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  • Andres Benatar

Analysis Of The Big Short

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

The Big Short & The Big F-ing American Lie

When author and Journalist Chris Hedges was interviewed on comedian Marc Maron’s WTF show, it was around the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. It’s fitting given the focus of Adam McCka’s The Big Short. The film tackles the same subject in the context of the housing bubble that clearly erupted and destroyed more lives than the crooked bankers and rating agencies bothered to take into account. They knew that they could play with fire while the little guy got burned. One thing that stood out from the interview Hedges gave was his introspective look of one of the greatest lies that has been and to this day still is being peddled to American culture is that indication that we can have it all.

How Do You Respond To A Lie?

Naturally, unveiling a lie like that will generate a great deal of cynicism within anyone wise enough to spy bullshit from a distance as it’s peddled. Hell, giving a big middle finger is the more respectful response when taking into account the bad acting done in the process of whatever method is used to convince people of the false sincerity of this lie.

This can come in the form of self-help prosperity gurus like Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, or the more infamously snide Joel Osteen. It can come from motivational YouTube videos centered on Tech entrepreneurs, and it can even come in the form of lowered interest rates. Walking away from this lie isn’t enough, and films like The Big Short and Margin Call certainly look like the closest thing to a middle finger response to the very lie.

2008 clearly failed to teach the world even now as trillions continue to be printed and inflationary debasement of fiat currencies only continues to commence in what will surely culminate into the sequel of The Big Short. That’s a book author Michael Lewis probably would have a great deal of trouble writing, and not because he doesn’t have the talent, so much as he doesn’t have the stomach to absorb all the bull that will follow once that sequel does indeed happen.

Lies Should Not Be Part Of Love

The United States has often been referred to as “The greatest country on earth.” Now, there can be no doubt that many Americans indeed love their country, and that there should be no shame in carrying a sense of patriotism that allows them to show the best of that passion. But, there’s a dark side to this love, and although the past few years have ushered in a significant rise in violent nationalism within this country, there has been a far more pervading lie that although less aggressive, can be still just as pernicious in essence. If this lie had a name, then the best title would be what Chris Hedges labeled “The Cult Of The Self.”

The “cult of the self” is no different from any cultural trend. It’s pervasive, fast-spreading, and worst of all, it is completely normalized in the context of all the wealth that backs it. When it comes to modern America, escapism is probably the closest thing to define the modern pop culture landscape. This can range from celebrity culture, the woke cancel culture, and the concept of accumulating vast amounts of wealth in order to accumulate products that are either useless in the general landscape, or commodities that have been hugely mythologized, which is a case to be made regarding the concept of the American dream.

In a way, the housing market, and the idea that anybody can purchase a home in the U.S is a dream that is slowly dying out as homes become less affordable and properties are purchased by hedge funds like Black Rock and then offered at a much higher price to a point where even dreaming of this myth only further shows it was a myth from the very beginning.

The Big Short is not a commentary of how a few intelligent investors made the attempt to stop a crash. The Big Short is a satirical look at the practical joke that is American culture and how it lives on the escapist fantasy that wealth can continue to grow within an economy built on bad debt. In the case of the housing market, stacking up one bad loan after another is nothing to feel relieved from.

Fancifully technical as the language any banking executive will give regarding CDO’S, Ninja Loans, or Synthetic CDOs to a first-time homeowner, it doesn’t change the fact that it is nothing more than a modicum of bullshit disguised as a great investment for anyone looking to put a roof over their head.

The players of The Big Short end up being a select few individuals who were wise enough to know that the housing market was a bubble ready to burst. Once that burst came, jobs were lost, businesses went under, people lost their homes, and worst of all the bankers were bailed out. One of the most interesting aspects of The Big Short, which is part of its nature as a satirical work of cultural evaluation is the role Ryan Gosling’s Jared Vennett plays in something very few people understood or truly wanted to understand.

Who The F$ck Is Jared Vennett?

Whoever said, the truth hurts, really should’ve said the truth is a big f$cking asshole who enjoys relying on the sense of relief his tits experience once they’re jacked. The honorary role of such an asshole goes to the fictional trickster of The Big Short, Jared Vennett, a Deutsche Bank salesman who saw an opportunity with the crumbling housing market, whilst baring no shame in telling the audience just how insane it all was from the very beginning.

Jared Vennett is loosely based on hedge fund manager Grep Lippmann, who also worked for Deutsche. As to how much historical accuracy follows what is a sardonically amusing portrayal from the Brando-Esque Ryan Gosling, there’s no telling. But, when it comes to Jared’s role, it’s clear that he serves as the voice of awareness that exists within all Adam McKay’s films, despite the comedy.

The Heart Of Adam McKay’s Mind

It’s almost comical yet somewhat patronizing to be told by someone who admits they aren’t the hero of this story just how stupid you are. Then again, every work Adam McKay has produced, although comedic in essence, also functions as a social commentary on the modern-day discrepancies of an infrastructure that can no longer contain itself. The case can be made for the way his 2010 Buddy Cop Comedy The Other Guys depicts the dysfunctional incompetence of police departments, or the way manipulation and a lack of intellectual curiosity fuels mainstream media in Anchorman.

The Big Short reflects Adam McKay’s comedic views on a system that might as well be a comedic enterprise given the level of bullshit that fuels it and eventually helps it land safely on its fat ass once the roof stops the pile of bile from getting another inch. In the case of the major banks that handed out loans so bad that it nearly crashed the world economy, no punishment or penalties were handed, and a few jives about the abuses from former president Barack Obama regarding the abuses committed by these very banks meant nothing when it was his administration that bailed them out rather than the American families they preyed on.

One of the most pivotal and equally unbearable visible moments in The Big Short is a scene of a once housed family, now living inside their car, practically having the beds set up on the trunk for the children to sleep in. It perfectly sums up Mark Baum's (Steven Carell) pessimistic lamentation on how “At the end of the day, average people are going to be the ones, that are gonna have to pay for all of this. Because they always, always do.” The secondary part of that melancholic rant ends with “I have a feeling in a few years people are going to be doing what they always do when the economy tanks. They will be blaming immigrants and poor people.”

The Big Short is a great film. In addition to being entertaining, it’s also educational and tragically haunting. The reason for that is that in many ways, the present-day feels like the last act of the film. Following the onset of the Covid Pandemic, the global economy was massively affected. As many workers were either furloughed, asked to stay home, or simply dismissed, many bailouts were issued, and although some portions of stimulus did reach workers making less than 75k yearly, it still didn’t erase the massive transfers made to corporate entities that profited and even increased their net worth beyond what the pandemic did for them already.

It’s quite a way to make use of crises, and it was Winston Churchill who said, “Never waste a good crisis.” When it comes to a good film like The Big Short, never let a tragic story keep becoming a repetitive reality.

Want more movies? Check these out:

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Andres Benatar is resident film expert. You can hear him on the 'Cinema 237' podcast - A podcast for cinephiles.

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