Christina McDowell had to change her last name because her father tried to steal her identity, and that tip-of-the-iceberg factoid is only the beginning of a sad, sordid open letter in the LA Weekly that takes the greed-worshipping shine off Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. McDowell is the daughter of Tom Prousalis, a man who was involved in fraudulent investment schemes with Jordan Belfort, the Wolf himself. The entire letter is an excellent read, as McDowell relates how her father used her name to launder money—eventually leaving her with $100,000 of debt—and how her family disintegrated when he went to prison.
But McDowell’s real target? Scorsese and DiCaprio themselves, who portray Belfort and his cohorts as roguish pirates of the financial world rather than dishonest cons who played their part in handicapping America’s economy and condemning its citizens to financial ruin. McDowell writes:
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 yourcultural 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.
McDowell’s rage is coupled with the honest admission that she had been conned, too—by the wealth her father once held and the perks that came with it. Her letter is a plea to remember the victims, from family members like herself to the investors who lost a lifetime’s savings when they gave everything to men who had no compunction about ruining their lives. And in the wake of that destruction, she closes with the bitter postscript that her father is now married to a younger woman and doing business with the Albanian government.
“They always, always land on their feet,” she writes.