MLI senior fellow Philip Cross wrote in the Financial Post this week about what the film The Great Gatsby does and does not tell us about income inequality in the United States. "The moral futility of trying to transcend one's history, not economic barriers to income mobility, is what the story is about," he writes.

FP at the Movies: Great Gatsby strains the rich-poor gap

Philip Cross, Special to Financial Post | 13/08/26 |

This is Hollywood's fifth attempt at translating Scott Fitzgerald's novel to the silver screen; you have to conclude that some books resist film treatment. It is easy to see why Hollywood is so attracted to The Great Gatsby; it allows each generation of directors to mount ever-more outlandish representations of rich people's lifestyles.

The gap between rich and poor widens in every film version. The elegant mansion Gatsby inhabits in the novel has mushroomed into a sprawling estate in this film, although Gatsby did not even head the illegal bootlegging operation (so how Great was he? It's like calling Messier 'The Great One' instead of Gretzky). Junkets into Manhattan take the wealthy through Queen's, whose residents live in a drab squalor befitting a Dickens novel under the baleful watch of God, represented by a billboard.

Looking at this film's downtrodden, one wonders how anyone in the U.S. ever escaped poverty. There is no philanthropy, no education for the poor, indeed little government whatsoever except to organize the war effort. Even breeding observes strict class lines. As Gatsby says, "Rich girls don't marry poor boys," which is what drives poor boys like Gatsby to become rich. ... to read the rest of Cross's review click here.

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