A few days ago, timed perfectly with the release of The Wolf of Wall Street, one of the most anticipated films of the year, Christina Mcdowell wrote an open letter to the LA Times condemning Scorsese, Leo, Hollywood and consumers alike for glorifying a person as predatory and corrupt as Jordan Belfort (The Wolf of Wall Street). You see Christina (you can read her open letter below) was to a certain extent a victim of Jordan Belfort through just as corrupt an individual – her father Tom Prousalis. Tom Prousalis was an associate of Belfort, a prominent attorney, and a knowing director of at least 4 “pump and dump” penny stock scandals that defrauded the public out of 10’s of millions of dollars. After Tom was sentenced to prison, Christina, her mother and two sisters were left in shambles. They were financially ruined, emotionally damaged, and psychologically a mess after the man they loved, their father, betrayed them. They went from living a very lavish multi-million dollar lifestyle to being dead broke (and actually in debt). Over the years Christina came to realize that she was far from the only victim, the REAL victims were the thousands of people her father helped to scam and leave in financial ruin. But what does this all have to do with Scorsese and DiCaprio?
Christina Mcdowell (who changed her name to avoid any connection to her father), has accused Scorsese, Leo, and anyone who supports this picture to be insensitive and ignorant for glorifying the life of Jordan Belfort through the making of this movie. She claims that it is horrific for people to go out and watch and cheer-on Leo, who portrays Belfort, as the protagonist of this film. She believes this is a tragedy, not only because it glorifies the acts of an evil man but also because it perpetuates the positive association of greed and success. While I absolutely understand where Christina is coming from, can we just make one quick acknowledgment? IT’S HOLLYWOOD AND IT’S A MOVIE!
Hollywood is in the business of entertaining us, and films are one of the main ways in which it executes on that mission. However, just because they make an entertaining film out of a true story doesn’t mean that people are evil, insensitive or propagandists. It just means that the story was so insane, so corrupt and so unbelievable, that it almost becomes fiction. To be honest, it doesn’t even matter if the story portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street is true or complete bullshit, it’s an entertaining story. Again, that is what Hollywood is meant to do… entertain us. The movie Wall Street created just as morally questionable protagonists, but it was fiction, so does that make the film “ok” to release? Creating a fake story or recreating a true one makes no difference, does it? Additionally, does it really matter to the well being of America that they are promoting a morally abhorrent protagonist like Jordan Belfort? Is he the first of the kind? Absolutely not. Movie goers don’t leave movies trying to actually emulate the protagonists, because they understand the realities of the story. They know the evil that was committed, and the punishments (even if they were too little) they faced for their actions. After Silence of the Lambs we didn’t have a rise in cannibalism, after Goodfellas we didn’t have a mass migration to racketeering and theft as a career choice, and after Wall Street we didn’t have an increase in insider trading scandals (I will be curious to see if after 50 Shades of Grey we have a rise in rough sex!). Movies don’t change our moral compass, they just entertain us with stories, some of which feature people of questionable morals.
Christina, do I understand where you’re coming from? Absolutely. Jordan Belfort, and your father, were terrible men who profited off the trust and ignorance of thousands of innocent people. However, whether this movie was made or not, the crimes happened and the people effected will almost never see restitution. It is a very unfortunate truth. If people regularly left films like The Wolf of Wall Street and went on to a life of crime because of it than I’d 100% support you. But people don’t do this. Because movies like this or a similar type of story in Johnny Depp’s Blow ultimately show enough of the consequences that people understand the reality of the situation. The Wolf of Wall Street is an absolutely insane, extravagant, and morally shattered story – but it’s all of those qualities that make it such an entertaining STORY! That’s all it is to 99% of us. It’s not, however, a malicious attempt to profit by glorifying the evil and ignoring the tragedies that befell the victims of people like Jordan Belfort.
One more small note. I find it ironic that you’re chastising everyone for making money and profiting off of this story, when you yourself are positioning yourself to do so as well. Aren’t you? This is why you timed this open letter with the release of the film, and hinted at your upcoming “memoirs”, which you’re releasing in an upcoming “for profit” book, isn’t it? You could have sent this open letter at anytime over the past 18 months since pre-production began, but instead you sent it in timed perfectly to the release of the film. From an SEO perspective alone, not to mention the social sharing potential, this was a brilliant move. You’ve made yourself a household name, and your upcoming “memoirs”, a highly anticipated release. This is quite an ironic and public move for someone who went so far as to change her last name to disassociate herself from her father and her past. But you know what? I’m not mad at you. I’m impressed (it’s like you ate the whole wheel of cheese). You’ve done what a person in your position is capable of doing, profit from telling your story. I’m sure your story is one that is gut wrenching, insane, and ultimately very interesting. It sounds like it’d make a great hollywood movie.
Below is Christina’s open letter to the LA Times:
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, dear Kings of Hollywood, but you have been conned.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Christina McDowell, formerly Christina Prousalis. I am the daughter of Tom Prousalis, a man the Washington Post described as “just some guy on trial for penny-stock fraud.” (I had to change my name after my father stole my identity and then threatened to steal it again, but I’ll get to that part later.) I was eighteen and a freshman in college when my father and his attorneys forced me to attend his trial at New York City’s federal courthouse so that he “looked good” for the jury — the consummate family man.
And you, Jordan Belfort, Wall Street’s self-described Wolf: You remember my father, right? You were chosen to be the government’s star witness in testifying against him. You had pleaded guilty to money laundering and securities fraud (it was the least you could do) and become a government witness in two dozen cases involving your former business associate, but my father’s attorneys blocked your testimony because had you testified it would have revealed more than a half-dozen other corrupt stock offerings too. And, well, that would have been a disaster. It would have just been too many liars, and too many schemes for the jurors, attorneys or the judge to follow.
But the records shows you and my father were in cahoots together with MVSI Inc. of Vienna, e-Net Inc. of Germantown, Md., Octagon Corp. of Arlington, Va., and Czech Industries Inc. of Washington, D.C., and so on — a list of seemingly innocuous, legitimate companies that stretches on. I’ll spare you. Nobody cares. None of these companies actually existed, yet all of them were taken public by the one and only Wolf of Wall Street and his firm Stratton Oakmont Inc in order to defraud unwitting investors and enrich yourselves.
See also: 10 Reasons the Real-Life Wolf of Street Is a Schmuck Who Shouldn’t Be Trusted
As an eighteen-year-old, I had no idea what was going on. But then again, did anyone? Certainly your investors didn’t — and they were left holding the bag when you cashed out your holdings and got rich off their money.
So Marty and Leo, while you glide through press junkets and look forward to awards season, let me tell you the truth — what happened to my mother, my two sisters, and me.
The day my father had to surrender to prison, I drove him. My mother had locked herself in the bathroom crying and throwing up, becoming nothing short of a more beautiful version of Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. Ironically enough, Marty, she looks like a cross between Sharon Stone and Michelle Pfeiffer. Totally your leading ingénue type. Anyhow, after my father successfully laundered money in my name, hiding what was left of our assets from the government in a Wells Fargo bank account, I arrived home to discover multiple phone calls from creditors and attorneys threatening to sue me. He’d left me in nearly $100,000 worth of debt. He left and never told me.
After all of that liquidated money was gone from the Wells Fargo bank account, things got pretty bad. My younger sister ran away at seventeen. My older sister struggled to finish school in Texas. I couch surfed for two years, sometimes dressing out of my car and stealing pieces of salami out of my boyfriends’ refrigerators in the middle of the night, because I was so hungry and so ashamed that I couldn’t feed myself. Tips at the restaurant weren’t cutting it. It’s a pretty confusing experience to go from flying private with Dad to an evening where he’s begging you for a piece of your paycheck so he can buy food for dinner.
But, here’s the real kicker —
I believed him.
I believed everything my father told me. I believed it was the government’s fault he was going to prison and leaving his little princess, I believed it was your fault, Jordan Belfort. I believed that by taking out all those credit cards in my name, my father was attempting to save me. I believed him when he got out, and when he told me everything would be OK. I believed him until he tried to do the same thing all over again — until I was at risk of being arrested myself (and I’m saving that story for the memoir).
So here’s the deal. You people are dangerous. Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals. We want to get lost in what? These phony financiers’ fun sexcapades and coke binges? Come on, we know the truth. This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.
And yet you’re glorifying it — you who call yourselves liberals. You were honored for career excellence and for your cultural influence by The Kennedy Center, Marty. You drive a Honda hybrid, Leo. Did you think about the cultural message you’d be sending when you decided to make this film? You have successfully aligned yourself with an accomplished criminal, a guy who still hasn’t made full restitution to his victims, exacerbating our national obsession with wealth and status and glorifying greed and psychopathic behavior. And don’t even get me started on the incomprehensible way in which your film degrades women, the misogynistic, ass-backwards message you endorse to younger generations of men.
But hey, listen boys, I get it. I was conned too. By. My. Own. Dad! I drove a white Range Rover in high school, snorted half of Colombia, and got any guy I ever wanted because my father would take them flying in his King Air.
And then I unraveled the truth. The truth about my father and his behavior: that behind all of it was really just insidious soul-sucking shame masked by addiction, which we love to call ambition, which is really just greed. Greed and the desire for fame (exactly what you’ve successfully given self-appointed motivational speaker/financial guru Jordan Belfort, whose business opportunities will surely multiply thanks to this film).
For me, it’s become goddamn unbearable.
But I refuse to give up.
Belfort’s victims, my father’s victims, don’t have a chance at keeping up with the Joneses. They’re left destitute, having lost their life savings at the age of 80. They can’t pay their medical bills or help send their children off to college because of characters like the ones glorified in Terry Winters’ screenplay.
Let me ask you guys something. What makes you think this man deserves to be the protagonist in this story? Do you think his victims are going to want to watch it? Did we forget about the damage that accompanied all those rollicking good times? Or are we sweeping it under the carpet for the sale of a movie ticket? And not just on any day, but onChristmas morning??
So here’s what I’m going to do first. I’m going to hand you my shame. Right now, in this very moment. The shame that I’ve been carrying for far too long as a result of being collateral damage. Because each of you should feel ashamed. And then I’m going to go pre-order my tickets to August: Osage County in support of Julia and Meryl — because at least, as screwed up as that family is, they talk about the truth.
I urge each and every human being in America NOT to support this film, because if you do, you’re simply continuing to feed the Wolves of Wall Street.
PS. Quick update on Dad: He is now doing business with the Albanian government and, rumor has it, married to a 30-year-old Albanian translator — they always, always land on their feet.