Tag Archives: rich people

Movies that show the rich as good #2: Meet Joe Black

“Should I be afraid?”
“Not a man like you.”

Meet Joe Black is a great movie for several reasons. A powerful love story. An insightful look at what life is about. And oddly enough a story about a businessman making sure his life work remains great. (Also the only time in history the IRS was even tangentially heroic…and not, you know, worthy of the treatment at the end of Braveheart).

Meet Joe BlackNow some might think that the story about the businessman trying to keep hold of his business when he knows for certain he will die in the immediate future is really a secondary plot line—that the love story of Death (Joe Black) and Susan is far more important than Anthony Hopkins business tales. And people who edit movies for TV and in-flight movies would agree with those people. However the director Martin Brest thought that it so ruined the movie that he got the Director’s Guild to agree that his name could be removed from the cut without the business story line—the Director’s Guild receives hundreds, some years, thousands of requests to have directors names removed because the director was unhappy with the result…virtually all of them are denied.* So that this was granted tells you that this plot line involving Hopkins’ character of Bill Parish is absolutely important.

Why? Or as Death puts it:

Joe Black: Bill, why at this juncture are you letting yourself be so concerned by business matters?
William Parrish: I don’t want anybody buying up my life’s work! Turning it into something it wasn’t meant to be. A man wants to leave something behind. And he wants it left behind the way he made it. He wants it to be run the way he ran it, with a sense of honor, of dedication, of truth. Okay?

Because this film shows us that life isn’t just about love. It is about life. The big and the small things (like peanut butter). And this movie shows the depth of love, not just romantic love, but the love of parents and children, of friendship, of siblings, and of life itself. Love is one of those massively important things…but so is accomplishment. In fact, if you look at the needs of people’s accomplishments, achievements, the attainment of goals is, according to psychologist Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, is the next thing we need to achieve in our quest for Happiness.

Now the liberals out there are probably rolling their eyes when they hear attainment of goals or achievement, as theyMeet Joe Black Dance think that you attain goals you must do so by taking from others. They see a world of static wealth and prosperity, where if I am to be successful another must fail, where if I am to be wealthy another must be poor, where if I am to be happy another must be miserable. Which is why they must tear down the strong, the successful, the happy, because in their warped mind those people are taking strength, success and happiness from others. Reality tends to be quite different. Whereas historically most economic and political systems have done the liberal thing and only shifted money and resources around, or at best created wealth at an astoundingly slow rate…capitalism literally creates wealth where it did not exist before. It takes work, ideas, creativity, individual and cooperation, risk, and planning to create wealth…but capitalism is the only system that can sustain long term innovation to create wealth out of what was previously worthless. Wealth thus has no limit, so long as there is liberty and drive to keep creating it. It parallels the other thing we seek for constantly in life: love. Just because I love my spouse doesn’t mean I have to love my parents, my siblings, or my children, or my friends less…they may all be different kinds of love, but an increase in one does not diminish the others. And the movie is quite clear; we need love in our lives:

Bill Parish: Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. I say, fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back. How do you find him? Well, you forget your head, and you listen to your heart. And I’m not hearing any heart. Cause the truth is, honey, there’s no sense living your life without this.

To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well, you haven’t lived a life at all. But you have to try, cause if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.

But again back to the Maslow’s hierarchy, life isn’t complete with just love, we also need accomplishment. And the character of Bill Parish certainly has accomplished as the founder and chairman and CEO of a multinational media empire. As he discusses his business he states:

Meet Joe Black ConfrontationSee, I started in this business because this is what I wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t going to write the great American novel, but I also knew there was more to life than buying something for a dollar and selling it for two. I’d hoped to create something, something which could be held to the highest standards. And what I realized was I wanted to give the news to the world, and I wanted to give it unvarnished. The more we all know about each other, the greater the chance we will survive.

Sure, I want to make a profit. You can’t exist without one. But John Bontecou is all profit. Now if we give him license to absorb Parrish Communications, and he has his eye on a few others after us, in order to reach the world you will have to go through John Bontecou. And not only will you have to pay him to do this, far more important, you’ll have to agree with him.

He veers almost into the territory of an Atlas Shrugged hero there…Yes I love making money, but I love making my creation more and you could offer me all the money in the world to scrap what I have built and I would throw it in your face. He is a man of morals which are more important than just money. Which is something else that correct philosophers from Aristotle to Maslow understood, while there are charlatans that can make money, they often can’t keep it going and can’t create. Yeah there are terrible businessmen out there, but the majority of the rich, from the so called Robber Barons to Mitt Romney the rich who come to their money through work and achievement are among the most generous people in the world (Please see Who Really Cares by Arthur C. Brooks for further proof).

And it is this mixture of accomplishment and love and morality that makes the character of Bill Parish so admirable that even Death views him as someone to learn from.

The man from whose lips fall “rapture” and “passion” and “obsession”? All those admonitions about being “deliriously happy, that there is no sense in living your life without” all the sparks and energy you give off, the rosy advice you dispense in round pear shaped tones. […]It requires competence wisdom and experience, all those things they say about you in testimonials. And you’re the one.

And as we see through the course of the movie as he cares for his family and their happiness more than his business, and the achievements he has made more than just buying another day or two of his life, why when right before Death takes him he asks, “Should I be afraid?” The obvious reply to someone who has built and accomplished and loved the only answer can be, “Not a man like you.” Bill Parish stands out as a man who has excelled in every aspect of his life…and it’s amazing that Hollywood would show such a character as being.

Meet Joe Black Death

*If you ever see a movie directed by Alan Smithee, there is no Alan Smithee. That’s the name the Director’s Guild puts on films they allow the real director to distance themselves from. Producers or a studio have to ruin beyond the telling of it a director’s film before this is ever granted.

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Filed under Capitalism, character, Death, Faith, Fear, Individualism, Long Term Thinking, Love, Movies, Movies for Conservatives

Movies that show the rich as good #6 Pretty Woman

Vivian: Tell me one person who it’s worked out for.
Kit: What, you want me to name someone? You want like a name? Oh, God, the pressure of a name… I got it. Cinda-fuckin’-rella

We’re going to deviate from the star of the film and focus on the rich people in this film for just a minute (after all that’s what this series of blog is about).

This movie is a little odd in that it actually shows two rich people (arguably three if you count Morse’s grandson, but he doesn’t really play that much of a part aside from being likable) who are decent human beings.

Let’s deal with the minor characters first. James Morse, played by lifetime character actor Ralph Bellamy, is the owner of the shipyard which brings our main rich character, Edward Lewis, to L.A. His shipyard which he has clearly built from scratch through his own genius, effort, blood and sweat, is on the financial ropes (the movie was made shortly after the crash of the late ‘80’s when a lot of industries were on the chopping block for creative destruction…which is actually one of the fundamental principles of a functioning capitalist system.) However, Morse’s company is not so flawed that it is as easy a kill as it first looked. And this is where we see the character of Morse. He is not the kind of man who whines about it being unfair—his first reaction to Lewis’ statement that he intends to dismantle his company is “I’ll buy your stock back.” He deals with Lewis fairly and offers to make him a fair deal that says ‘I’m sorry that you didn’t feel your investment in my company has not paid off. I believe in my company, I won’t bother you with emotional outbursts, I’ll deal with you as an adult and offer you a fair exchange.” His next inclination is to fight for his company and put his own money where his mouth is, like any man of character would. And finally when he sees that he facing insurmountable odds he seeks to cut a deal that will leave those who have been loyal to him in a safe position.

“Mr. Lewis and I are going to build ships together, great big ships.”

Seldom do you see Hollywood portray any of these traits. Often they are depicted as whining, willing to use other’s money and in the end really only caring for themselves. (And sometimes that first trait is viewed as a virtue).

Now onto the movie’s other rich guy, Edward Lewis.* Our first impression of Lewis is that he has problems with his personal relationships, but given the brief but very happy reunion with an ex-girlfriend, who seems to remember him fondly, it is clear that while not a master of personal relationships, he is a very well liked human being. Further at all points when he is honest and blunt with people (except when bluffing about stopping Morse’s defense contracts, but as in all games bluffing is expected).

Now some would claim that being the kind of businessman who engages in hostile takeovers to break up the pieces and sell them off is heartless and evil…of course this ignores the basic fact that by doing so, by engaging in what economists call creative destruction—weak companies die or are taken over before death, their products sold cheap their workers tend to find jobs in the same industries which have been revitalized with new supplies and workers. (Or you can go with the despair of “too big to fail”…yeah tell me how that brings prosperity). But even this claim is far fetched with Edward Lewis. The contrast comes in with two statements he makes, the first is in reference to Morse saying he would destroy Lewis, “I look forward to it sir.” And the second is in critiquing of his slimy lawyer (do lawyers come in any other form?) when, after giving him the beating he so richly deserves, he points out “It’s the kill you love” as an insult of Stucky’s character. Lewis’ character is shown by these two points (as well of a lot of smaller moves) that what he loves is not the destruction of another’s business, as those who obsessively hate the rich might suggest, but rather the challenge his job presents. Like most people who are very good at what they do, Lewis is constantly seeking a challenge, something to push himself even further. And it just so happens that he finds an even greater challenge worthy of his skill in rebuilding a business rather than simply taking it over, which is why he cuts a deal with Morse at the end of the film to help revitalize the business.

But, I will admit it is clearly Vivian Ward who helps him get out of the rut of just taking over characters. Lewis was not able to do it completely on his own. He was getting lost in his habits, and overly influenced by his sleazy lawyer, and it was Robert’s character that broke him out of his trance. But this does bring up a tangential point I would like to bring up. Several people I know hate this film because they think it’s derogatory to women because Ward states “I want the fairy tale.” As if that somehow is sexist and degrading to women. They apparently missed both the nature of the movie where Lewis needs Ward to survive and be happy and be not just a good person, but a great one. The character of Vivian Ward needed 3 grand, a week’s worth of nice clothes (yeah they show her trying on a lot, but she leaves with only a couple of garment bags that she can carry by herself…granted the Rodeo Drive stores probably knock the price tag up to $20,000-$30,000, but really she walked out with a week’s worth of clothes and that’s it). So it took at most $33,000* for her to get her life together, it is clear that while she might not have been as happy, she would have been just fine and done quite well for herself on her own. Edward Lewis needed her. She didn’t need him; it was just an added perk. Everyone forgets, that’s how her fairy tale (and I think the one all sane people have) goes:

“What happens after he climbs the tower and rescues her?”
“She rescues him right back.”

*I’m really going to ignore the ethics of picking up a prostitute. Sexual mores are extremely personal and seldom based on unbiased reasoning (and that goes for people on all sides of these arguments). In the end everything that occurs is between consenting adults and we’re going to leave it at that.
*And before you try to make that out to be a huge sum, keep in mind the clothes have limited value beyond opening more doors than her previous attire. I could give lots of people I’ve known 33 grand in cash and they wouldn’t be able to significantly improve their life. The character of Vivian Ward is the kind who can use whatever she has to make the most of her life, which is why she was never overly impressed or awed by Lewis’ money.

Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.

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Filed under Art, Capitalism, Economics, Individualism, Movies, Movies for Conservatives