The Big Short

The Big Short

The movie is about how what was declared by one and all in the financial industry as triple “A” quality—that is, top notch; throughly reliable—was actually “dog shit wrapped in cat shit”—the worst imaginable quality, and how the entire American financial system was leveraged upon this “pillar.” It is about how everyone in the financial sector was out to make dizzying amounts of money, and how almost everyone was caught in the trance-belief that it was impossible for there to be anything deeply wrong while ostensible “adults” in the industry—the upper echelon at well-established firms like Bear Stearns—rest unconcerned. You could come up with the craziest schemes for repackaging the same old investments into new ones—make an actually frozen environment seem ever-spawning and fecund—and so long as the execs at the like of Bear Stearns saw nothing of concern, there was ostensibly no way it could backfire.

If you worked within the financial industry and never really accommodated to it completely—a perennial outsider in your demeanour and attitudes, even as much as you factually were entrenched in the inside—it’s a sign that you haven’t lost contact with your roots. While others have allowed themselves to get lost in the high spawned from high finance, you never forget what is going on in the personal lives around you, or of all the mishaps, not just entitlements, that lead to your becoming a trader.  And so you, and you only, will be those who could learn that the entire banking industry was leveraged on mortgages that the struggling people of American society could no longer afford to pay, and not convince yourself out of your awareness pretty much instantly. You, who could make money on your awareness, in initiating a “Big Short,” and the people outside the industry—the common run of folk—“us”—who would be brutally bludgeoned with job losses and even loss of life when the system ultimately crumbled, were the only existing true beings of worth when everyone on the inside had inflated their phantom selves into visages of god-sized proportion. “Let’s see who is worth more,” is what they say in their minds to every one who meets them and doubts them, and so goes every doubter into a swirling pot, ever-stewing with their own incurred humiliation. 

The film, then, suggests that while the financial industry was something actually build on nothing, we normal everyday people possess integrity that can’t be undermined—we’re still unassailably triple “A” quality. We would never fool ourselves like Wall Street did, which is why the film stops in several places to decipher terms used by Wall Street to make plain just how truly insane their various machinations to make money were and are. We may be uniformed, but unlike them, our moral psychology is sound—with people looking out for us, there to explain the state of things to us in language we could understand, we would have been okay, for we would have insisted someone of authority reign things in. And therefore the film, as much as it is about explaining how the American financial system could collapse in 2008, is also about consolidating our own high estimations of ourselves. We exit the film feeling self-righteous, and buttressed—decent people who’ve been beset by vampires, or whatever of the demonic you might like to fairly call them.

Maybe this is just the way it is, but maybe also the film makers just like garnering easy kudos. I wish the film had considered giving greater consideration—or rather, any considerationto an ostensible truth it presents in an on-screen quote, perhaps halfway in. Quoting Murakami, we read, “Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.” Come again? People have some kind of collective death wish, is that what you're saying? That they’d... that we’d, somehow engineer a system built to collapse, so to realize some glorious “end of days” scenario? 

Geez, if the people are at all like that, then the fed chairman who appears from behind the curtains at the end to reveal himself as someone who actually did know the system was built to collapse, but also that this itself could be rescued by an influx of tax payer money the president was sure to okay, was hardly the master of deception, the Mephistopheles, we suspected must be behind it all, but rather the adult ostensibly nowhere to be actually found at the core of Wall Street. He’d give us the doom we unconsciously wanted called down on ourselves—so to see the like of marvels like once-wondrous, intimidating structures, both deserted and reduced to squalor—a high society companion to the crocodiles swimming in the house pools of the hapless over-mortgaged—but not to the extent that society couldn’t still manage to continue on from there. Many thanks, Mr. Bernacke, sir! for safeguarding society against ourselves! You didn't let us down!


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