Big Screen, Big Stereotypes: The Film Industry’s Negative Portrayal of Financial Advisors and Financial Careers
Art imitates life. Accordingly, movie plot lines commonly portray classic themes including love, death, conflict, and of course, money—wanting it, making it, losing it, and fighting about it. Whether it is a television show, film, or documentary, there is a myriad of media programming about the financial industry and financial careers. Media and the movies can be key arbiters of public opinion; but unfortunately, financial advisors and those working in financial careers are almost always depicted in a negative light.
Do movies featuring unsavory and swindling financial professionals actually cause increasing public distrust and misgivings about people working in financial careers? Or, is the film industry’s negative portrayal of these characters an “art imitates life” reflection of the public’s wariness about the financial industry and financial professionals. We could debate this “chicken or the egg” quandary ad nauseam, but the answer isn’t even relevant or useful. However, what is relevant if you are a financial advisor or any type financial professional working in the industry, is making sure you don’t help contribute to the media’s negative stereotypes.
While many films about the finance world are entertaining and compelling, it is our hope that by viewing such films you are not just an armchair critic but rather can help inform public opinion of the true nature of financial professionals and financial careers—that while the bad seeds may get the most screen times, they are not representative of the majority of hard-working, trustworthy, and ethical financial advisors and professionals.
Here’s an abbreviated list of must-watch finance films:
- “Wall Street” (1987): Starring Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas, this quintessential finance film tells the story of “a young and impatient stockbroker is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through a ruthless and greedy corporate raider who takes the youth under his wing.”
- “Boiler Room” (2000) This film starring Vin Diesel portrays stockbrokers at their absolute cheating, stealing, unscrupulous worst. In this movie, “a college dropout gets a job as a broker for a suburban investment firm, which puts him on the fast track to success, but the job might not be as legitimate as it sounds.”
- “Margin Call” (2011) Starring Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, and Kevin Spacey, this film is one of the more accurate depictions of the financial industry in film, although that is not saying much. This film “follows the key people at an investment bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis.”
- “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) This popular Scorsese-directed movie featuring stand-out performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill is “based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stock-broker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.”
- “Trading Places” (1983) This classic comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd is a modern day take on Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper”. In this movie, “a snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires.”
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