‘The Great Gatsby’ is around again. Why so many reincarnations? Because it celebrates celebrity, and what red-blooded, ego-centric American doesn’t dream of having celebrity!
In Gatsby’s time you may have heard or read about the rich-and-famous, but these days our celebrities are not only more numerous, they’re more ubiquitous. Every magazine, tabloid, TV program, or late-night-show features them. Talking, singing, dancing, or simply being there in all their magnificence.
Everyone has their own favorites to hunger over. From the Hollywood hunks and hooters, to corporate CEOs and whores, to sports stars and philanderers. But now, in keeping with our anti-hero zeitgeist, we also celebrate the shady side of celebrity. I mean, Gatsby himself was a former bootlegger in the Twenties. Al Capone operated a crime empire in the Thirties. Later ‘The Godfather’ trilogy made virtually every mafioso a cult figure. Now in the new century we are adding new crime gods to our pantheon such as the hackers and their growing financial/military outreach.
So how do we make sense of it all? Of seeming to celebrate evil? And its more dashing players?
Let me submit one small theory among the many professional ones out there in academia. The Seven Deadly Sins! Go ahead, do a checklist over the centuries and see if these flaws don’t run through human history like a spine through the body. From the ancient grave-robbers of Egypt, to marauding tribes of Rome, to the highwaymen of the Middle Ages, to the pirates on the high seas of the New World, to the outlaws of the Wild West, they were the stuff dreams are made of. And written of. And put into song and story.
The Seven Deadly Sins — especially Greed, Pride and Envy — are forever producing our next Gatsby!
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