Martin Scorsese is one of the most acclaimed and influential filmmakers of all time. His films like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed, and The Wolf of Wall Street are considered classics.
However, in recent years, Scorsese has faced significant backlash and criticism from some groups of people. There are several reasons why some people have expressed hatred or disdain for Scorsese and his work.
Reasons For The Hate
One of the most common reasons cited for hating Scorsese is that he comes across as arrogant or pretentious in interviews and public appearances. He frequently makes comments about cinema and filmmaking that rub people the wrong way.
For instance, he has dismissed entire genres like superhero films, calling them “not cinema.” He has also made controversial statements criticizing the Hollywood studio system and modern filmmaking practices. While he may just be expressing his artistic views, some see it as snobbery and elitism on Scorsese’s part.
Treatment of Women
Another criticism often aimed at Scorsese is the treatment and portrayal of female characters in his films. Movies like Raging Bull, The Wolf of Wall Street, Casino, etc have been accused of being misogynistic, reducing women to sex objects and props for the male protagonists.
Some argue that Scorsese glorifies, enables or glosses over toxic masculinity and the objectification of women in his male-centric films. So those sensitive to such issues may dislike that aspect of his filmmaking.
Lack of Diversity
In over 50 years of filmmaking, Scorsese has predominantly told stories about Italian-American or European-American communities and characters. His films have been criticized for lacking diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera.
For instance, he has rarely worked with female or non-white writers, directors, producers or stars. So to some audiences, his body of work seems to represent a very narrow slice of the human experience. This makes him unappealing to those who want more representation in cinema.
Glorifying Crime and Immorality
Many Scorsese films like Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York, The Wolf of Wall Street, etc feature criminal protagonists or immoral behavior like violence, drug use, organized crime, profanity, gambling, etc.
Some critics believe Scorsese irresponsibly glorifies, romanticizes or even condones such unethical activity by making these films so stylish, cool and entertaining. So his work offends the sensibilities of moralists and those against violence or drugs in media.
Part of the animosity towards Scorsese could stem from envy among his peers, the public or even critics. He is a living legend with enormous critical acclaim, box office success and industry recognition through awards like Oscars and Golden Globes.
The reverence surrounding Scorsese could breed resentment among some who dislike seeing him constantly praised or given special treatment due to his status as an auteur filmmaker.
While Scorsese certainly has critics, he still has many staunch defenders who admire his films and see the backlash as unfair. Here are some of the counterarguments they make:
They point to Scorsese’s technical mastery as a director – his innovative camerawork, editing, use of music – which has influenced cinematography worldwide. He’s considered a virtuoso filmmaker in command of the medium.
His detractors may see misogyny or toxicity in his films, but his fans argue he creates complex, human characters irrespective of their morality and simply depicts life realistically.
He tackles universal themes about human nature, redemption, guilt, violence, machismo, spirituality, etc in thought-provoking ways. So labeling his work as problematic is an oversimplification.
Staying True to His Vision
Scorsese is an auteur filmmaker with a distinct style and vision. He can’t compromise on that just to satisfy notions of political correctness or inclusion for their own sake. As an artist, he stays true to his muse.
While he focuses on alienated, fringe communities, he humanizes them using psychological depth and backstories. He tackles larger social issues through their struggles. They see this as empathy rather than glorification.
Admired by Greats
Significantly, Scorsese is admired by many of the greatest filmmakers – Coppola, Tarantino, Spielberg, Kubrick, Kurosawa, etc. So haters are dismissing the judgment of the very industry masters.
Ultimately, most supporters don’t deny his flaws, but argue his contributions to cinema outweigh them. There’s a case to be made on both sides.
Impact of the Backlash
The criticism and backlash against Scorsese does seem to have affected his career in recent years in subtle ways:
- He seems far more sensitive about his legacy and responding to critics. He vigorously defended The Wolf of Wall Street against backlash.
- Box office returns for his new films have generally been lower and marketing more muted. There’s less of the fanfare that surrounds a new Scorsese film now.
- His plans to make more personal, passion projects have stalled, like the Dean Martin biopic. He’s focused more on safer, backward-looking projects.
- Oscar wins have been elusive, despite nominations. Perhaps the Academy is more sensitive to the #MeToo climate now.
- He has pivoted into documentary work at Netflix which provides more artistic freedom. Mainstream Hollywood may be more restrictive.
So while Scorsese remains respected as an all-time great, the public ire has impacted him. He even stated he doesn’t expect to make many more films in his later years. Perhaps the constant outrage has diminished his motivation.
Scorsese’s Most Controversial Films
Here’s a look at some of Scorsese’s most debated and controversial films over his career:
Taxi Driver (1976)
This film about a disturbed vigilante was accused of glorifying violence and toxic masculinity. Scorsese defended it as an anti-hero study.
Raging Bull (1980)
Criticized for graphic violence and misogyny in depicting boxer Jake LaMotta’s jealousy and domestic abuse.
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
This alternative portrayal of Jesus led to protests worldwide by Christian groups against Scorsese. It was called blasphemous.
Some felt this artful depiction of mobsters glamorized organized crime and violence through great acting, music and style.
Gangs of New York (2002)
Accused of whitewashing history through fictionalization and light treatment of racist characters and ethnic conflict.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Criticized for reveling in the luxury porn and toxic behavior of its unethical stock traders. Scorsese defended it as a reflection of American greed.
The Irishman (2019)
Despite acclaim, Scorsese was criticized again for humanizing mobsters and excusing their violence. Also for digitally de-aging De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci.
Scorsese doesn’t shy away from controversy and is committed to his artistic vision, for better or worse. But as a consequence, he continues to provoke intense debate.
Most Controversial Scorsese Films
|The Last Temptation of Christ
|Gangs of New York
|The Wolf of Wall Street
Social Media Outrage Against Scorsese
Social media has exacerbated the outrage against Scorsese in recent years. Here are some examples:
When Scorsese criticized Marvel films as “not cinema”, fans attacked him as snobbish and elitist. They trended hashtags like #ScorseseIsRight and #SaveCinemaFromScorsese
His old films have been criticized using hashtags like #BoycottScorsese for alleged misogyny. There are calls to cancel streaming and re-evaluation of his legacy.
Many Twitter users called The Irishman an expensive vanity project that dehumanizes women. The cost of de-aging actors was also mocked.
When Scorsese lost the Best Director Oscar again in 2020, many were happy to see him “snubbed” and argued Bong Joon-ho deserved it more.
Social media provides platforms for his haters to loudly voice criticism. However, supporters also defend him vigorously, sparking endless culture war debates online.
Examples of Social Media Outrage Against Scorsese
- Mocking of de-aging effects
- Calls it a vanity project
- Happy to see him “snubbed”
- Says Bong Joon-ho was more deserving
Scorsese’s Response to Critics
Scorsese has addressed the criticism against him in various interviews over the years. Here are some key examples:
- He remains unapologetic about graphic violence or profanity in his films, saying he won’t compromise his artistic vision.
- He believes his portrayal of flawed characters is honest, not amoral, and that viewers should form their own judgments.
- He denies being misogynist, saying he loves his female characters. But admits he tells male-centric stories and needs to challenge himself more.
- He is open to helpful critique but believes some attacks come from not understanding his full body of work and motives.
- He stands by The Wolf of Wall Street as moral satire of greed, not glorification. But understands some people are offended.
- He believes Marvel and superhero films shouldn’t be the only kinds of movies supported and have crowded out others.
While Scorsese certainly shrugs off criticism, he also acknowledges fair points about diversity and seems cognizant of his legacy. He wants to be seen as a humanist filmmaker. But he remains committed to artistic risk-taking rather than playing it safe.
Martin Scorsese is one of the great auteurs in film history, but also one of the most controversial. The violence, questionable ethics, language, and unlikable characters in his films disturb some audiences. However, his supporters argue he unflinchingly portrays human complexity and societal issues.
Ultimately, the debate around Scorsese reveals the subjective nature of art and ethical lines in media representation. Not all film has to be wholesome. But for some, Scorsese’s brilliance as a storyteller and filmmaker outweighs the problematic aspects of his work. This controversy ensures his films are passionately discussed for years to come. He won’t likely change his style or vision at this stage of his career. So the strong clash of perspectives around Scorsese will continue.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is Scorsese accused of arrogance?
Scorsese has made comments dismissing entire film genres and criticizing modern filmmaking in ways some see as arrogant and pretentious. His stance often comes across as elitist.
What films of Scorsese have been criticized for misogyny?
Films like Raging Bull, The Wolf of Wall Street, Casino, etc have been accused of objectifying women, glorifying toxic masculinity, and minimizing female perspectives.
How has the criticism impacted Scorsese’s career recently?
He seems more sensitive to his legacy now. His films get more muted marketing and lower box office returns. He has pivoted to documentaries at Netflix for more artistic freedom.
Why was The Last Temptation of Christ controversial among Christians?
The alternative, humanized portrayal of Jesus having desires, doubts, and weaknesses was considered blasphemous and offensive by many Christian groups.
How has social media accelerated the outrage against Scorsese?
Twitter hashtags and trends like #BoycottScorsese allow his critics to loudly voice issues with his work. Supporters also defend him vigorously, creating heated culture war debates.