Fun with Dick and Jane

Satire Comedy. A Jim Carrey vehicle about a married couple pressured to pursue the American Dream of keeping up with the Joneses, who turn to robbery when they both lose their jobs and face losing all they own. This is a “stick it to the Man” story about the corrupt greedy exploitation of the working man by Enron-like companies. Alec Baldwin does a great job playing himself as the heartless head of the greedy company who bails out of a collapsing hollow shell corporation with a golden parachute of millions, while all the company workers lose their pensions and lifelong savings. When Carrey and his wife, played by Tea Leoni, realize they should steal Baldwin’s money, not the innocent people around them, they plot a paper switch at a bank that would take his money and end up giving it back to the pensions of the jilted workers of the big company. So a Robin Hood movie. This is a complex issue in this story, because on the one hand, I do agree that the corporate exploitation of the little man is clearly a problem in our society, but on the other hand, I don’t think it is justifiable to break the law to “do good.” And that is exactly what the hero and heroine do in this story. Even though they turn from stealing from their neighbors, they do still end up stealing from another neighbor, he’s just a corrupt one. I do not like stories that try to get you to cheer on the hero if he is trying to accomplish a crime. They tend to reinforce vigilanteism even in non-violent forms. Trying to achieve justice while breaking the law is itself unjust. But one of the reasons why this did not bother me as much with this story as it did with others like Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve, is because it is a satire that seems more focused on the bad guy getting his comeuppance than on the hero’s own story. Of course, this doesn’t justify it as right, but it did make it less offensive. At the end the heros do not get the money, they give it to others, so it is less about them winning and more about the villain losing. Perhaps this is the powerful draw of Robin Hood mythology – it justifies crime by appealing to the pragmatic result of good. Evil is okay if it results in good. Pragmatic morality is the handmaiden of evil.

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