Wall Street and Stereotypes

As I was discussing the fictional elements of “The Big Short” in a small group, my group talked a lot about how many of the characters in the story are presented as “quirky”, not like how we would imagine someone on Wall Street to be like.  For example, Michael Lewis repeatedly mentions how Steve Eisman, one of the major players in the story is “atypical” when compared to the usual characters of Wall Street.  Lewis explains that “Wall Street people came to view him as a genuine character.  He dressed half-fastidiously, as if someone had gone to great trouble to buy him nice new clothes but not told him exactly how they should be worn.  His short-cropped blond hair looked as if he had cut it himself.  The focal point of his soft, expressive, not unkind face was his mouth, mainly because it was usually at least half open, even while he ate” (4).  Several other characters in this story are described in similar “quirky” “atypical” ways, which made me think, where do we get these images of the stereotypical Wall Street banker in the first place?  Movies such as the Wolf of Wall Street and Boiler Room certainly help promote this idea that a person who works on Wall Street is typically well dressed, boisterous, socially apt. etc.  There are also stereotypes about the kinds of lives these people lead; they fall to vices such as cocaine and strip clubs, they spend many hours playing golf, etc.  But upon doing some research, I found that many of these stereotypes are not necessarily true.

New York Magazine writer Kevin Roose, recently published a book titled “Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street Stereotypes”, which follows the career of eight people working on Wall Street, post-financial crisis.  While he went into his research assuming to find many of these propagated stereotypes, he actually found that ” the financial sector is neither the bastion of strippers and blow you see in the movies, nor the natural destination for ambitious graduates it once was. Instead, it has become a place where, for many young people, fun goes to die.”  In an interview  with the Huffington Post he goes on to explain that many of these workers are depressed, and that their work leaves little time for any kind of social life.  Many of these people, he explains, are not even able to plan non-work events due to the fact that anything could be interrupted by work.

I thought that Roose’s observations on Wall Street were interesting in that while trying to deconstruct the existing stereotypes about people who worked on Wall Street, he created an entirely new stereotype.  This just goes to show how a group of people can be portrayed in so many different lights, depending on the person depicting them. I think that, as we move forward in this class, it is important to keep in mind who the person doing the depicting is, and what kind agenda they might have.

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