(I am referring to the recent movie version of the story. Oh and I was told put a spoiler alert, but honestly this is one of those films where you can know what happens and still be shocked. Though if you are a purest there will be spoilers)
What is it about?
Dorian Gray is about a beautiful, kind, and somewhat shy boy who comes to an aristocratic society to take over his deceased grandfather’s estate. While there Dorian befriends Harry (played by an incredibly hot Collin Firth) who believes that he should take advantage of his youth and beauty while he still has them, advice Dorian is not keen on taking until he sees a painting of himself and realizes how truly beautiful he is. Harry points out the portrait will remain beautiful but Dorian will not and unknowingly tricks Dorian into swapping his soul in exchange for eternal beauty.
His newfound confidence leads him to approach Celia, a young actress he saw in a bar, and they begin a short-lived courtship. Dorian still rather moral falls deeply in love with Celia and plans to marry her, but when he announces this to his society friends they show clear disapproval. And in an attempt to reverse the damage he in part caused Harry takes Dorian to a club to hammer home the idea that Dorian is far too beautiful and young to settle down. When the two men show up at the end of Celia’s play Harry maneuvers the situation to ensure Dorian and Celia argue and break-up. Celia becomes distraught and kills herself and when her brother Ben shows up to tell Dorian what he had done he falls apart.
Never one to miss a chance to manipulate a situation Harry gets Dorian to stop grieving and realize there are many more women out there and he should take advantage of his options. As Dorian accepts this he slowly begins to lose his morals in exchange for Harry’s vision of the “good” life. As Dorian’s behavior degrades his portrait becomes less and less beautiful resembling something like a monster. When his friend Basil (who painted the portrait) asks his for it so he can put it in his upcoming show Dorian shows him the painting. Basil who had previously noticed the extreme change in Dorian’s personality begs him to seek help, but this only angers Dorian and causes him to stab Basil.
Dorian goes on a long trip and when he returns as beautiful as he was the day he left his friends becomes suspicious. Soon no one wants him around and Harry begins investigating why Dorian has not aged. The rift between Dorian and Harry grows when against Harry’s protests Dorian begins to date his daughter. When Harry realizes what’s going on he kills Dorian destroying the monster he created.
Why you should watch it…
Dorian Gray is a really interesting movie and a fantastic cautionary tale. We all know it’s highly unlikely that vanity will cause us to attach our soul to a portrait that will age with us and take on our scars, but it will destroy who we are. The more obsessed we become with looks or money or status the more we lose who we are and the more our sense of right and wrong goes out the window. In a way we become monsters just like Dorian, but we unfortunately don’t have a portrait to show us just how bad we have become.
I think if we did most people would think twice about some of the crap they do because when you are looking at how your actions are destroying who you are it is a hell of a lot harder to rationalize them.
(I just realized a real world equivalent of the portrait could be plastic surgery because the more obsessed people become with youth and beauty the more surgery they get done and eventually they begin to resemble something inhuman.)