Wall Street Sequel Sees Two Kinds of Green


From the Street…

Many of us were too young to remember Oliver Stone’s dispiriting 1987 ode to greenbacks – which became a template for corporate boilerplate, earned Michael Douglas an Oscar, and minted the ubiquitous mantra, “greed is good.” Douglas’s character, Gordon Gekko, has been excavated and given a quick polish for another go-around in Wall Street 2, which may as well claim “Green is Good” as its sobriquet. Who knew Stone wanted to go all environmental on us?

The Wall Street traders are back in force (or farce, given the current state of affairs) and Gekko has sprung from the clink with a spring in his step and an oil slick of Brylcreem on his head.

”America has become a second-rate power,” he famously opined to movie-going Baby Boomers everywhere. Greed, he said, is all we have left, but it is also what makes America great. It’s normal. It’s healthy and it’s what keeps the system going.

That charmless maxim has only grown in relevance since then.

Shia LaBeouf gets a role as Jake, an idealistic young trader who wants to invest in eco-friendly alternative energy. Gekko acts as his surrogate father in more ways than one. A powerful rival Wall Street shark named Bretton subverts the market and accelerates the historic meltdown so that he can eviscerate Jake’s firm. Jake’s mentor (played by Frank Langella) commits suicide as a result.

Jake’s girlfriend Winnie (played by Carey Mulligan) operates a greenwashing-focused agitprop website, which is well and good. But she’s also Gekko’s estranged daughter – now it’s personal.

All of these figures play like synonyms for the word green. Roll call:

  • Gordon Gekko: greedy
  • Jake: naïve
  • Winnie: a tree hugger
  • Jake’s mentor: a corpse

Recently LaBeouf spoke about the overall message pervading not only the film, but the history of the environment – both financial and ecological:

“What was money essentially created for? You had farmers putting in surplus crops into granaries. And they would give you a ceramic piece of info that told you how much your surplus was.”

Hopefully that line’s in the script.

Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment in Christopher Correa’s weekly column, Hill/Street Greens, examining the environmental deeds (and misdeeds) of Washington, D.C. and Wall Street.

Image: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox