Skip to content
July 18, 2009 / sadhbhanu

No Hollywood Ending for Wall Street

See Original Article in the Guardianwallstreet

Oliver Stone is directing a sequel to his classic film Wall Street. But real-life Gordon Gekkos are proving greed is still good.

I was excited to learn recently that a sequel to Oliver Stone‘s Wall Street, the movie that became the archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess, is in the works. The prospect of seeing a big screen version of Wall Street‘s bad boys getting their wings clipped is pretty appealing right now. And with all the shenanigans that have been going down on Wall street in the recent past, there is ample material to work with. Unfortunately the chances that this sequel will have a happy ending are looking increasingly slim.

For those of you who haven’t seen or don’t remember the original movie, the plot goes like this. An ambitious young stockbroker named Bud Fox succumbs to the “greed is good” philosophy presented to him by an ├╝ber-successful Wall Street player named Gordon Gekko. Consumed with desire to get rich quick, Bud ends up selling out his union-repping father and the working classes from which he sprang. But by the end of the film, Bud sees the error of his ways, and the greedy Gekko gets his comeuppance.

  1. Wall Street
  2. Release: 1987
  3. Country: USA
  4. Cert (UK): 15
  5. Runtime: 125 mins
  6. Directors: Oliver Stone
  7. Cast: Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Martin Sheen, Michael Douglas
  8. More on this film

In the Hollywood version, the working class had their moment of triumph over the so-called Masters of the Universe. In real life things didn’t work out quite so well.

The original movie was made in 1987. The writing was on the wall way back then for what we could expect to happen if the financial industry was allowed to proceed unregulated in pursuit of enormous profits while the average workers saw their wages stagnate and their living expenses soar.

Still, it took over 20 years for the whole thing to implode, and when it finally did back in September of last year, we didn’t get to cheer, because the echo of that implosion took the global economy down with it.

Across America, 5.7 million people have lost their jobs since the recession began at the end of 2007. Many others who are lucky enough to have retained their jobs have seen their wages reduced and their working hours cut. But you don’t have to look past New York, home of the fabled Wall Street, to see exactly how this culture of excess has impacted the rest of us.

According to a UN report from 2008, which surveyed 120 cities around the world, New York was ranked 9th in terms of income inequality, with the poorest fifth of families earning only 2 cents for every dollar made by the richest fifth of families.

Currently almost 350,000 New Yorkers are without jobs, around 100,000 New Yorkers experience homelessness each year and 1.3 million New Yorkers (that’s one in six) currently rely on soup kitchens and food pantries to not go hungry.

It’s hard to find reason to be cheerful about any of this, but the one light at the end of the long dark tunnel was that finally there seems to be a chance that we will see an end to the madness that has been going on in the unregulated financial world. Sure it would cost us big time, but if a new era of fairness and equality were the result, then it would be worth it.

I guess you have to dream a dream. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that a cultural shift on Wall Street will only occur in a dream world. We’re only seven months into this disaster, and already the Gekkos are clawing their way back to eminence.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported that many of the bailed-out firms had already set aside enough money to restore employee compensation to 2007 levels. And remember that $165m bonus payout to AIG executives that almost caused riots back in March? It turns out that the figure has actually been revised upwards to $454m.

Even more unbelievably, many of the bailed-out firms are now feeling so hard done by for having been “forced to accept” bailout money that they are desperate to give it back, not out of any desire to repay the beleaguered taxpayer, but because they just can’t have the government dictating how they run their businesses (subtext: how much they get paid). Unsurprisingly, there is no such outcry over the no-strings-attached assistance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is helping the same firms borrow up to $939bn from private investors.

Like I said, it’s great material for a director like Stone to work with, but I don’t think even a filmmaker of his skill will be able to spin a happy ending for the average worker this time round. Still, it should be a movie worth the entrance fee. The real life sequel that’s playing out on Wall Street, however, is something none of us should have to pay to see.

(c) The Guardian 2009

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: