Rich is the new asshole

Sarah Posted by Sarah at October 5, 2011 15:43:53 October 5, 2011 15:43:53

IΓÇÖm confessing my TV shame: I like, nay, I kind of actually love, the show Revenge. Some of it is Emily VanCampΓÇöIΓÇÖve always liked her. But mostly itΓÇÖs that Revenge is campy, soapy fun, and it airs on Wednesdays so itΓÇÖs perfect mid-week escapism. Also, itΓÇÖs about rich people getting screwed which is now the #1 fantasy of all people everywhere.

Revenge follows Emily Thorne, a young womanΓÇöherself ludicrously privilegedΓÇöexacting revenge on the Hamptons set that falsely accused her father and wrecked her family (very loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo). That Emily is part of this jet-set crew doesnΓÇÖt seem to matterΓÇöRevenge is one of the better debuts this fall and a lot of people are attributing it to average Americans getting a kick out of watching rich people get ruined on a weekly basis.

(Sidebar: Revenge, though filmed in North Carolina, is set during a Hamptons summer replete with polo matches and scenic yacht harbors, and I asked my friend JJ, who is Monopoly rich, if his family vacations in the Hamptons. He got this look on his face like he smelled spoiled milk and said, with complete and hilarious seriousness, ΓÇ£Only new money goes to the Hamptons.ΓÇ¥)

ThereΓÇÖs definitely a trend in entertainment these days that the rich have become the new short-hand for ΓÇ£villainΓÇ¥. Revenge, the sitcom 2 Broke Girls, in which one of the broke girls is the disenfranchised daughter of a Madoff-type, and the upcoming Tower Heist with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, all use this uniquely post-economic-meltdown language. I think the rich have always been an easy target, but lately thereΓÇÖs a sort of shorthand thatΓÇÖs developed for these characters. Words like ΓÇ£hedge fundΓÇ¥ and ΓÇ£bailoutΓÇ¥ get tossed around with no exposition because we all know what they mean. Tell me a character works on Wall Street and IΓÇÖm assuming s/he is a greedy asshole and the villain of the piece.

ThereΓÇÖs always been a bad guy vernacularΓÇöfirst it was the Nazis, next the Russians, then terroristsΓÇöbut this trend has an edge of schadenfreude IΓÇÖve not noticed before. Revenge is about watching a different rich person eat it every week. 2 Broke Girls draws humor from watching a spoiled daughter of privilege learn to do things like ride the subway and wait tables. And Tower Heist is about employees ripped off by their retirement fund money manager stealing their money back. It doesnΓÇÖt take a genius to see where this is coming from. People are sufferingΓÇöif you yourself havenΓÇÖt been touched by the economic crisis then someone you know hasΓÇöand thereΓÇÖs no real relief on the horizon. The best weΓÇÖve got is an upcoming election starring a bunch of, well, rich people. The anger is increasingly palpable and itΓÇÖs beginning to seep into every facet of daily life. First it dominates the news, then the dinner table, now itΓÇÖs in our movies and on TV.

Saying the rich are the bad guys isnΓÇÖt enough anymore. No, we must see them suffer for our entertainment. And I donΓÇÖt see that ending any time soon.


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