Why I have had enough of dude-centric finance films

climate change financial sector Mar 25, 2021

You might remember Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”. It was a three hour long film where the financial sector was portrayed as a storming sea of cocaine, sex workers and testosterone.

Martin Scorsese the director tried SO HARD to make the characters in the film unlikable. He basically made Leonardo DiCaprio sound like Hitler in a speech to really DRIVE THE POINT HOME that this was a BAD guy.

So what happened?

DiCaprios character became a cult hero. People tried to dress like him, they quoted him and bankers went to private screenings of the film where they clapped and cheered in all the places were Martin Scorsese didn’t want them to clap and cheer.

And somehow this always seems to happen with finance films.

When Oliver Stone made “Wall Street” in 1987 he couldn’t imagine that audiences would side with Michael Douglas’ vile banker Gordon Gekko.

But they did.

Which brings us to the question: what’s the appeal of these finance films?

Earlier this year some guys on the internet managed to push up the value of GameStops’ stock. You all read about it. The whole thing wasn’t even over before movie deals were being made. Apparently there are now nine (!)films being developed about GameStop. Yes, the story was reasonably interesting but nine films?! Really?!

Then there’s how women tend to be depicted in finance films. We usually appear as either:

-       Prostitutes

-       Strippers

-       Assistants.

-       Wives.

Yes, in “The Big Short” Margot Robbie famously gets to explain what credit default swaps are but she does it naked in a bubble bath. As you do…

You might be thinking that finance films are dude-centric simply because there are no women in these environments. And yes, women do not very often call themselves “deepfuckingvalue” and post stock tips on the type of internet forums that drove the GameStop-story. But this doesn’t mean women are not driving other important financial stories in the world.

Some of them A LOT more interesting than GameStop.

So, here’s my pitch for a finance film (any Hollywood producer reading please feel free to call my agent Tracy)

This summer the 23 year old student Kathleen O'Donnell from Melbourne sued the Australian government. O'Donnell had invested in government bonds and before we go on let’s quickly explain government bonds:

*get’s into bubble bath*

When you buy a share you invest in a company. But when you buy a bond you are lending a company money, so when you buy an Australian government bond you are basically lending Australia money. Government bonds are often considered to be the safest form of investment there is. You probably all own some whether you are aware of it or not, but this doesn’t mean they can’t lose in value.

*get’s out of bubble bath*

Now back to Kathleen O’Donnell!

During 2019 and 2020 O’Donnell was watching the horrific bushfires destroy big parts of Australia. It made her think about a lot of things.

One was her government bonds.

If this was the future: bushfires, extreme weather and natural disaster caused by climate change, what would it mean for the Australian economy? Arguable Australia would be more impacted than many other places. Was the Australian government being open with bond investors about these risks?

No!

By not taking climate change risk into account the government was misleading and deceiving investors, people like Kathleen O’Donnell who had just been told to put their money into the safest investment there was- government bonds.

So she sued.

The case is ongoing and could have huge impact. It’s the first of its kind and ties climate change to financial risk in a way that could be groundbreaking.

It also makes a lot of sense.

Covid-19 has if anything shown us that our “control” of nature is more fragile than we think. We are living through a huge economic crisis right now not because something some guys in the financial sector did (which is usually the case when the economy goes to hell). We are in a huge economic crisis because we have destroyed wildland which has forced wild animals closer to humans - which is why we are now at higher risk of new infectious diseases (like Covid).

This is also the shape economic crises will probably take in the future. Due to climate change it will be us trying to cope with nature hitting back at us in different unpredictable ways.

Which is why we need a new way of thinking about financial risk.

And that’s what is emerging in the Kathleen O'Donnell’s case

But hey: let’s make nine films about guys trading and swearing on internet forums instead!

Happy Thursday

Katrine

 

NOTES:

Denise Young did an interesting podcast on “Kathleen O'Donnell v Commonwealth of Australia” a few weeks back.

Women are missing from the GameStop news - the online forum is not a fun place to be if you’re not a White man by Caroline Kitchener

We are living through the first economic crisis of the Anthropocene by Adam Tooze

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