Imagine you’re the head of Mattel, and you’re hoping the new “Barbie” movie sends your toy sales skyrocketing.
And then you hear this line of dialogue about the iconic doll:
You represent everything wrong with our culture. You destroyed the planet with your glorification of rampant consumerism … you fascist!
Suddenly, the “Barbie” tie-ins got a little more… complicated. And that’s before the movie skewers both Mattel, Inc. and its fictional CEO (Will Ferrell).
This is hardly new from La La Land, a business where income inequality isn’t a bug. It’s the feature every ingenue craves. You’d think industry executives might avoid that awkward anti-capitalist messaging at all costs (much like how climate change activists fear their private jet addictions will be exposed).
And you’d be flat-out wrong.
Modern films go out of their way to smite the rich and decry income inequality. The stars inhabiting those films just so happen to be among the richest stars in the Hollywood galaxy.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
The “Barbie” film goes out of its way to not only trash consumerism, but the titular toy. And a vital character even suggests we stop buying these “fascist” dolls of flawless white women. Yes, that’s another word taken directly from the script to describe the plastic doll.
This summer features another big-budget comedy with the wealthy in its crosshairs.
The Jennifer Lawrence comedy “No Hard Feelings” finds the Oscar-winner smiting the rich early and often. She plays a bitter, broke woman named Maggie who decides to sleep with a younger man for a quick payday, courtesy of a wealthy couple who can buy just about anything.
Not to Maggie. She’d rather do that than be part of the capitalist system. Lawrence’s character spends serious screen time trashing the rich. She’s drowning in debt and resents the wealthy Long Island residents keeping the local economy humming.
Her moral compass is pure, or at least she thinks it is.
Maggie all but spits in a wealthy bar customer’s face early in the film. His crime? He’s rich, and he asked for a drink minutes before the bar officially opened.
None of this was an accident. Director Gene Stupnitsky says he embraced the anti-wealthy angle to add gravitas to the story, hoping it wouldn’t overwhelm the narrative.
The ultimate irony? The aggressively liberal Lawrence fought hard to snag a multi-million dollar paycheck to star in the film. Did she fight just as hard to make sure her co-stars got an equally large paycheck, or at least one larger than the studio initially offered? Talk about income inequality! So much privilege.
Last year saw two celebrated films similarly assault the rich.
The superior film “The Menu” featured Ralph Fiennes as a chef who invites wealthy diners to savor his revolutionary cuisine. The assorted guests, including far-left actor John Leguizamo, are portrayed as mostly shallow souls eager to climb the societal ladder.
The chef has more on his mind than keeping the dishes fresh and warm, and the story soon takes a horrific turn.
The mockery is relentless, although the film proved one of the sturdier awards season entries and didn’t get lost in its agenda.
The same can’t be said for “Triangle of Sadness,” the Best Picture nominee that scorches the elite early and often. The film’s first half is brilliant, and even Donald Trump might chuckle at its social X-ray of the fatuous elites.
A group of ultra-wealthy souls gather for an extravagant cruise, but they’re left to fend for themselves when a storm overwhelms the boat.
The moment Woody Harrelson enters the frame as the ship’s combative captain, sadly, the film’s agenda overwhelms the story. The satire’s second half is a dud with income inequality notes and a storytelling detour that sinks the initially impressive tale.
Conservatives rallied around Harrelson for defying COVID-19 groupthink, but hearing the ultra-wealthy star praise socialism in the film may be tough to swallow.
HBO’s “The White Lotus” series similarly deconstructs how the rich and famous spend their leisure time. Show creator Mike White does so with a gimlet eye for hypocrisy and a greater sense of cultural balance. He’s willing to torch the rich while mocking those who attack them without earning their slice of the financial pie.
The show’s first season showcases embittered Gen Z types — Olivia Mossbacher (Sydney Sweeney) and her pal Paula (Brittany O’Grady) — as they smirk their way through paradise.
Do they appreciate the sacrifices the Mossbachers made to get them to Maui or the endless work that gave them the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime trip like this? Of course not.
The two have little empathy for anyone other than themselves. Later in the season, Paula cracks the parents’ safe to help a resort worker, but it hardly feels like a charitable move.
The best “eat the rich” satire in recent memory may be HBO’s just-wrapped “Succession.” The celebrated drama showed the rich and famous brawling over power, fame, and family dynamics. The show drew near-universal acclaim despite its not-so-veiled attack on families like the conservative-leaning Murdoch clan.
Hollywood understandably loves to tweak the rich. Heck, many elites bring it on themselves, and great writers have famously toyed with excess in profound ways. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” rushes to mind.
It’s far less agreeable when an industry renowned for excess not only mocks it, but does so sans irony.
Sometimes, though, screenwriters still get it right.
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