Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Greed (1924) and Wall Street (1987)


This is a reflection on greed. It's a comparison of how greed is portrayed in two films. Greed (1924) is a silent film. The movie examines the wickedness of greed and shows the corruption that greed engenders.

Wall Street (1987) on the other hand uplifts greed as a virtue. Gordon Gekko, a character in the movie, says "greed is good." A vice becomes a virtue. But a virtue relates to morality and a vice is immoral. It's an evil habit. That's a switcheroo! It's not a totally unexpected change in attitude, according to the Bible, but definitely unexpected by many people. The Bible says that in the last days people will call good evil and evil good. Bingo!

This concept of greed as a virtue was also popularized by Ayn Rand (1905-1982). This quote from Gore Vidal sheds light on her promotion of greed.

Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society....To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.— Gore Vidal, 1961

Ayn Rand's books have had a tremendous negative influence on American society. She has affected even people that never read a word of her writings. Her ideas have filtered into popular culture, such as movies, and into society in general.

Conversely, the Eric von Stroheim film Greed, portrays the dehumanization of the characters that become greedy over money. This web of evil involves jealousy, lack of loyalty to a friend, alcoholism, violence, stinginess, and obviously, greed.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, a movie shows greed for what it really is. Close to the end of that century, a movie distorts what greed is.

How does this reflect on our societal values? Where are these values coming from? Which side of the divide do you stand on is the most pertinent question.

Clipart dividers from clker.com.

Clipart money bag from pdclipart.com

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