‘The Great Gatsby’ was a film based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel that told a love story of Jay Gatsby set in the 20s New York city. The film presented a marvelous roaring 20s world in the United States. Although the film is not a history theme focused movie, it does present major significant historical event in the 20s. The Great Gatsby film plot tries to be critical on the people’s moral corruption, idealism, the big change of society and the American Dream. The film starts its production in 2008 which was a time of financial crisis. Since 2001, US was experiencing a housing bubble which exploded in 2008. The period of housing bubble was like the roaring 20s: people get rich overnight, and parties all day; the security market grows unhealthily because of the lack of regulation, people rush for houses like ‘Gold Rush’. And after the bubble exploded, housing price plunged, the houses that people had on hand suddenly became valueless, and with the loss of value, so many people was unable to pay back their mortgage, which leads the AAA mortgage security market to crash. The American Dream has been severely hit, and the director want to be critical on the house bubble period by making this film.
After the Great War, millions of American soldiers return with victory and glory. Military factories in the states transformed into civilian factories and millions of war veterans quickly filled the vacancies, American economy grows faster than ever before. Companies valued more, so does their stocks, wall street was filled with speculators want to keep up with this ‘Gold Rush’. A lot of young people become rich by doing stock speculation. And what comes with wealth is moral corruption. In the film, people starts to be more open, woman wore clothes that expose their skin and people drinks alcohol. That was a shock to the classical moral constraint that US had in the past years. What’s more, when people get rich and enjoys their wealth, they choose to forget the fact that their luxurious life was built based on the exploitation of the proletarians. An iconic representation in the film is the Ash Valley. The scene swap between the Long Island villa and Ash Valley highlights the unbalanced distribution of social wealth between the people on the top and the people in the bottom. It was an irony for American dream since one of it’s ideal was ‘Equality’, but people living in the America was so unequal.
Another significant icon of the roaring 20s in US was the rise of the Art Deco. Art Deco was a short term for Arts Décoratifs, it is a modern art style that combines fine craftsmanship and rich materials. In the film, Art Deco was everywhere, from Tom’s big house to Gatsby’s big party, Art Deco style was everywhere. But most modern art styles were created to ‘serve the public’, which means that it is an art style for everyone in every social class. But Art Deco differs from Most Modern art styles, it was an expensive style that only services wealthy people. In the film, art deco style were mainly found in the rich people’s area. But in poor districts like Ash Valley, no art deco could be seen. A huge unbalance of social wealth distribution is presented. Art deco gives people a feel of hope and joy, it was a huge contrast to the ugly coal processing town. A desperation for the life of people in the bottom of the society come up, and it is definitively against the ‘Opportunity’ part of the American Dream.
Also, during the roaring 20s, prohibition is still a thing and selling alcohol in public was forbidden, but this law was not strictly enforced. In the film, people drinks whisky and rum and all sorts of alcohol all the time. This concisely presented the loose enforcement of the prohibition during the 20s in United States. Not only the consumption of alcohol, people made a lot of money out of alcohol smuggling. In the film, Jay Gatsby was originally known as a son of a rich family, but as the plot develop, it turns out that he is a member of Wolfsheim gang which does rum smuggling. The luxurious life Gatsby had, and those huge party event Gatsby held reflects that alcohol smuggling was a profiteering job. The alcohol dealer in the film was called Meyer Wolfsheim, although this dealer in reality is named Al Capone, but it didn’t affect the faithfulness of the historical facts.
The racial discrimination isn’t presented as a major event in the film, but there are several details in the film that hinted the racial discrimination problem during 20s. The 20s was called ‘The roaring 20s’, but it didn’t roar for everyone in the US. Colored people during 20s weren’t having a good time. Although slavery was banned, but colored people’s activities were still restricted, most colored people lives under poverty. In the film, all colored people were servant or workers living in Ash Valley. Not a single person that enjoyed the luxurious life was a colored person. As the racial equality develops in American society, people are starting to create conspiracy on colored people. In the film, Tom mentioned multiple time of a book called “The Rise of the Colored Empire”, and he also mentioned that white people should take control over the world to ensure colored people will not shaken their superior position in society. This situation continues a very long time until the affirmative action was introduced in 1961. The racial discrimination itself was a sarcasm to the equality ideal in the American Dream concept.
In the end, the movie itself isn’t sarcastic film, but the director reflected some problem that is happening at the time through presenting life details in 1920s. The time of 1920s was a time of American Dream, people’s different American Dreams seem like it’s going to come true unlike ever before. But when the great depression comes, all of the hopes for people’s dreams to come true vanished overnight. With a similar situation to the 2008 mortgage crisis at the time, the film was more than a story, but a reflection for the past and the current.