Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Yuppie- An 80's Icon

The post this week is difficult for me as I already jumped the gun slightly and chose the Yuppie as my iconic image in week one. However, Wall Street is not the only example of 'Yuppiness' to be found, so I looked a little further and went back to basics to choose a book (remember them?). My example this week is the Tom Wolfe novel 'Bonfire of The Vanities' and the film that was made in 1991. Having studied the film extensively for a class last year, I can confidently say that it is the epitome of 'yupiness'. Greed, lavishness, arrogance, betrayal; they all make up the Yuppie lifestyle. The strange thing is, you would only ever really find it in two places in the entire world; New York and London. Conveniently, this is where two of the worlds financial hubs are located, and where there were hedge funds to be found, so were Yuppies.

The Yuppie was to the 80s was what the Hippie was to the 60s. Almost a quintessential part of the decade, if you weren't a Yuppie, you were no one. Represented in a wide range of films in the 80s and early 90s, the general opinion of the 'Young Urban Professional' was that they had more money than they knew what to do with, and as a consequence, they became more greedy and it usually ended in corruption or in some other disastrous way.

Which brings me to the protagonist of 'Bonfire of the Vanities', Sherman McCoy. 'Master of the Universe' and a whizz-kid on Wall Street (much like Bud Fox), he had everything. A million dollar apartment, a beautiful wife and daughter, a flashy car and a great job. But he also had a mistress who one night when they took a wrong turn in the Bronx, ran over an underprivileged black teenage boy. Everything spirals out of control from there as Sherman's lies begin to pile up and unravel and a British journalist who was originally assigned to write a series of stories about the young black boy starts to snoop around and pieces things together.

The book was critically acclaimed whilst the filmed was panned both critically and commercially. Aside from it focusing on the Yuppie lifestyle, it also had political and racial undertones that contributed to the story and made it more about holding up a mirror to society on both sides and not just a look at how the rich and famous behave.
To be a Yuppie is all about consumerism. Fast cars, expensive clothes, the latest gadgets, designer hair cuts, lavish food and an impressive physique to boot. Wall Street 'fat cats' are anything but fat. Which is why they were somewhat idolised and looked up to. Who wouldn't want their life? I know I would. I haven't the brains for Wall Street or Fleet Street for that matter, but to bag a husband who did and live that lifestyle? Hardly the American Dream I wanted, but it would be nice! But this is 2011 and our attitudes towards the Yuppie have changed. They still exist, even after several stock market crashes and they still rake it in. Except now we call them pariahs.

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