The Wolf and the Wildcat
Nate Reutiman '15
For as long as I can remember my time at SI, preferences of movies and television have been as diverse as the students themselves. Despite some heavy-hitters in television like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, no movie has captivated the minds and imaginations of the SI student body like the Wolf of Wall Street.
Cartoon by Julie Olsen
The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s newest and boldest film to date, dominates SI conversations about recent films. References are frequent; students at social gatherings have even the tendency of pounding their chests and chanting in veneration of Matthew McConaughey’s famous scene. While the unanimous interest makes for fantastic small talk with virtually anyone, the underlying theme in the Wolf is hardly positive, hardly Jesuit, and hardly SI.
Hyped for its outrageous overexposure of life at the top, The Wolf is certainly unprecedented in cinema. Few movies have so openly and honestly served to praise ruthless competition rooted in greed. Jordan Belfort, the narrator and subject of the movie, tells the (mostly) true story of his life as a ruthless stock- broker during the 90’s. His quote “The year I turned 26, I made 49 million dollars, which really pissed me off cause it was three shy of a million a week” sets the tone for the rest of the film. Whether Jordan is fraudulently investing his millions, enjoying the company of prostitutes, or overdosing to the point of “cerebral palsy”, excess is the name of the game for the Wolf of Wall Street. And believe me, we see it all. So how has this movie caught on amongst the well-educated SI masses? Shouldn’t we know better?
As Greg Schoepp ‘15 describes, “In this overly competitive world, it seems like all of us are fated to step on others or be stepped on, which The Wolf embodies. The movie ends, and we are left with the urge to conquer. Inside ourselves, we know we want the world... we want to be the best”
When looked at from that standpoint, the movie’s popularity is far from ridiculous – in fact it makes quite a bit of sense. High school has become has competitive as Wall Street. Students spend hours and thousands of dollars on private tutors, SAT classes, and ‘notable’ extracurricular with the hope of winning the eye of top universities. Alex Griffin ‘15, expressed that which countless high school students are feeling “students are expected to be the very, very best they can be, and then some more.”
Eoin Lyons ‘15, student body president, commented on the same phenomena, “[There is] huge competition in this rigorous environment, whether on the field, on the stage, or in the classroom. The top students from the Bay Area are competing, pushing each other be- yond limits to be the best.”
While competition can be beneficial and certainly sets SI above the rest in rankings, the excess need for superiority we are beginning to see could become disastrous. As Sarah Scannell comments, “When you put hundreds of incredibly intelligent kids in direct competition with one each other, while continuously reminding hem that their futures are literally on the line, things get more than a little tense... It’s not healthy”.
With such similar viewpoints of high school competition from such a wide variety of students, the parallel between the Wolf of Wall Street and SI culture becomes obvious. Strip away the prostitutes, Quaaludes, and cocaine, and doesn’t the ultra-competitive Wall Street start to look very much like the equally competitive environment SI has become? Doesn’t the essence of Jordan Belfort’s motives fall pretty close to our own? Whether it takes outworking, out-innovating, or a combination of both to rise, we all want our seat at the top. As Sarah points out, “Deep down [Jordan Belfort] is just a coked up teenager. He has the same priorities.” So, whether you’re grinding out your workday on Wall Street or 37th Avenue in the Sunset, intense competition is the mantra. For both student and stockbroker, the quest for success is all-consuming.
Maybe, one day, we’ll thank this competitive environment. Maybe, if we make it there, our seat at the top will put us in a position to assert the positive things we’ve learned at SI. Maybe we will fulfill the Jesuit tradition of “setting the world on fire”. Or, perhaps we will crash and burn like Jordan Belfort. It’s a two-sided coin – one gets preached and one gets ignored – but both have to be considered.
But that is all the future. This is the harsh reality of the here and now--whether Wolf or Wild- cat, everyone wants to be at the top of the food chain.
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