Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Contemporary Great Gatsby

The book The Wolf of Wall Street (2008) is a story about greed and excess in American capitalism. It is the true story of a man called Jordan Belfort who was bankrupt at the age of 24, but by the age of 26 was making nearly a million dollars a week selling penny stocks on Wall Street through his company Stratton Oakmont. This company functioned as a boiler room marketing the stocks and defrauding investors with fraudulent stock sales. He was indicted by the FBI in 1998 for securities fraud and money laundering, receiving a four year sentence. Belfort was ordered to pay $110 million in restitution. The story was the inspiration for the 2000 movie Boiler Room and the 2014 movie called The Wolf of Wall Street (ironically with Leonardo Di Caprio playing the lead role.) Similarities between Belfort’s story and The Great Gatsby include, both Belfort and Gatsby acquired their wealth through illegal means, both got caught in their lies, both were born into poor families, both lived lavish lifestyles and both ended up being punished, although in much different ways. Belfort was sent to jail, whilst Gatsby was killed.

                This story speaks about the nature of success and how we measure it, much like The Great Gatsby. Belfort’s story can be seen to symbolise all that is wrong with the idea of success in America, he had to lie, cheat and manipulate people so he could gain wealth and success and a glamorous lifestyle. For all this he was celebrated by many as one of the great investors of his time, breaking company records and throwing lavish parties. Though he struggled much like Gatsby and was found out much like Gatsby, I believe his story can be seen as a contemporary Great Gatsby.  

The two links below are for the trailers of the films Boiler Room and The Wolf of Wall Street.

A Contemporary Great Gatsby

Kacey Musgraves is a country singer based in Nashville, but born in Golden, Texas and writes mainly about the small town Southern life that limits life possibilities and chances. Her song 'Merry Go Round' is from her album 'Same Trailer Different Park' and is one of many songs to criticise this lifestyle.

She describes the working class lifestyle (although it is lower than working class as none of them have jobs and all have children by the age of 21) and the way in which they all follow the tradition of going to Church every Sunday and having children, and it's not really what they want but are obliged to meet these traditional expectations. This song can be likened to 'The Great Gatsby' in that it is a social commentary that criticises the working class lifestyle, in a similar way that Nick criticises the upper class lifestyle of Gatsby, Daisy and Tom. Nick states in the first chapter, 'Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn', suggesting that he initially doesn't approve of Gatsby's extravagant lifestyle although he soon becomes accustomed to it. Nick does not come from a great deal of money but education instead, and at first, only sees Gatsby as a negative representation of the upper class and the effect that this lifestyle has on the characters soon becomes evident. By arriving at the conclusion in Chapter 9 that 'Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life' shows how the wealth, glamour and fast paced lifestyle of New York in the East only creates tension and pressure for the characters when compared to the more traditional and moral West, as it would have been less developed than the East at that time.

This reference to the importance of geography and the expectation that comes with a geographical location is reflected in Kacey Musgraves song. For example, 'If you ain't got two kids by 21 you're probably going to die alone', ' don't matter if you don't believe come Sunday morning, you best be there in the front row like you're supposed to' and 'tiny little boxes in a row ain't what you want it's what you know' all describe the traditional and oppressive lifestyle of the South and how similarly to New York in 'The Great Gatsby', the location plays a key part in what behaviour is expected. Musgraves calls the Southern way of life a 'broken merry go round' because it will not stop but will keep repeating itself with each generation and this could be linked to the Eastern way of life that was present during the 1920's (in Gatsby's lifetime) because when money, glamour and a pressurised lifestyle is concerned, tension and stress will always be put onto the people experiencing it.

Gatorade advert

This commercial for Gatorade is from March of this year. It tells the story of Gatorade from its creation in 1965, to help the Florida Gators when playing in hot weather. It shows some of the most iconic sports men and women in American history such as Michael Jordan, Dwayne Wade, Serena Williams and Peyton Manning. Gatorade can be seen as a symbol of success, with the iconic Gatorade shower created in the mid 1980’s. The process involves throwing a tub full of the drink over the coach or star player of the winning team. The advert shows how the drink has helped each of these players and teams become successful with the final shots show an unknown athlete training with the taglines “continue the legend” and “win from within”. These two taglines represent how the company wants to be seen by the American public, as an ingredient to success. Although originally started as a sports drink, today it is consumed by non-athletes as a stimulant drink. This shows how America consumes things differently from what they were originally intended for. In this way Gatorade can be compared to jeans.           
Sorry its late.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Chevy

The Chevrolet car brand was created in 1911 by a Swiss-born racing car driver and the reasons for its popularity stems from "Having a popularly priced, made-in-America vehicle is important for the country. Some element of national pride is involved," says Jack Nerad, an executive editorial director and market analyst for (Kelley Blue Book's - a car sales website). As Americans value their national pride extremely, it only seems fitting that a truck made in their own country  should become a part of their pride and a reason for their pride. America is a country known for its consumerism and it can only be seen as a good thing that the Chevy has been the fuel for their car culture and that they are supporting their own car industry by doing so.
The Chevy has become such an American symbol and it even has a strong presence in songs when demonstrating the freedom that it represents. It has a particular tendency to appear in Country songs (which are the epitome of Americana), with such examples ranging from Shania Twain: 'He can have a '55 Chevy or a fancy little pick-up truck' to Taylor Swift: 'Just a boy in a Chevy truck' to Alan Jackson: 'Well we fogged up the windows in my old Chevy'. Not only does it symbolise freedom and is a classic road trip car, but (particularly in Taylor Swift's case) the idea of innocence and the idea of romance always seem to go hand in hand with the introduction of a Chevrolet.
Their designs have been called 'beautiful' (particularly the Camaro) and are so well designed and built that they have a longevity that seems to out do other brands. The normality of getting a Chevy as a first car and keeping it for years and years is so common in America, and its ability to not only trascend through generations, but also for its popularity to last, proves how the Chevy is a symbol of American values.

Nike Advertisement

 Nike, inc. is an American multinational corporation. Nike promotes the idea that if you are determined to succeed you will excel and therefore you should 'Just do it'. I chose this commercial advertising their 'Become Legendary' product line.  This advert features Michael Jordan, who is considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time as well as perfect icon of media culture, therefore being such an influential figure to young aspiring athletes, it is likely that the message being portrayed will inspire young people to work hard and become successful. He is also considered to be a promoter of racial equality, used to illustrate that the 'American dream' can be obtained by anyone in America, regardless of your race. The video represents the notion of the 'American dream' as throughout the advert he states that he had to work extremely hard to get to where he is today. He says 'Maybe I led you to believe that basketball was a God given gift, and not something I work for every single day of my life.' This ad inspires people to not give up on their dreams as Jordan states himself 'Maybe I made you think that every shot I took was a game winner, that my game was built on flash and not fire.' Overall, I think the advert illustrates that it is not the shoes, it's what you do in them. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The American Dream in Ragged Dick.

"The basic American promise that if you work hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college." - Barack Obama

This contemporary statement uses the idea of the American Dream in regards to the notion that hard work will pay off. As long as you work hard, you will be rewarded.

In Ragged Dick it could be argued that Dick himself embodies this, in that although he is a boy on the streets, it is his hard work and determination that enable him to slowly move up in life. However, there is also the fact that some people manage to see promise in Dick, and it could be argued that if it wasn't for them, then Dick would not have managed to achieve as much as he has.

This statement is also in keeping with the idea of individual success, in this case having a job that you can aspire to be successful in. This idea matches that of the notion of success in Ragged Dick, for example, thanks to his wit and street-smarts Dick is able to overcome many of his problems, and save money that he has gathered from his hard work and wit. Although, many argue that it Dick's luck alone which allows him to succeed. However, if Dick had not had to survive by working, then he wouldn't know how to act in order to help himself get further, and it is his experiences which have helped him be able to use his determination and hard work to help him succeed. 

In order for Dick to have a successful life, he needed to work hard, and this statement highlights the message, by telling American's that hard work will lead to an enjoyable and full life. And that even if you come from poverty, or are not well-off you can become comfortable in the future if you only work hard.