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Boiler Room/Wall Street

Posted by Antonia Massa-MacLeod on December 12, 2000 at 23:05:30:

Wall Street and Boiler Room are very similar movies. They both take place
in the world of Wall Street, dealing with stockbrokers and their often
unlawful practices. There are some distinctive differences between the
two movies - the way in which Gordon Gekko and Seth Davis behave are not
similar and the economic situation of the two decades are different,
too. However, there is a large amount of competition present in each
movie, and both Wall Street and Boiler Room take place in capitalist

The characters in Wall Street and Boiler Room are different - exemplified
in the contrast between Gordon Gekko and Seth Davis. Gordon Gekko may be
greedy, but he did work for what he has - there is the general impression
that Gekko began small and worked his way up from his beginnings in a blue
collar family. Seth Davis, on the other hand, is looking to make a quick
buck - whether it is with JT Marlin or the casino. Davis' father is a
judge, and their house is very nice, so it is obvious that his start has
been easier. The brokers at JT Marlin have so much money that they do not
know what to do with it, exemplified in the fact that they all own large
houses that look as though they have just been moved into. Gordon Gekko's house, on the other hand, is not just large - it has some sort of culture as well. There are paintings in Gekko's house, and it definitley has the feel of being lived in. However, both Seth Davis and Gordon Gekko have one thing in common - once they have made a fortune, it is not
enough. There is an incessant need to earn more money, not so much
because they need it, but because stocks have become a game to both of

What is the significance in the differences between these two men? To
answer this question, one must look at the recent economic history of the
United States. Gordon Gekko is coming from a rough economic age. The
1970s, the period that comes directly before the greed and wealth seen in Wall Street, was a time of economic recession and oil crises. When Reagan took office, he promised to turn the recession around, but his plans to do this were designed in a way that the wealthiest - the supply-side of the economic spectrum - would benefit the most. Gekko was working during the
seventies, as one can infer from the film, and probably felt the crunch of
the recession. This would explain his more appreciative use of the wealth
he has, and also the greed, the need to acquire it. And it was people like Gekko who benefitted from Reaganomics.

Seth Davis is coming from a much different economic climate. Instead of
working hard to get where he is, Seth's attitude is that he is owed a part
of the wealth, and he wants his part of the wealth now. He has come of
age in the economic climate of the 1990s. For Seth, the economy has been,
for probably as long as he has paid attention to it, incredibly good. There was an economic boom following the Bush administration, a feeling that the recession was not only over, but that there was also a massive amount of wealth to be spread among workers. Seth has grown up with stories of young internet CEOs who have made millions by the
time they are seventeen. The internet has created not just a huge, new
economic market, but it has also provided a feeling that it is entirely
possible to get rick quick in the nineties. It leaves people like Seth
with the feeling that he is owed something, a sort of restlessness until
he obtains his piece of the proverbial pie. Unlike Gordon Gekko, who has
worked hard (though not always through lawful means) to get his wealth,
Seth does not want to see the fruits of his labor some years down the road
- he wants it now, and that is true for every employee of JT Marlin.

However different the two eras may be, both movies take place in
capitalist societies. There is evidence of this all throughout the
movie. One example is that Martin Sheen's character is in a union. Unions
are very much capitalist organizations - in neoclassical economic theory,
capitalism allows for workers to have complete control over the job
market, and unions just aid in this. Another example of capitalism - a
more symbolic instance of capitalism - is in Wall Street. Charlie Sheen's
character is essentially never seen inside his apartment - it is a place
for him to merely sleep, but the rest of his life is centered around his
job. He is what capitalism demands of a worker, a person without family
and children and a home, but someone who exists solely for the
marketplace. Also, in capitalism, control over productive resources is
mediated by the financial markets. The financial markets are what these
two movies are based solely on. Thus, the two movies are predominately
about the control of resources.

The cultural processes in each film are different, as well. The
stock brokers of JT Marlin are competitive in every part of their life, to such an extreme that their competition becomes racist and sexist. They
violently fight with other poeple in pubs, and insult just about everyone
in the outside world with whom they come into contact. This is an
economic process being communicated through cultural processes - the
extreme amount of competition in the economic market leads the men to be
constantly looking for a way to make themselves better than everyone
else. This is important in the world of Gordon Gekko, too. He
patricipates in this one-upmanship through more subtle ways, but
participates nonetheless. Gekko does this by eating at the best
restaurants, belonging to the most prestigious gym, and living in a large
house by the sea. Gekko and the stockbrokers of JT Marlin all must do
this because their jobs entail it; the stockbroking world all depends on
advertising oneself as knowing the most and doing the best, and this leads
to other parts of their lives.




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