Here is my original defense of capitalism and critique of the themes in Wall Street money never sleeps. Capitalism has improved more lives and created more wealth than any other economic model that has been adopted in world history. And yes I will see the film eventually.
Hollywood wants its heroes to be virtuous, but it defines virtue in a way that excludes any action that is self-interested. If virtue means putting others ahead of self, then it’s clear that most people, let alone most capitalists, aren’t very virtuous. As a result, the one Hollywood defense of capitalism that everyone knows is Gordon Gekko’s speech from “Wall Street”: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” But even if Gekko’s defense has an element of truth, it’s uninspiring, which is why Gekko remains the villain of “Wall Street,” and not the hero.
A better defense of capitalism is to focus on capitalist virtues. In “The Pursuit of Happyness,” for example, Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman played by Will Smith, confronts adversity with hard work, creativity, ambition and intelligence. “The Pursuit of Happyness” is syrupy at times, but the story of Gardner’s rise from homelessness to a successful job as a stockbroker is full of drama and uplift, which makes it all the more surprising that more films don’t use the business world as the setting for great cinema.