Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hollywood has no idea where wealth comes from

The other day I saw a billboard ad for a movie called 'Arthur'. (You can watch the trailer here, but I wouldn't recommend it). It's a Russell Brand 'comedy' remake about this quirky guy who's the heir to a huge fortune, but has to live by the stuffy rules that his uptight family makes as conditions for his inheritance. Oh noz! omg! How dare they put strings on his billion dollar gift, those fascists!

The billboards for this read 'Meet the world's only lovable billionaire'.

Let's count the ways this is ridiculous.

Firstly, have you ever seen any movie featuring a rich character where the notion of 'adding value' is explored in a non-ironic fashion? Hollywood can't conceive of the idea that if you want to get a billion dollars, you need to add a billion dollars worth of value to people's lives. Actually, you'll need to add a lot more - this is assuming you're capturing the whole surplus.

No, in the world of Hollywood, the ways to get wealth are as follows;

-Inherit it

-Steal it

-Exploit lots of workers

'Arthur' is in the first category. In this world, rich people never work for their money. Or if they do, it's only ever in the context of portraying how they're neglecting their family by spending too long at the office. For an industry as ruthlessly capitalist as Hollywood, they sure do cling to some strange ideas about how societies got rich.

Now, I don't need to explain to readers of this illustrious periodical why this is an absurd picture of wealth. But in case you need to explain it to your idiot co-worker, consider the case of pre-historic man living in sub-Saharan Africa. No amount of inheriting, stealing, and exploiting other tribesmen is going to make me a space shuttle. Clearly something else big is involved.

Bill Gates created a product that powers my computer, creating untold billions of dollars of value for the world economy. And with all the wealth he amassed, he gave it away to charity, supporting the most cost effective causes he could find, and encouraged other wealthy people to do the same.

But what actually makes you lovable is to be some goofy clown who's never worked a day in his life, a free-loading clueless moocher on earlier generations effort and thrift. As long as you have the right attitudes against 'the man', conformity, crack jokes etc.

Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack Warner (all of whom were seriously impressive entrepreneurs) must be rolling in their graves to see what's produced under their names these days

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