.

    • The OriginalKitten says:

      Ha ha…ITA
      Seriously, the hatred directed towards this kid on these boards always throws me for a loop. He seems like such a benign, sweet guy. Not sure why people insist on vilifying the dude for every little innocuous statement he makes.

      • Erinn says:

        I don’t get it either OKitt. They see something nice and have to find the negative in it – even when they’re reaching.

      • Claudia says:

        Same here, kitten. I think he’s great; he’s very, very versatile as an actor, incredibly creative, and he seems like an all-around nice guy. But on every board, people will find something to dislike or hate about someone. This applies to just about every celebrity. I think the only people that are generally safe from all that are Blanchett, Streep, and Dench.

  3. Jules says:

    I am old enough to be his mother but he makes me weak in the knees. Sigh……

    • Brittney says:

      Thanks for saying “I’m old enough to be his mother” instead of “I could literally be his mother”!

      *side-eye at Bradley Cooper*

  4. Sixer says:

    I don’t know if it’s how people use pr0n so much as how awful most of it is. I’ve no problem with the concept of pr0n. I just think, in practice, it’s mostly dire stuff that depresses me rather than encourages me to get my foxy self out.

  5. Nya says:

    I can’t help but roll my eyes at men who say obvious crap like that. Not AT the men exactly, but the society that says when may say obvious crap about treating women fairly we should applaud them for it.

    • Erinn says:

      The title of this post was misleading. I didn’t see anything wrong with what he actually said in the interview. The title made it sound like some sort of dumb response, but in context it really wasn’t anything to complain about.

    • Gretchen says:

      I’d just like to see some dudes acknowledge that how they consume p0rn and what it does to their lives and relationships isn’t the only area where it is problematic.

      While I don’t see any inherent ‘bad’ in erotic imagery, the fact is that a lot of p0rn is produced unethically, it is pretty easy to find tonnes of testimony from former p0rn performers on how unsafe the workplace is, how degrading it can be, the use of coercion, STD cover-ups, the forging of birth certificates for underage performers, and how rampant drug and alcohol abuse is on set. Research has also shown that a disproportionate amount of women performers have been sexually abused in their past, which definitely deserves some critical analysis.

      It’s not just about men, how they use it and what it does to their thinking and real life expectations, it’s about the actual working conditions of the people, particularly women, performing in these films. And that is what JGL seems to consistently fail at acknowledging in these interviews.

  6. pretty says:

    His reddit AMA was good. He successfully won people over. And after that, he uploaded a Vine video thanking people.

    • Etana says:

      Reddit generally fawns over celebs though. Unless you come off as totally humorless (see Woody Harrelson) they will embrace you.

      But remember that doesnt mean they will watch your film or buy your book, music, game though. I’ve seen many great amas followed by low sales of whatever was on sale.

  7. NerdMomma says:

    I just clicked here to look at pictures of JGL because he’s hot. So…. I guess I just see him as a sex image. Should I not?

  8. Elodie says:

    Well thing is, to me with JGL, he is a good actor and most of the time seems like a cool guy, but I really can’t figure out whether to like his personality (at least what he shows publicly so far) like dude goes condescending/preachy and tells his fans on Twitter how you are not allowed to crush on Tom from 500 days of Summer (he told a fan on Twitter she’s ridiculous by liking Tom character), you shouldn’t make checklists (his Playboy interview), you should do this and not that, his experiences with drugs and how people who hate drugs are not open-minded enough because it helps you being creative etc., then saying pretty women are dumb or something like that and yet here now his parents were active in feminism etc. I mean overall he almost always uses this patronizing tone, and I’m on the fence with his public persona.

    • Oops says:

      I agree and I hate the poster : who print his/her face for a movie he/she directed, wrote and acted in and print all these superlatives, it’s pretentious.

    • jinni says:

      + 1. Thanks for putting into words my feeling on him. He has strong hints of Franco and Paltrow about him that are off putting, but seems to also not be as obviously annoying as those two, so people don’t attack him with the same amount of vitriol as the other two receive.

    • M says:

      Oops, didn’t mean to reply to this comment…

  9. SG says:

    More than sex images? That sounds like the absolute bare minimum and no one should recognized as a feminist for realizing as basic a life tenet as that.

  10. Kiddo says:

    I was always a big fan, but I’m starting to think we may reach over exposure and a saturation point with him and that would be a shame. The more he talks, the more I’m developing a case of the side eye.

  11. Feebee says:

    His answers in interviews for this movie sound rehearsed and sound-bitey.

    We should be treated not just as sex objects? So it’s still okay to treat us as sex objects but not just that, okay!

  12. Redheadwriter says:

    Love Tony Danza’s comment. As the mother of teen boy with perma-wood due to hormones, I’ve worked really hard on trying to limit/monitor his electronic exposure (puns intended) to pRon, as I have younger kiddos around too. The access is crazy! While I love the instant ability to information, for raising kids and the availability to connect anywhere, any time, it’s tough. I sometime long for those simpler, “governed” days of magazines.

  13. themummy says:

    Johansson’s shoes are a tacky, ugly nightmare.

  14. Yelly says:

    I’ll be his sex object, until it hurts. The things I would do with him.

  15. Barhey says:

    I’m just gonna go ahead and throw it out there: I think I’m the one person who finds him extremely unattractive.

  16. M says:

    “I don’t think any particular form [of media] is inherently good or bad. I think it depends on how you use it. There are movies that are beautiful, healthy, communicative works of art and there are movies that are less healthy sort of traps and you could say the same for any form whether it’s videos on the Internet or television shows or music videos or commercial. That’s really why I wanted to have pr0nography (in the movie) to compare our larger media to that. I think the comparison first of all is really funny, but effective. I hope it makes a point.”

    C’mon, JGL. Still going WAY too easy on p0rn here and missing the point. P0rn and rom-coms aren’t nearly on the same of level of terrible. (The genre that rom-coms should be compared to is action films.)

    First of all, p0rn is not a “media.” Television is a medium. Movies is a medium. Magazines is a medium. P0rn is a “genre” of entertainment that is based on the objectification of women in the execution — without that objectification, the people watching p0rn wouldn’t be able to get off. So that’s the first way it’s twisted. Secondly, this genre, as a subset of the movie industry, is particularly exploitative of its workers. Witness the p0rn stars who recently came out with the news that they’re HIV-positive. :(

    Comparing p0rn to rom-coms in Don Jon, and saying “Hey, both can trap people in fantasies”… and trying to make a broader point about the addictive quality of *some* of the products displayed on all media. That’s really naive and it’s turning a blind eye to what’s truly horrible. Everyone knows that rom-coms are fluff, and there are other genres that explore love (tragedy, psychological thriller, family dramas). P0rn is basically the only sexual genre we have in visual media, and the way it dehumanizes women and the way it’s been outright violent and exploitative (hello, late 90s porn with a billion barely legal fantasies!) makes p0rn much more damaging than rom-coms.

    I mean, overall, I get the feeling that JGL is still growing as an artist. His ignorance is kind of disappointing. I think his ideas of what women expect were kind of twisted probably by “500 Days of Summer” and how people reacted to him afterward. Hopefully, the feedback he gets for Don Jon will help him make even better movies in the future.

  17. bettyrose says:

    Sigh when he was just a boy I always thought he’d grow into a beautiful man. Never even considered he be just another self congratulating Hollywood dbag. Oh well.