The film Don Jon is a perfect example of the affect media has on personal expectations of relationships and gender roles.
Jon Martello is a very typical “New Jersey Boy” raised in the quaint suburbs of an American town. Working as a club bartender in the same town as an adult, his friends call him Don Jon due to his ability to bring home and have sex with a different girl every weekend. However, even the most beautiful women will not satisfy him like watching pornography does. Barbara Sugarman is a good, old-fashioned girl seeking the perfect match to her Hollywood-based criteria of a man. The two meet and immediately enter a very binding and restrictive relationship. While images of candle-lit dinners, children and white picket fences dance around in her head, Don Jon remains lost in trying to figure out what the meaning of love and sex even is. The film contemplates the expectations of the opposite sex and the false fantasies media creates for twentieth century relationships. .
The gender construction follows very closely with the traditional expected roles of men and women in a young, middle-class society. Not only are men portrayed as the dominant and powerful members of the household, women are portrayed as the strong yet submissive ones whom hold together the domestic ground. The film revolves around the main male character’s obsession with his “body, pad, family, church, boys, girls, and porn,” stating those are the only things he cares about in life. Women’s roles are also laid out in a manner relating to the expectations we discussed in lecture. Connell Raewyn says, “Many women dedicate their lives to making a family and seeing it through the life-cycle. A sense of being desirable, having an attractive or at least presentable body, is an important part of our culture’s construction of womanhood.” 1
The main female personified these expectations by her open wishes to build her life modeled around Hollywood romance movies. She adopted the mentality Connell Raewyn states as: “ Girls are taught by mass culture that they need above all to be desirable, as if their main task were to lie on silk cushions waiting for Prince Charming to come.”2 She longed for a hard working husband, children, an attractive body, and was willing to wait for a perfect match. While she herself was a self-sustaining woman, she was trying to mold Jon into a man that would satisfy her needs should she not wish to work. We often see this “men bringing home the bacon” stereotype in gender role expectations. Raewyn says, “Gender inequalities are usually expressed in terms of women’s lack of resources relative to men’s. For instance…statistics show women’s average incomes, world-wide, as 56 percent of men’s.” 3
This poses as an issue not only for women, but for men as well. It brings about questions in the expectations of men’s masculinity and what exactly that means. Jon seemed to have an image of what “being a man” looked like, and tried to fit his self into that mold. Raewyn says, “ Boys…are taught the importance of appearing hard and dominant.”4 Jon relentlessly worked on making his body attractive, buying nice cars and clothes to impress others, attending church and family dinners, and doing what “every guy does”-watch porn. The basis of his masculinity seemed to be built on the foundation of all things porn, and what porn portrayed. While watching porn he claimed to completely loose himself. His disconnect to this “lost sensation” was during real sex, with a real woman.
Linda Williams touches on the role porn has in people’s lives by recognizing, “porn’s function of fantasy wish-fulfillment in nineteenth-century pornography, and its emphasis on male pleasure.”5 The porn industry puts much, almost too much, emphasis on satisfying the male. This concept creates one of the main themes in the film as Jon comes to discover sex is about the connection between two people, not only about male pleasure. The director breaks down, one by one, the stereotypes and expectations our society places on gender roles; whether is be the belief another person can completely satisfy one’s needs, men are dominant and should bring home most of the income, or an attractive, strong appearance is mandatory to succeed in society.