I watched an episode of Season 2 of Billions last night and was left with an unaccustomed feeling of repulsion.
According to Wikipedia:
The series is loosely based on the activities of Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his legal battles with hedge fund manager Steve Cohen of S.A.C. Capital Advisors.
I had watched the first series with much pleasure but perhaps since that time I have grown older and wiser. And not a little more philosophic.
Every character in the show is repulsive from the vulgar checkbook waving wife of Bobby Axelrod, to the driven and unpleasant district attorney who seeks to make his mark by crucifying the hedge fund king.
What particularly struck me last night was the the awfulness of the motivational speeches. If your work life is driven by these, then no wonder we live in the paradise we have created for ourselves.
Everyone is the show is portrayed as ruthless and horrible, greedy and venal. Surely such characterization has to be parody?
The great glory of the show, in visual terms, has to be Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades. Wow! What a beautiful woman. She is the sexy in-house coach at Axe Capital, and rather unfortunately married to the vicious district attorney out to crucify her boss.
She may be beautiful but what she has to say is brutal and tiresome. And vulgar. There is talk of Viagra and stiffness, both of which are needed, apparently, to succeed in the hedge fund world. Same with Bobby’s speeches – if ever there was an exposition of the sublimated violence in business and capital, you need look no further than Bobby.
Its all savage, violent, sexy, drug fueled and (surprise!) materialistic.
How must it be when your every waking thought is the urge to conquer? When money is all you seek? When culture, erudition, philosophy, if used at all, are used merely in the pursuit of the material.
Its all show, showtime, vulgarity. Art is to hang on the wall, never mind its meaning. Beauty is to be pressed into service, used, not for any intrinsic quality, but in the pursuance of more.
Of course this is all fiction – or so I assume. People are not that ghastly, tasteless and gross in the real world. They do not, surely, talk like that, speak like that, think like that? Or do they?
Perhaps it is because I lurch towards the end of my life that my thoughts turn to the intangible. Perhaps, way back, I had ambitions to be Bobby. Perhaps once upon a time, way back, when I found myself miscast (dramatically so) as an investment banker, I sought to emulate Bobby.
If so, then age is not without its advantages. As drama, as entertainment its a good romp. I’m not at all sure I can stomach too many more episodes though.
It had such promise. Pity.