Tag Archives: airbrushing women out of history

Film Review: “The Big Short” and the air-brushed women

My brilliant friend (he really is) and I went to see “The Big Short” on Saturday. We both really liked it.  It’s clever without being tricksy, its well-paced and brilliantly acted.  We noted the maleness of it, but weren’t particularly concerned (though alarm bells should have been ringing for me, since I’ve seen “Inside Job”.
Another friend (not quite as brilliant, but that’s no insult- Friend A really is in a league of his own, and anyway a fair bit older than Friend B).  sent me this, which is by a friend of hers.  And it’s bang to rights.
“[Brief rant about gender and The Big Short]

So this is infuriating. I watched The Big Short last night, and really enjoyed it. It’s a very male heavy film, but I figured Wall Street was just like that. I’ve read time and again that it’s a racist, misogynistic, homophobic industry, and this is non-fiction(ish). So it doesn’t get a Bechdel pass, quelle surprise

Well, turns out that Meredith Whitney, one of the oracles of the financial crisis, and a fairly prominent figure in the book version of “The Big Short”, just got completely cut out. Because who wants to show a woman being clever? In the meantime, they show someone in her exact role, working for exactly the same person… only it’s a guy.

This got me thinking.

Now bear in mind that this film is all about a group of white guys showing up how dumb and corrupt Wall Street is. In this context, the prominent female characters (often not based on real people, or else highly fictionalised) are as follows:

(1) main character’s wife, who doesn’t understand the financial sector (real world: she worked at Merrill Lynch);
(2) a weak-willed, whiny, corrupt ratings agency employee;
(3) Morgan Stanley exec, who is excoriated by the film for being asleep at the wheel (and buying expensive handbags while the firm crashes and burns);
(4) a shallow government regulator, angling for a job at a big bank by sleeping around;
(5) a stripper, offered up by the film as its example of the kind of clueless person that the sub-prime mortgage industry exploited.

So, just so you know: the financial crisis was caused largely by women, but there were these awesomely clever white guys who saw it all coming. Everybody got that?”

….
“I started the book [of the big short] this morning, and the preface is literally along the lines of, “Meredith Whitney accurately forecast the demise of several big banks during the financial crisis. Traders so respected her opinion that her analyses wiped billions of dollars of value off the stock market. I asked her if she knew anyone who had made money out of the sub-prime crisis, and she gave me a list of people she had advised: [list of half main characters in the film].””

So, now I “have” to read the book…