“We have a house in Jersey. We have two kids, Annie and Josh. Annie’s not much of a violin player, but she tries real hard. She’s a little precocious, but that’s only because she says what’s on her mind. And when she smiles… And Josh, he has your eyes. He doesn’t say much, but we know he’s smart. He’s always got his eyes open, he’s always watching us. Sometimes you can look at him and you just know he’s learning something new. It’s like witnessing a miracle. The house is a mess but it’s ours. After 122 more payments, it’s going to be ours. And you, you’re a non-profit lawyer. That’s right, you’re completely non-profit, but that doesn’t seem to bother you. And we’re in love. After 13 years of marriage we’re still unbelievably in love. You won’t even let me touch you until I’ve said it. I sing to you. Not all the time, but definitely on special occasions. We’ve dealt with our share of surprises and made a lot of sacrifices but we’ve stayed together. You see, you’re a better person than I am. And it made me a better person to be around you. I don’t know, maybe it was just all a dream. Maybe I went to bed one lonely night in December and I imagined it all. But I swear, nothing has ever felt more real. And if you get on that plane right now, it’ll disappear forever. I know we could both go on with our lives and we’d both be fine, but I’ve seen what we could be like together. And I choose us.”
As we continue our discussion of movies that show the rich in a positive light we come to one I’ve already covered as a Christmas film…The Family Man. I’ve said a great deal about this movie already.
Most of the movie is our central character Jack Campbell, played by Nicholas Cage, as he adjusts from wealth to middle class living, from single life to be the family man. But one has to remember this movie starts and ends with him being wealthy, really wealthy…Penthouse in a New York high-rise, President of a major brokerage firm, sports car….the whole nine yards of wealth. And he earned every penny of it starting at the bottom and making something of himself.
And besides working his employees hard (which is the idea of Wall Street investment firms, work REALLY hard for 10-15 years and retire rich) there is not a single complaint you could make about this man or his ethics.
In fact Campbell gets into the whole situation when he risks his life to save the lives of others in a corner store from an apparent hold up (it was a bit more complicated, the least of which being that the guy with the gun was actually an angel of some kind (?)testing people’s ethics…this part was never really explained…) so the whole movie occurs because the guy in the upper half of the top 1% is shown to be a much better person with more character than a couple of working stiffs in the movie who fail the angel’s tests. (This actually is even a more rare concept to show that the rich can be noble and the poor without character in the same film, it’s amazing this movie was ever made.)
Now I can already see the objection “but the movie shows he is a better person in his middle class life without all his money.” No…and it’s no for a couple of reasons. The first is that he is hardly poor in his other life, he runs a small business (and is clearly going to inherit said small business), his wife is a lawyer who also works (trust me even a lawyer who clearly works for a firm that takes pro-bono cases is probably making more than the median level of income…and doing that kind of law is what you do when you don’t have to really worry about money). Their kids want for nothing (ballet, violin lessons, etc.). The reason they don’t have every extravagance in life is because they have kids, and kids are very expensive and you will give every dime of disposable income you have to raising kids if you can, not because they don’t have money.
The more important point is that his life is not better because it has less money, it’s better because he has a wife he loves and who loves him and has children whom he loves. That’s what makes his life better. We all want money, but we’d be an idiot’s idiot if we consciously chose money over a loving relationship and a wonderful family. Money just helps it get better (as both I and others have shown money is necessary for happiness).
Yes there are things better than money, but the story of Jack Campbell shows that having money does not make you in any way, shape or form villainous or not worthy of respect. It is what you do that matters, not how much you make.
It could happen to you. Another great Nicholas Cage film (as anyone who watches film knows, Cage films come in two categories and only two, very entertaining and why-the-hell-did-they-make-this-shit?)
I didn’t include this movie in the official list, because honestly 2 million dollars (split two ways) isn’t rich, it’s well off…it’s a safety net not a license to retire. Despite what Cage’s crazy wife thought in the film, it was not the kind of money that allows you to enter the upper echelons of society (even in the early ‘90’s when the film was made). But that’s what makes Cage and Fonda’s characters so admirable, they knew that they still had to work; they knew that money wasn’t the answer to all things, and they knew that money could yield more happiness via philanthropy than through just buying things they didn’t need. So while they aren’t a true depiction of Hollywood showing the reality that the rich are like everyone else, with their good and their bad, it does show that money is not the all corrupting thing most liberals think it is.