Have you heard?
According to this story in the Guardian, Hollywood is geared up and ready for the recession, and it seems they are eager to entertain us with a series of big-budget “I told you so’s”.
Baz Luhrmann is all set to mount a re-make of The Great Gatsby because, according to him, “People will need an explanation of where we are and where we’ve been, and The Great Gatsby can provide that explanation.”
Oh, boy. Here we go again. Do I really need another lesson in why the American dream is a charade, and our materialism leads to emptiness and despair? I’ve heard this all before.
I get bored just thinking about The Great Gatsby. Ok, I know, it’s a classic. Beautiful language, great characters, blah, blah, blah. Then why did I find it so tedious? I can’t really blame F. Scott Fitzgerald. I blame professor Fournier. He wanted me to know the true meaning of Gatsby.
In college back in the late 80’s I took a literature class called “The 20’s” because it sounded like fun. I thought I’d be reading about speakeasy’s, flappers, gangsters and molls-you know, Runyonesqe stuff. I really should have known what was in store for me, but when you are a college student, you don’t yet know how the whole system works. Of course, what was in store for me was a daily indictment of American values along with a full-throated defense of socialism. Professor Fournier followed every novel we read-Gatsby, Babbit, An American Tragedy, with a long “discussion” comparing “The Gilded Age” to “The Decade of Greed”. The avarice! The entitlement! The hubris!
“Don’t you see the similarities?” he would say. “We are doing it all over again. We just never learn our lesson in this country-by the way, did you know that Cuba has 100% health coverage under Fidel Castro?”
For Fournier, it was as if the 1920’s existed for only one reason-to show us all what a colossal mistake we made in electing Ronald Reagan President. So, we were told, just as the 1920’s led to the Great Depression, the go-go 80’s would end in another, even worse depression. And we would have no one to blame but ourselves. Well, here it is, upon us. My professor was right. The era of unbridled prosperity that began when I was in junior high school has come to an abrupt halt, only 20 short years after he predicted it would. I can’t believe I ever doubted him.
Lately I keep reading opinions about the current financial crisis that claim “we are all to blame.” We somehow all share a collective guilt because of our greed and arrogance. Sounds just like the theme from my CliffsNotes of The Great Gatsby. But Gatsby broke the law-he was a bootlegger. I didn’t do that. And I don’t have a jumbo sub-prime mortgage. I didn’t squander all my friends’ money in a fraudulent hedge fund. How are we all to blame?
The answer? We’re not! The solution? Throw that hedge-fund-ponzi-scheme guy in jail, then let home prices continue falling until I can buy a house the old fashioned way-with a reasonable down payment, and a nice loan from Jimmy Stewart.
Now, what can we learn from F. Scott Fitzgerald? Hmmm…
1. Gatsby was a jerk.
2. Don’t be like him.
A bit of a CliffsNotesy summary perhaps. Maybe I should re-read the book, but I think I’ll skip this re-make. I’m not in college and I don’t need my classics to come with an “explanation” anymore.