Talk is cheap and money’s too tight to mention… so we made an infographic instead!
We've made another infographic but this one sings and dances! It shows us how many of our movies, books, music are about money and materialism, and how many of our heroes and villains are too.
And it’s interactive too. You can click on any of these movies, songs, books etc, to watch the trailer, listen to the track or read about its plotline.
We’ve asked the question: how do we spend our money at a time when there’s not much spare money to spend? In short, how do we consume recessions?
It turns out there is a pattern we can study, thanks to the uncanny way history repeats itself. We’ve compared our current economic crumble to the one that staggered us back in the 1980s. Back then we had Wall Street; now we have Wall Street II.
It’s no surprise, but we’ve discovered that MONEY TALKS. Our infographic shows what was culturally relevant then, and what is relevant now. Twenty years later and money’s still too tight to mention. Defining our capitalist culture are two strands: money and love. And since we’re talking recessions we’ve done away with love.
What other money-themed entertainments are there? The more we’ve thought about it the more we realise we’ve missed out. The Message by Grandmaster Flash, for example. Leave your suggestions below – maybe we’ll make a sequel…
Serious Money, by Caryl Churchill, 1987
A satirical play set against the backdrop of the British stock market, written
in rhyming couplets, featuring the murder of a trader and the dirty deals,
illegal trading and hostile takeovers that follow.
The story of John Self, a really unpleasant film director who’s been invited to New York to shoot a film. Martin Amis uses the novel to caricature the excesses of the rich and self-obsessed and show the downfall of a man on an unsustainable bender.
The unnamed protagonist is a fact-checker by day and party animal by night. When his wife leaves him he embarks on self-destructive, lonely journeys through New York, returning to her old haunts, and even visits a manikin he believes look like her.
The debut novel from Bret Easton Ellis, who later wrote American Psycho. A novel told in a stream of self-consciousness about young nihilistic Californians with names like Clay, Rip, and Bret, who spend all their money on designer clothing, drink and drugs, and get up to all kinds of unpleasant, sordid misadventures.
Originally published as a serial in Rolling Stone, then edited and converted to bestselling novel. The story features a trader, a journalist, an activist and a district attorney, but it’s really about 1980s New York sliding into a state of financial greed, crime and racial conflict.
Bond salesman Michael Lewis’s semi-autobiographical account of Wall Street. A portrait of traders in an era of deregulation, with a glossary of terms to describe their characteristics and behaviours. The title refers to a high stakes gambling game, all about statistical guesswork and bluffing, played with the eight figure serial number on a US dollar bill.
The sequel to Bret Easton Ellis’s debut novel, Less than Zero. Each are named after an Elvis Costello song and album. The story unfolds twenty five years later – and was published the same length of time after its prequel – and follows protagonist Clay, who is now a screenwriter, returning to LA to find a cast for his next movie. He is drawn back into the cruel hedonistic world of the first book. It’s not pretty.
The People Speak, by Colin Firth, Anthony Arnove, and David Horspool, 2012
Actor Colin Firth, writer Anthony Arnove, and historian David Horspool, tell the story of Britain through its reactionaries: everyday people who stood up to the establishment and spoke out for the people.
A Financial Times journalist, Gillian Tett predicted the financial crisis one year ahead of time. Here she paints a portrait of the recession, interviewing the JP Morgan CEO and the ‘Morgan Mafia’ whose ‘shadow banking’ fuelled the boom and then the bust.
The Big Short: Inside the Domesday Machine – 2010 – by Michael Lewis
In his sequel to Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis describes how the housing and credit bubble grew during the 2000s. He follows some of the people who profited from the financial crisis, showing the eccentricities of those who go against the market, and the misfortunes of those who lose out, such as Howie Hubler, who lost $9bn in a single trade.
An office-based comedy starring three leading ladies: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomkin, and Dolly Parton. The three join forces to usurp their misogynist boss and run the business themselves, in secret. The results are improved work conditions, happier staff and a leap in profitability. The film spawned a sitcom, musical, and the song became one of Dolly Parton’s biggest hits.
The Secret of My Success, directed by Herbert Ross, 1987
Michael J Fox stars as Brantley Foster, a new employee of the Pemrose Corporation. In fact, two employees. He works in the mailroom under his own name, and also in an empty office as an alter ego, Carlton Whitfield. While he slaves away, mopping the floors as himself, Carlton turns out to be the company’s rising star.
The Queen of Versailles, by Lauren Greenfeld, 2012
An amazing documentary about Jackie and David Siegal, billionaires building the largest, most expensive ($100m) home in the US. When the financial crisis occurs, construction stops. A portrait of how excess causes things to grind to a halt.
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, directed by Oliver Stone, 2010
The sequel to the 1980s original, and Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is at it again! He’s out of jail, promoting a new book, and the economy is collapsing. The story is about Gekko advising his daughter’s new fiancé, Shia LaBeouf, and involves the same shady dealing as the first film.
Batman: The Dark Knight Trilogy, directed by Christopher Nolan, 2005-13
Tim Burton’s Batman was a much cartoonier 80s version. Now we have Christopher Nolan’s more serious take on the Batman tale, starring Christian Bale, speaking in a grave and gravelly voice. This is another superhero movie in which, faced with cataclysmic peril, it’s not the politicians or institutions who rescue us, but individuals with passion and visian, and in this case, a thing for bats.
Another film of foreboding to satisfy the appetite we have for a good apocalypse. Will Smith plays Robert Neville, the last human left in a deserted and overgrown New York City. All the other humans have been turned into vampire zombies who come out at night. Meanwhile, Robert Neville sits in his laboratory, working on an antidote, and talking to his dog..
Brewster’s Millions, directed by Walter Hill, 1985
Another comedy about inheriting sudden wealth. Monty Brewster (Richard Pryor) finds out he is in line to inherit $300m, but there is a catch: first he must spend $30m in thirty days, and is not allowed to donate the money or invest in physical assets.
Investors are not usually hero material, but the multi-billionaire Buffett is the best of a bad bunch in this regard. He is respected as a man who earns vast sums yet lives modestly, doesn’t take irresponsible risks, and invests philanthropically where he sees his money can have real impact.
Her marriage to Prince William captured the public imagination, as it was the perfect fairytale wedding, complete with carriages and a cathedral. At a time when the rest of us have to cut back on spending, this was a fascinating thing to witness and feel part of. She has since stepped into her Princess duties, meeting, greeting, and being graceful.
The Burmese activist and politician was placed under house arrest for fifteen years by the military junta, and released in 2010. She has become an icon of peaceful protest, of empowerment, and of triumph against the odds. She is now in opposition, trying to convert Burma to a democratic system as part of the National League for Democracy.
Tony Benn was probably the most popular UK politician of the 1980s, opposing Thatcher’s Conservative policies, and speaking up on behalf of the unions and for the UK’s increasingly vocal left wing. A world war two veteran, Tony Benn was opposed to the Falklands War, and to the war in Kosovo.
His news empire turned out to be a machine for bribing, intimidating, and extorting everyone from politicians to police to members of the public. Newsworthy people – including victims of crime - had their phones hacked and bins raided. Whatever was found was used to sell papers, regardless of whether it was a personal tragedy, scandal, or intimate pictures taken over a fence.
The Iron Lady defined UK politics in the 80s. She was in power from 1979-90. Thatcher deregulated the financial sector, privatised national institutions, and reduced the power of trade unions. In a couple of years these measures made economic progress but at the cost of mass unemployment and hard times. This economic record, together with entering the Falklands War and her political friendship with Rupert Murdoch, kept her in power for a decade.
Politics has long been about old boys’ clubs and exclusive networks, but the hacking scandal showed just how closely our politicians worked with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Margaret Thatcher’s political friendship in the 80s turned into regular practise for prime ministers. Both Tony Blair and David Cameron courted the press via Rebekah Brooks, with Cameron a part of the weird Horsegate affair in 2012.
Just like Wall Street in the 1980s, today our banking pillars have let our economy collapse and been thoroughly irresponsible. Everyday people don’t trust bankers, and don’t like banks. Many more are signing up with alternatives such as the Co-operative bank.
The excesses of Wall Street, much like the banking sector today, were seen as immoral and vulgar. Energy and oil crises in the late 70s triggered stagflation: a stagnant economy suffering from high inflation. Meanwhile Wall Streeters were raking it in.
The US and UK are now at war with the same warlords they sided with during the 80s, when they armed local guerrillas to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. The problems have developed into a situation that seems impossible, and is tied up with ideologies, propaganda, and profit.
Yes, there are sceptics, but global warming is taken seriously enough for governments to pledge billions of dollars to prevent it, and to promote sustainability. Evidence from all over the world shows climates changing, ice melting, deserts expanding, and weather becoming more erratic.
The worst nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 in Ukraine. Reactor Four suffered explosions its core in the only ever ‘level seven event’. Tens of thousands were affected, and containing the contamination took five hundred thousand workers.
China has modernised at the most unbelievable rate, urbanising its rural population and commanding an immense manufacturing workforce. Its solar industry is booming, for example. China looks like becoming the leading superpower in the coming decades.
Although not on the same scale as Chernobyl, the Fukushima disaster is the second largest nuclear accident in history, and led to Japan declaring it will wind down its nuclear capacity to zero. Germany has cancelled its nuclear program in favour of sustainable energy.
Does China have an army of hackers? That’s what the US claims. In fact, it’s not so unlikely that every developed government is arming itself in this way. Russia launched sophisticated cyber-attacks on Estonia in 2007, for example.
This was thanks to a number of factors: in the workplace, capitalism judging us purely on how much money we can generate; in the mind, strong female role models such as Annie Lennox; and on the high street, more assertive women’s fashion such as shoulderpads.
Large scale charitable campaigns began with Live Aid, a concert watched by around two billion people. The money was raised for starving children in Ethiopia. It was the first time most people in developed countries had seen images from Africa, and shaped their perceptions of the continent, for better or for worse.
A reaction to the financial crisis? A revolt against banks? Or just a neat idea at the right time? Whatever it is, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding are enabling people who previously have not been able to secure finances for their projects. As a result, it’s often the projects that satisfy demand that get funded. Such as the ‘ostrich pillow’, which raised almost $200,000 in 2012.
You no longer need a contract with a publishing house. Now you can upload any
song onto Spotify or iTunes, any written project onto eBook. Everyone needs an
editor though, so arguably the quality of work being published is not exactly
Some say the internet is being corrupted by companies and corporations, but the open source movement is allowing ideas, codes, and blueprints to be shared more easily than at any time in history. Our species is speaking to itself more than ever. Well, chatting at least.
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