A perfectly entertaining fluffy piece on Slate on Tom Cruise and Risky Business takes a sudden turn into actual insight, when it talks about how Cruise and his friends paid for their adventures by cashing in savings bonds given to them by relatives.
(“You people have a lot of bonds,” observes one of the hookers, dryly.) It is a perfectly calibrated act of rich-kid heedlessness but with the clever subtext that, during a time of runaway inflation (as the ’70 were), it makes little sense to save for “the future.” This is a word the script of Risky Business never loses a chance to deploy. The hookers say future and mean the shameless score. (“He’s got such nice friends. Clean, polite … quick. I think there’s a real future here.”) The boys say future and mean some far off Valhalla to which they may never be invited. “I don’t want to make a mistake,” Joel whines to his friend Miles, his Faustian tempter, “and jeopardize my future!” “Joel, let me tell you something,” replies Miles. “Every now and then say, ‘What the fuck.’ ‘What the fuck’ gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.”
The ’80s did for money what the ’60s did for sex. They told a miraculously tempting lie about the curative powers of disinhibition. It took AIDS, feminism, and sociobiology a while to catch up to our illusions about free love. It has taken cronyism, speculation, and manic overleveraging a while to catch up to our illusions about free money. Now that Ponzi capitalism is collapsing in on itself, the perverse disjunction, of saying “what the fuck” and thereby securing your “future,” is simply no longer tenable.
I guess this is why I read Slate. Or why I read at all.