Technically, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is the sequel to Oliver Stone’s 1987 megahit. It does have someone named Gordon Gekko, and is set against another troubling economic time. Yet Money Never Sleeps is ultimately the furthest thing from Wall Street, both in content and in tone. The original spared no expense in detailing the dark side of the 1980’s economy, whereas the sequel turns timid amidst an even greater collapse.
But a week after the official Wall Street sequel came out, another movie was released to take up the mantle. Although The Social Network tells a far different story than Wall Street, its themes, and its depiction of an economic revolution, would be right at home in Gordon Gekko’s world.
The first Wall Street was about the movers, shakers, and corrupt money lenders of the 1980’s. Gordon Gekko and his ilk were the masters of the universe, determining our future and our culture on a whim. Ultimately, they did teach the country that greed was good, even if that wasn’t Oliver Stone’s actual message. If Gekko wasn’t a fully accurate symbol of the 80’s, he became one in the years that followed.
For today’s generation, The Social Network details the movers, shakers, and questionable symbols of our current culture. Mark Zuckerberg may or may not have Gekko’s ruthlessness and capacity for destruction, depending on who one asks. But he is a master of the universe who is nearly at Gekko’s scale, if he hasn’t surpassed it. Even Gekko never created something that brought 500 million people together – in fact, he was proud to say he never created anything at all.
To some, Gekko and Zuckerberg are models to live by, as self-made men who used their talents to climb up, as per the American dream. To others, they are slimy thieves who let their ego destroy their souls, and countless others in their path. Of course, it’s easier to agree about Gekko’s evil than Zuckerberg – although Money Never Sleeps and The Social Network tries to soften them both at the last minute. In any case, they are both the symbol of a culture that racked up riches and power, yet may have lost something along the way.
The original Wall Street established Gekko as the king of the financial world, whereas The Social Network showed how Zuckerberg created his world. Zuckerberg took the climate around him and digitized it, creating a new world order that spread beyond the Internet. But although he shaped the social culture, just as Gekko and his kind shaped their financial culture, they stepped on a few people along the way. In fact, one could claim that they ultimately stepped on society, given Facebook’s questionable impact on our generation, and the financial crimes of would-be Gekko’s everywhere.
Still, Zuckerberg may not be the Gordon Gekko of The Social Network. In fact, he may be the Bud Fox of the movie, while Sean Parker serves as the true Gekko. He brings Zuckerberg deeper into the Internet business world, and is the catalyst for his ultimate betrayal, just as Gekko corrupted Fox. But Fox regained his conscience – although Money Never Sleeps suggests it was short lived – whereas Zuckerberg’s is left in question.
Yet Gekko and Parker got theirs at the end of Wall Street and The Social Network, although they proved to be prophets. Gekko went on to forsee the 2008 crisis in the sequel, while Parker’s prediction that we would “live on the Internet” was exceeded and more. In fact, Parker gives birth to The Social Networks’s equivalent of “Greed is good” by spawning Zuckerberg’s business card motto “I’m CEO, bitch”
“Greed is good” is how Wall Street summed up its environment and all that spawned afterwards. Yet “I’m CEO, bitch” sums up the new order of today’s generation – one controlled by a new group of leaders. Younger, more viral-savvy leaders like Zuckerberg have broken down the doors, and become as big in today’s times as Gekko’s ilk was in their day. Yet the Gekko’s have more seniority and longevity – no matter what their sins – while the Zuckerbergs are still trying to prove they can last in the long run.
Although Money Never Sleeps tries to do for today’s era what Wall Street did for the 80’s, The Social Network does far more on that front. Of course, Zuckerberg and his fellow travelers aren’t as powerful as the Wall Street tycoons, and are less likely to cause as much damage.
But the original Wall Street showed an economic time, and code, that ultimately rose and fell further than many imagined. Will the masters of The Social Network culture have the same rise ahead – and avoid the same fall? If so, then one hopes David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin can maintain their edge for the sequel.
New York Times- “Drive and Determination of Zuckerberg and Gekko”
The Business Insider- “Mark Zuckerberg Is The Bud Fox Of This Generation”