Wednesday, 28 September 2011

What Hollywood teaches us: A Bankrupt Culture

Hans: Mr. Mystery Guest? Are you still there?
McClane: Yeah, I'm still here. Unless you wanna open the front door for me.
Hans: Uh, no I'm afraid not. But you have me at a loss. You know my name but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he's John Wayne? Rambo? Marshall Dillon?
McClane: I was always kinda' partial to Roy Rogers actually. I really dig those sequined shirts.
Secretly I've always wanted to be in law enforcement -
one of the good guys like the Sheriff of Nottingham
One suspects that everyone's favourite designer villain, Hans Gruber, meant his remarks about 'a bankrupt culture' in a rather different sense to that which we face today. We live in a society and a financial culture which may actually 'go bankrupt'. And as the following interview shows there are cowboys in the mainstream who are more like Buford Tannen or Jack Palance's character in Shane ('pick up the gun...pick up the gun') than Marshall Dillon or Roy Rogers.
There are people who actually want 'the system' to fail so that they can make money out of it. For the essence of their behaviour is the desire to bet on failure and thus generate money for their self-interest. They have no interest in the human consequences of their actions, provided that the market is not totally pulled down or becomes completely unpredictable (and therefore unprofitable to bet on).
Now call me mad, but I remain convinced that the best guide to capitalism's cultural state is its cinema. And the film we should look at is not 'Wall Street' or its sequel, or the documentary work of the likes of Michael Moore. No it is 'Pretty Woman'.
'Pretty Woman' is a film about a double redemption: the redemption of a hooker from the life of the street through money and romantic love and the redemption of a ruthless capitalist through love and the liberal use of a heartwarming soundtrack from Roy Orbison.
Feminist analyses of this film are more common than me after two glasses of lambrini. I shall therefore leave them alone. But we should not ignore what 'Pretty Woman' has to say about Capitalism. Richard Gere's character is a selfish, money-bloated git who uses leveraged buy-out to make piles of cash for him and his buddies to writhe on. They are the early precursors of today's money bandits - using debts to make make money.
Me (with a bemused Chorlton) after 2 glasses of lambrini
But what saves him? Basically the hottest prostitute the world has ever known. Even in her cheap clothes, Julia Roberts looks hotter than a freakin' supermodel. Indeed, in some ways it would be better to describe her as a 'mannikin': for ultimately she is not a woman admired for her scintillating intellect or presence, but because of how she looks. Indeed, if memory serves, she gets access to the poshest hotel in Beverley hills because of the way she looks. She is given access to a limitless credit card account and, like Cinderella, is transformed by the simple addition of clothes.
You'd look like this too if you were storing
vast bundles of cash in one of your body cavities
Of course what really matters in the end is that she is (in that other great disparaging Western stereotype) 'a tart with a heart'; and with the combination of (one presumes) extremely skilled sexual practice, vast amounts of Puccini and champagne (well known working-class pleasures), Roy Orbison's quiff and a body to die for, she transforms the heart of her Prince Charming. And by the end he decides that screwing over companies for lucre is no substitute for working along side them and making them viable companies again.
Who would have thought it?
The true face of compassionate capitalism
And so we find a culturally bankrupt answer to a society that is rapidly going financially bankrupt: the financial sharks in this world just need to find an extraordinarily beautiful rough diamond of a girl, unafraid to work for a living, but whose only interest is in love. A woman who will stand up for herself until the platinum credit card comes out or her prince drops by in a Mercedes Guardian, a red rose in his mouth. This is all that is needed to turn a self-regarding fiend into a man whose prepared to care - not only for his gal but for a society who depends on him. That - Hollywood teaches us - is all we need to save society from ravenous unfettered capitalism. Of course, money always wins, but add a gorgeous, fun-loving girl into the mix and money - the great divider - will be used to make us all proud.