"Scott Fitzgerald was, in his own words, 'a moralist at heart.' He wanted to 'preach at people,' and what he preached about most was the degeneracy of the wealthy. His concern, however, did not lie with the antisocial behaviors to which the rich are prone: acquiring their wealth through immoral means... Like many American moralists, Fitzgerald was more offended by pleasure than by vice, and he had a tendency to confound them. In The Great Gatsby, polo and golf are more morally suspect than murder. Fitzgerald despised the rich not for their iniquity per se but for the glamour of it..."
Bad Egg (article for New York Magazine)
The Frustrated CFO's comment:
A highly opinionated person has a difficult time restraining herself in the face of the inevitable hype evoked by the new adaptation of the "great American novel." And I'm not even talking about myself: Kathryn Schulz's strongly negative point of view resonated very positively with me. So, let me stick (or rather add) my two cents as well.
First of all, just like Ms. Schulz and a few other intelligent people, I always thought that, as a fictional novel, The Great Gatsby was a bad book. Moreover, the simplistic socio-economic generalizations of F. Scott Fitzgerald's writings, based on his own immediate upper-class surrounding, offend my intelligence. It's one thing when writers stick to what they know. Hey, if all of them were Philip K. Dicks, how would we know the difference? It's a completely different matter, however, when someone takes bits and pieces of his personal experience, severely impaired by alcohol and self-loathing, and tries to pass his cardboard characters and schematically constructed narrative as a "critical social history." That's a very dangerous, irresponsible, and self-serving undertaking. Was J.D. Rockefeller Jr., the conservationist, identical to Tom Buchanan? I don't think so. Yet, they both belonged to the same class, the same age group, they both went to Ivy League Schools, etc.
There is a reason why the book's popularity rose sharply after WWII: the social changes were ripening and the white rich people were despised by most, including their own heirs (Patty Hearst was not the only one, you know). In the eyes of the readers who caused the Baby Boom, the Fates have punished poor, infatuated Jay Gatsby for trying to be where he didn't belong, for wanting to become rich and impress Daisy into loving him, for betraying "moral values" in order to accomplish this self-imposed task.
But times have changed. What the majority of critics don't realize is that by now the novel has lost all of its social-scorn charge. The baby-boomers and their children, corrupted by the celebrity-obsessed media, LOVE wealth above everything else and ENVY, but do not disapprove of, the rich. A "self-made man" Jay Gatsby is not pitied, but revered. Who cares about shady deals, DUIs, and murders - it's all in the "job description" of climbing the ladder to the "top."
Here is another quote to illustrate the depth of our contemporaries' perversion:
"Every time I'm out, a drunken Wall Street guy comes up to me to say, 'You're the man.' It's depressing. Gordon Gekko was not a hero."
Only in this environment the unrestrained lavishness of Baz Luhrmann's production could be acceptable, and preferable, to the hordes of day-dreamesrs wasting their lives on fantasizing about becoming rich and famous overnight.
Now, go and Check out this entertaining post about what other directors might've done with this stale material.