Monday, September 26, 2016

The Big Short falls, well, short

After seeing The Big Short, I was overly excited about the movie. Being a finance major, I loved everything, from the actors to the very jargon that they used (yes, it is weird) but more than anything, I enjoyed the realistic portrayal of the events from one of the worst economic crises of all times. The movie, sparkling and gritty, gave me a great insight on what must feel to be an outsider in the world of Wall Street, which is what I’m ultimately hoping to be.
After reviewing the movie, though, I started considering other aspects about it. First of all, I couldn’t not notice the fact that in 99% of the scenes (not an approximate figure) the only characters depicted are males, heterosexual, and white. What came into thinking right after was that yes, this was a movie depicting some of the best (and some of the very worst) aspects of Wall Street, and as such it had to realistically depict that environment, which, let’s face it, is mostly populated by a bunch of 40-year-old white dudes. But since I love finance, I also read about the real story. It turned out that there was a real-life woman who was hailed as an “oracle” of the financial collapse: Meredith Whitney, a research analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., whose intelligence was highly praised by Micheal Lewis in the very book that inspired the movie.
In the end, it wasn’t a surprise when I watched the movie one more time, and I figured that it would not pass the Bechdel Test. In fact, there aren’t any women throughout the storyline that talk to each other about something other than a man, and many female characters aren’t even named, as in “Exotic Dancer”, or “Florida Strip Club Dancer” (IMDb). 
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything better. As soon as I saw the movie poster few weeks before, I almost immediately got that feeling of a “boys only” factor, probably due to the titles which blasted the four last names of the very famous (and very white and very male) cast, in huge, all-caps letters: BALE, CARELL, GOSLING, PITT.

Often, women in the Big Short are used as eye candy, like Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) or Selena Gomez at a Vegas blackjack table walking the audience through synthetic CDOs. 
Yes, these are asides in which the movie tries to explain Wall Street acronyms in a funny way, but since there are very few other scenes in which women aren’t depicted in a sexual way (again, “Exotic Dancer” or “Florida Strip Club Dancer”), the movie definitely lacks an overall female presence.
Regarding its most prominent aspect, men, the movie (almost) does a good job. In fact, the movie never celebrates the stereotypical Hollywood-like male body type. Instead, again faulty of its own realism, the film portrays even too well the distressed bodies of few 40-year-old males who try to stay in shape, work a lot and don’t really sleep at all. As everything-but-an-action-movie, it surely does not feature any violent men, but unfortunately it does not go against the real portrait of a white Wall Street. As statistics confirm, races other than Caucasian don’t really make it into the financial world, and if they do, they usually are Asian. The movie portrays that well too, as it features a scene in which an analyst’s ability to make perfect calculations is automatically confirmed as he’s Chinese (and jokingly, is said to not being able to even speak English). Also, the movie doesn’t portray any person with disabilities or any member of the LGBTQ+ community. While assigning the movie a C, I do believe that the director (white male) did his best to portray things in the way they had to be shown, and surely heavily relied onto the book to make the film. On a final note, even though he could’ve done better, sticking to the real story in the screenplay was far more important than assigning new roles to new people, as, again, proof of realism. 
Or maybe, just lack of creativity.

The final results on the Rep Test


  1. I completely agree with everything you have stated above. I am also a finance major and this movie was shown during my high school econ class. It was extremely interesting to me but looking back on it the portrayal of women in the movie is ridiculous and prejudicial. The scenes where the men go out to strip clubs and casinos with attractive hostesses only exemplifies the fact that women are regarded as eye candy in most films. It is unfortunate that this is the way the movie industry is but just like any other business their main goal is money and if Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt net the most profit then that is the trend that will continue.

    1. Sadly, you're absolutely right! The amount of women used for the sake of "eye candy" in Hollywood is ridiculous. I knew that this movie was going to be above average, but in that regard it did not satisfy me at all. Especially now that I critiqued it using the Rep Test, I feel like I can never watch it with the same eyes.
      As you said, until we see a change in audience tastes and movie marketers' choices, Hollywood will stay the same. I hope that these tests (Bechdel, Representation) manage to raise awareness in the right places to actually affect one of the least innovative industries in the US.