Friday, October 10, 2008

So greed isn't good?

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article written by Stanley Weiser, one of co-writers of Wall Street, on the infamous words "Greed is good". In the article, Wiser comments that:

"… if director Oliver Stone and I had a nickel for every time someone uttered the words "greed is good," we could have bought up the remains of Lehman Brothers.

"As the years have gone by, it's heartening to see how popular the film has remained. But what I find strange and oddly disturbing is that Gordon Gekko has been mythologized and elevated from the role of villain to that of hero.

"… In developing the character of Gordon Gekko, I formed an amalgam of disgraced arbitrageur Ivan Boesky, corporate raider Carl Icahn, and his lesser-known art-collecting compatriot Asher Edelman. Add a dash of Michael Ovitz and a heaping portion of, yes, my good friend and esteemed colleague Stone (who came up with the character's name) -- and there you have the rough draft of 'Gekko the Great.'

"Gekko's dialogue actually was inspired by Stone's own rants. Listening to Oliver's early morning cajoling and sarcastic phone calls (I write at night) exhorting me to work: "Where the hell are you? Out having a gourmet breakfast, playing with the kids in the park?" Or: "The one thing you don't do is everything I tell you to do; next time write a note and pin it on your . . . forehead." Other unpublishable barbs proved to be the precise varnish with which I needed to coat Gekko."

What, Gekko is based on Oliver Stone? Well that’s that sacred cow dragged down. Perhaps the hordes of MBA 'well I guess I'll just join an ibank and become an egotistical megalomaniac' graduates, will now start lining up to be film directors?

Weiser’s thrust is that people have misunderstood Gekko, which is true. Weiser, however, seems to undervalue the fact that Gekko, despite being underhanded and despicable, also displays ‘admirable’ qualities, for example he’s smart, decisive and charming. I find the most memorable villains are the ones I grudgingly respect and admire. This is often because the villain is very similar to the hero, but circumstances have led them down a different path. I like the Gekko / Fox relationship not just because Fox is one step away from being Gekko, but also because Gekko is only one step away from being Fox (although this sentence reads like a truism, I think you get what I mean).

This villain/hero crossover is what Mr Lucus tried to reverse engineer into Star Wars, but ended running a master class in character assassination. Lucas needs to spend a quiet afternoon watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Mr Nolan did an excellent job of tackling this whole issue by mixing villainous and heroic qualities across all his characters. My favourite character is the Joker, who yields a knack for strategy and guile not seen since Homer unleashed Odysseus (I acknowledge this may be hyperbole).

Weiser concludes by noting: “Several months ago, I was at Stone's office and I saw him autograph a "Wall Street" poster. Above his name, he wrote, "Greed is a bummer."”

Los Angeles Times)

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