The Wolf Of Wall Street

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It takes a lot to make me feel like a prude but The Wolf of Wall Street can certainly be construed as a lot.

It begins as all good films do. A sunny day, a sleek white convertible hurtling down the highway. DiCaprio behind the wheel looking smug and suave. The front seat passenger; a bleach blonde head, face down over his lap, oscillating in a most amorous manner. And DiCaprio’s smooth narrative voice-over; reminiscent of a 90s US high school comedy. Oh bloody fantastic, I thought, another insincere, materialistic piece of Hollywood farce. I knew I should have chosen something intellectually challenging… possibly Eastern European with sub-titles. But this film’s depth lies in its superficiality; the unapologetic, hyperbolic depiction of consumer culture and capitalism.

Like the poor bloke who finds himself on the wrong side of Leo and his cronies, The Wolf of Wall Street grabbed, throttled and smacked me round the face. The worst thing… I rather enjoyed it. And such is the theme throughout; humiliation, degeneration and a hankering for more. DiCaprio’s depiction of Jordan Belfort; a middle class, jewel eyed, twenty-something from Queens with a heart full of hope and an American dream, turned drug addled, sex crazed, millionaire-mogul, is utterly convincing while completely ridiculous, verging on the absurd. Director – Scorsese tears capitalist, consumer culture apart at the seams and reworks it to reveal the superficiality, stupidity and the transitory nature of such a perfunctory existence; based on power, play and pure aesthetic. But this egotistical glorification of vilification seems a little too self-satisfied to be deemed entirely ironic.

The portrayal of the eager young stockbrokers as greedy apes demanding more, more, more, lapping it up, then sticking out their empty palms expectantly anticipating that little bit extra, was abhorrent and astounding. DiCaprio; the sadistic circus master, whose hysteria slowly seeps through the small cracks in his otherwise immaculate exterior, until it engulfs him like the huge tidal wave which his yacht (complete with heli-pad) is confronted by when attempting to sail to Monaco, is disconcerting yet utterly fascinating.

Scorsese’s overt sexualisation and categorization of female roles; so that they become little more than caricature, reveals an interesting perspective on a woman’s place in Wall Street. He brazenly presents prostitution, promiscuity and pure objectification and unashamedly displays women as little more than play things; readily bought and easily disregarded. The single female stockbroker made her demeaning début as Leo awards her $10,000 to shave her head (obviously so long as she uses said money to fund breast enhancement) in front of a room filled with hideously horny men. Just as marching band, complete with hoard of bare breasted prostitutes swarm in to (literally) consummate this scene of chauvinistic debauchery.

The audacious, remorseless interpretation of the dimension of addiction to drugs, sex, money and power saw that, for me, the past 180 minutes flashed by in a matter of seconds and now, sat in my dingy little room, I am left questioning my own sanity, attempting to sieve through the details and determine whether what I just witnessed was real or some strange, sick expression of my inner psyche. Scorsese’s abrasive illustration of animalistic, incestuous immorality, self-fulfilment and fornication is turbulent, troubling and utterly scintillating.

If you’re into outrageously gaudy, overtly sexualized and superficial representations of something akin to the truth (who isn’t) then by all means watch The Wolf of Wall Street. Just please, please do not go with your parents.

Is it best to begin university Single?!

A contested debate piece I wrote for the university paper.

When deliberating how best to address this deeply dubious question I remembered something Bob Dylan once wrote about his then-wife – that the thing he’d always loved about her was that she never thought that anybody else was the answer to her happiness, she always had her own built in happiness. That to me is what university’s about; building yourself into the person you want to be and being responsible for your own happiness, not searching for somebody to do that for you. It perplexes me that that 21st century students need convincing that being single while studying is anything other than fantastic, if you need persuading you’re not doing it right.

Having arrived at Reading with a relationship in tow I have taken rather a contradictory view on this matter during my two years here. In the course of those first few weeks I was torn between my obligation to said relationship and my obligation to myself – to make the most of the unique university experience. Suffice to say I was single within weeks. I quickly grew accustomed to life minus one significant other; my three year relationship stood no chance against the pull of Reading’s exceptional drinking establishments and time spent with my six new significant others – my housemates, who take up about 85.3% of my time, the other 14.7% I try (often in vain) to dedicate to my studies. I will forgive you for believing that ‘single’ at university actually means you will be ‘single’ for a second – you’ll be lucky to spend five minutes alone. Accordingly if you are in a relationship, inevitably, you must compromise time with friends, time spent studying or your pastimes – something’s gotta give. In my case, as in many others – the relationship was inescapably that thing.

Being single at university does not equate to tragic spinsterhood in the manner of Bridget Jones or the 40 Year Old Virgin. It’s completely empowering and exciting to be able to steer your life in any direction you choose without that special someone demanding consideration. One day if you’re very lucky, you’ll be married, perhaps have a couple of screaming offspring, maybe even a company car,  and my view is that if you focus purely on yourself now, during these three short years, you’ll have so much more to offer if you choose to enter a relationship later. We can have it all. Just not all at once. So relish every single (ha ha get the pun?) moment at university before being thrust into the  ever looming real world where you will no longer live with six of your best friends, stay out until four in the morning and watch friends in your pyjamas until noon with no consequences.

I’m not, it is worth noting, some sort of sociopath incapable of love (I hope) nor am renouncing all men. In fact I love love, it’s lovely. It’s just that university is the most inconvenient place to find it. Relationships, in all of their amazing,  antagonizing glory provide some sort of much needed stability, I’m sure, but I don’t want stability yet. I want hedonistic debauchery and reckless audacity while I’m still young enough to have it. Even the best relationships inevitably result in some sort of compromise, and I’m not willing to compromise or apologise for anything about student life.

University, I have come to realise, acts as a sort of process of natural selection to relationships;  weeding out the weak and the feeble, ensuring only the strongest and most secure survive. So if you’ve made it this far I’m not suggesting you ditch your beau immediately, only to undergo some sort of Bruno Mars style epiphany a few years from now, wishing you had bought her flowers after all. I do however think that being single and a student is about the most wonderful place to be, your whole life spans ahead of you, you are able to go anywhere, see anybody, do just about anything you want. So my advice is to go out, have a bloody good time and save all of that serious stuff for later. Go on, the Union won’t wait forever.

Personal statement: me me me

Stage 1 of transition into adulthood: beg someone to hire you. 

As a fairly quaint and introverted child I would often squiggle silly little stories, which I occasionally stumble upon, to my great humiliation, when flicking through old notebooks. In hindsight I was absolutely terrible – fiction was certainly not my forte, but the process of putting pen to paper to create something contemporary and compelling remains intrinsic to me. Years ago when I idly picked up my Dad’s Guardian and peered wide eyed and ignorant into the elusive yet highly opinionated world of Poly Toynbee and the gang, I thought I might want in. Journalism is a remarkable way to influence change, convey aversion or admiration, stimulate debate, promote intellectual thought and all from my own fabulous angle… Fantastic! I thought, where do I sign up?! Unfortunately, before you get your story published you have to write it… Ah, I thought, I knew there’d be a catch. During my teenage years I pondered what I’d write about and dabbled with a few pieces for my college magazine, even one semi hard hitting article (hard hitting in the context of a small, very rah, rural town in Somerset) entitled ‘Jack Wills, Fabulously British… Made in China’ – quite the scandal, ah those were the days. Then, while meditating over what I wanted to do at University and consequently for the rest of my life, I remembered something I heard Billy Bragg say once on Radio four – politics is far too important to be left to politicians. That was a somewhat defining moment for me and now here I am at Reading University. I feel that when Dickens said it was the best of times, it was the worst of times; he must have been studying for a degree in Politics and English Literature, whilst remaining dedicated to the Reading University rituals of Q bar and the Union.

I’ve contemplated journalism for a while now, and at first pictured myself as an airbrushed Kate Adie; tirelessly and evocatively reporting from the frontline, or perhaps a contemporary thinking man’s crumpet, maybe even Bridget Jones covering the infamous ‘Aghani-Heany’ case or sliding down the fireman’s pole (although preferably not the latter). Put simply I just want to be part of a fantastic team and give my readership (should I be fortunate enough to have one) accurate, relevant and engrossing news with a sense of resonance, which I think they need to read and which I will aim to deliver meticulously whether alone or as part of a larger group. As Oscar Wilde once wrote we are dominated by journalism and in the US the media is often referred to as the fourth branch of government due to the immense political power it wields. Journalists have the monumental capacity to subjugate or to emancipate politicians which I think is quite extraordinary and which I hope to be a part of, someday very soon.

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The End Is Nigh

Please don’t fret. Despite my previous post, let me assure you, dear reader… whoever you are… that this blog will be a happy one. As Jane Austen said let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can.  Perhaps one day, if I’m very fortunate, I’ll have the chance to write about subjects of a serious and sombre nature, but for now let me engross you with frivolous tales of forbidden frolicking at the union, forgotten deadlines and my fantastic friends… without whom I would have no material. So ladies, I thank you for your creative endorsement.

Now seems an appropriate time to introduce the characters who will feature throughout what can only be described as this tragi-comic play. As aforementioned we have the hero(ine)s – my right hand women; each with her own special neurosis, each wonderful in her own way. The jokers – mostly male – most likely to be found engaged in some form of woeful battle for ultimate status as ‘BNOC’ (most fail but those who succeed tend to do so for all the wrong reasons). And, sadly, no play would be complete without its villains – in this case the devil’s spawn; deviously disguised as academics who insist on incessantly bombarding me with essay deadlines and emails enquiring as to why I’ve neglected, once again, to attend hell on earth (also known as the 9am seminar).

Of course like any sensible girl of my age all I really want to do is take a long nap and wake up two years ago when the biggest decision I had to make was whether to opt for the £6 vodka (and run the risk of eroding stomach lining) or £2 bottle of something attempting to pass for rose (if it seems too good to be true it probably is). Seeing as this is unlikely [though I pray not impossible what with recent advancements in science/technology] it looks as if life is soon to get a little bit gloomy. But not yet… Not quite yet. This blog will be a narrative of my futile attempts to navigate the rocky road from student to real life actual human being. It will be a homage to my last year at university; the third and final flourish of fun before being rudely thrust into the real world where it is no longer acceptable to dedicate 99% of your time to the cause of having a fucking good time education.

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Photo: Girls hard at work…

The Beginning

I wrote this entry as part of a blogging competition for  which we were supposed to submit a piece entitled ‘my first day at university’. Unfortunately I missed the deadline. Anyway, please do enjoy reading the blog I’d planned on starting about a year ago (can you sense a pattern emerging?)

Having just woken up from what was essentially a two year long nap interspersed with frequent binge drinking sessions and the occasional lecture for good measure, I now find myself a somewhat bewildered third year, not entirely sure how I got this far or where to go from here. Now would be a wonderful time for an epiphany. Unfortunately my brain seems incapable of such profound thought after the abuse I have subjected it to since the day I began university…

That moment my parents reversed their Volkswagen Passat from the car park of my halls of residence. That was it. I waved, turned and apprehensively wandered, alone, into the kitchen where the rest of them were lurking. We all drank tea from our assorted new cups; the first crockery we’d ever owned. We pretended to know what we were talking about and who we wanted to be, something I, regrettably, still find myself doing now. When sufficient small talk had been made and I had competently convinced them that I was quite clever I skipped back to my dingy little room, complete with urine stained mattress, and powdered my face so that my new acquaintances might not immediately work out how hideous I really was.

Next on the agenda was that infamous drinking establishment, the university bar. Gone were the politeness principles I’d spent the afternoon trying to perfect. Now we were expected to reveal unsavory truths about ourselves and if satisfactorily embarrassing would be rewarded with pints filled with questionable substances we were expected to down. How wonderful  I thought, I don’t have to pretend to care about this ridiculous degree I’m about to undertake. I can just get drunk and go dancing. And get drunk I did. For the next two years. In a most undignified and unsightly fashion. My jewel eyed and optimistic first-day-self imagined intellectual discussions about Dickens whilst sipping chai tea lattes in some bohemian café. The reality was somewhat different.

By the next time my parents pulled up in the car park they’d replaced the Volkswagen with an Alpha Romeo. Significantly less leg space for back seat passengers. It was official. I’d been ousted. I was at university now.

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Photo: me without make-up on