The Great Gatsby Reflects Life in the Streets: A Villain is a Villain Regardless of the Intention
Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis city. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His project The Hero Killer was released on January 21 and will be followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For the Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get The Hero Killer here.
This week I had the chance to push pause on my chaotic schedule to go see The Great Gatsby. The Great Gatsby is a timeless and classic love story rooted in the roaring 1930s. The story comes to life right around the time frame in which New York is still developing in terms of infrastructure and stature, but is clearly one of the world's first mega cities. Most of us read this story in middle school as it serves as a good introduction to the historic post-prohibition era. It is not intended to be historically accurate in some regards since it is a fictional tale but there are elements of truth concerning the glamorization of the way people lived during this time.
I don't want to give too much of the movie away for those of you who have yet to see it, so I'm telling you right now this is your official spoiler alert. The main character is, obviously, James Gatsby. He is a mysterious figure with extreme wealth, power and influence in New York City. Everyone owes him a favor on some level and he has immunity from laws that most common citizens are morally obligated to obey. He rubs elbows with everyone from politicians to back-room mob figures to Wall Street stock brokers and bankers. Every weekend at his home he throws a massive party. I'm talking about the type of parties that make a P. Diddy function look like child's play. I'm talking about New York City New Years Eve with Dick Clark every weekend at this guys home.
Everyone of any type of influence comes to these parties, and the people desiring to see the people of power attend them as well. There are a trillion rumors circulating about Gatsby's origin and his wealth. No one really knows why he throws these massive functions every weekend. No really knows how he actually became so wealthy. Gatsby himself, even though he is a real person, has morphed into a hybrid urban legend. You see, no one really knows much of anything about James Gatsby besides the fact that he's filthy rich. People don't even know if he's actually a real person but they see the energy surrounding his name and he becomes a dark hero.
In American pop culture we love the dark hero. The original tale of Batman is rooted in the fact that he's a millionaire superhero that's really a bad guy. Elvis Presley's original image is rooted in the fact that he's a pretty-boy turned badass. The admiration of money and power, combined with the lust of women erases all of our sins. So when you add these things to a story that just so happens to be a love story, in most cases we tend to forget about the fact that the character holding these cards in their position may not actually be as wholesome of an individual as our emotional attachment to them leads us to believe.
In the movie, the story of Gatsby is told by a very close friend of his. His friend labeled him the purest soul that ever lived in New York City. He basically says Gatsby restored his faith in humanity and was one of the most amazing spirits that ever lived. I do agree he lived an amazing life, but I disagree with our moral perception of him. He called him "The Great Gatsby" because he honestly believes James Gatsby was one of the greatest examples of humanity to ever walk the earth. He primarily feels this way because it's revealed during the course of the story that Gatsby acquired his wealth, power and influence solely to persuade his first and only true lover to marry him.
He comes from a dirt poor family; his real name is not James Gatsby, and as a child he never completely embraced his biological parents. He believed he was actually the son of God, trapped in a poverty-stricken family that lived out of a hut and was forced to eat mud sandwiches in the name of survival. He hated his life and he hated everything attached to who he actually was. James Gatsby knew in his heart of hearts that he was destined for greatness, and he sold himself on the fact that he would one day achieve it. He was a war hero and a scholar, but everything about his background is sketchy.
He's basically lied to almost everyone that knows him and his new-found image. I'd say about 90 percent of the tales you hear about James are true but he likes to beef them up for the sake of dramatization. In the scenarios where he hasn't lied he basically walks the line between truth and deception like a tightrope. Most people love this story because the guy comes from nothing and lives this amazing life where he's done a trillion unbelievable things and finds a loophole in the system. He gets rich and decides to go after the only girl he's ever loved, hoping that her family will embrace him now that he's wealthy. She comes from money and he doesn't. In the past, Gatsby was shunned by her family since he was poor.
As the story progresses, we discover that his true love is actually a married woman with a douchebag husband. He's a womanizing wealthy prick that constantly cheats on her. He sucks, but nonetheless she's still married and completely aware of her husband's actions. Her and Gatsby rediscover each other and rekindle the flame. The guy gets the girl, finally, and we're all supposed to cheer him on. If she preferred they live in a hut James would gladly sell everything he owns.