The Priapic Milkweed

A word or two, but not much more, on Kevin Spacey.

Following the financial crash in 2008, quite a few movies came out about big money and the decrepitude of man. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) was one, The Big Short (2015) was another, but the one which rarely gets mentioned and is much overlooked is Margin Call. Released back in 2011, it was one of the first movies to come out about the financial crash itself.

The movie captures well the idea of the quintessential moral hazard. The characters seem oblivious to the asymmetry of information between themselves and the common man, and it is this which makes their position morally untenable. They even see themselves as victims, as they ‘need the money’, and as such they see themselves as much a slave to their cooperation as they are a beneficiary.

Kevin Spacey’s character, Sam Rogers, is the person who we end up sympathising with the most. He’s a risk manager with a conscience, and although there are others who recognise that right and wrong extends beyond your cooperate family, (to the human family), none of them seem to struggle with this as much as Sam does. He has a sense of human worth. Towards the end of the film he states that he would rather have dug holes in the ground his whole life, like a blue-collar worker, because at least then he’d have had something to show for it. The movie doesn’t start with Sam, but it does end with him. He is an utterly broken man digging a hole for his dead dog, with nothing of value to show for the best years of his life.

It occurred to me as I watched the movie that Kevin Spacey deserved serious accolades for his role. He was really very good in it. Often we wonder, as was the case with Heath Ledger in The Dark Night, how such a fundamentally good person (for very few people are fundamentally bad people), managed to so completely transform himself into such a convincing villain. It must therefore also be said that it was an extraordinary achievement for Spacey, who is a fundamentally bad person, to have so completely assumed such a humane character.

I think the final season of House of Cards should begin thusly: with Frank Underwood being impeached for exactly Kevin Spacey’s crimes. Then his brilliant acting skills could be put to good use. In years to come, people would be reminded of what he admitted to and how his career was ended.

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