The Great Gatsby?

December 17th, 2013

Our lives are defined

Written by: Niki Lau

There was something mesmerizing about this movie I watched over the weekend, a remake and modernization of this great American novel. From rags to riches, Jay Gatsby becomes a millionaire through questionable means. To me, it seemed like a version of the Princess Bride, gone horribly, terribly wrong…


The immense wealth and extravagant lifestyles of Daisy and Tom Buchanan showcase a marriage in dire trouble, which no amount of distractions, parties or money could fix. Despite the glamorous costumes and music, there is no way you could miss the unhappiness in the air. The couple seem to destroy each other, despite having all one is supposed to strive for in the material sense. It proves a very poignant cautionary tale; where money and power are idolized one loses all track of reality. Life is one party after another, chasing one thrill after another. Hedonistic and temporary, they end up chasing forever, grasping at air.


Gatsby however, remains above it all, in a sense, made pure by the utter love and devotion he has for Daisy through the years (he had left her for the war, and for making a fortune to provide for her and their future together). There’s something admirable in his selflessness there. And there is definitely some magic in the portrayal of Gatsby and his endless hopeful optimism. But another takeaway from this is that he fell into chasing a singular goal, being devoted to a love that was simply no longer there. Daisy simply isn’t the woman he fell in love with five years ago.  She married Tom, and nothing can erase that choice.


There is some sexuality played out in a scene, where I wouldn’t recommend children see. In their marriage, Tom continuously strays from Daisy, over and over again. In a way, this movie, with its modern hip-hop meets 1920s blues, conveys to the audience today what the blessed Pope predicted in Evangelium Vitae: “Sexuality is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self… it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts.”


Further, I found the homily of Pope Francis for Evangelium Vitae day (June 16 2013) struck a chord in my reflections on this story: “Selfishness leads to lies, as we attempt to deceive ourselves and those around us.”


How I wish for Gatsby’s sake that he was able to live in reality, as Pope Francis said, “someone who thinks and acts in everyday life according to God’s will, someone who allows his or her life to be guided and nourished by the Holy Spirit. And this entails realism and fruitfulness. Those who let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit are realists, they know how to survey and assess reality.”


Learning from the terrible lesson of the beautifully tragic Great Gatsby, Let us say “Yes” to love and not selfishness. Let us say “Yes” to life and not death. Let us say “Yes” to freedom and not enslavement to the many idols of our time. In a word, let us say “Yes” to the God who is love, life and freedom, and who never disappoints (cf. 1 Jn 4:8; Jn 11:2; Jn 8:32).

Pope Francis, by Catholic Chapter House.

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