Please Help Me Finish this Half-Baked, Pretentious Essay About the Left Wing Economics of “Inception”

This is what it looks like when I fail. 

I’m a professional writer, which means that I write well enough that people pay me to write. But sometimes I suck at my job. I’ll get half an idea and start writing it and then it falls apart. Below is an example of what it looks like when something I write falls apart. I wrote it after seeing the movie Inception and just could never make it work. Then I returned to it recently when I was looking for old stuff I could turn into blog entries and tried to polish it up again, but it just keep refusing to shine.

So help me out over here! What’s wrong with it? What should I change and/or delete? Maybe if I figure out how to fix it, when the next Christopher Nolan movie comes out I can cannibalize the best parts.

Dreaming of Monopoly: The Economics of Inception

The Dark Knight is a comic book noir take on the war on terrorism that lines up easily to real life figures: Batman is Bush, the Joker is Al-Qaeda. But the political conclusion of the movie is less clear than the historical inspiration. While Batman is the hero of the movie, it’s important to note he’s pretty much the quintessential antihero of soft pop culture. So at the end of the movie, we can conclude that Bush/Batman had to go against popular opinion and become an unfairly villified figure to do the right thing. Or maybe Batman/Bush is a toxic force for Gotham and is ultimately responsible for the continued carnage the city faces.

Christopher Nolan’s follow-up, Inception, is just as ambiguous, but less grounded in current events. Its plot could be driven by unscrupulous businessmen dismantling a longstanding business for personal gain. it’s about how multinational corporations need to be broken so other companies can survive.

Ken Watanabe’s character presents monopoly busting as the reason he wants DiCaprio and crew to undertake the titular inception. After cajoling, tricking, extorting and bribing DiCaprio, Watanabe’s to convince DiCaprio to implant an idea into the mind of Cillian Murphy’s character, who stands to inherit a business that threatens to destroy the one owned by Watanabe.

Watanabe sells the break-up of the company as a moral act, which is certain to resonate in a collective economic conscious where “too big to fail” is an ever-present part of the lexicon. It’s a quick moment, but it’s one of the few where the greater good is discussed. Although the movie takes place in a world where people can connect in impossible ways through shared dream experiences, the movie is mainly concerned with individuals, with personal politics and family crises. The undefined monopoly the characters work to break up is one of the few times that the outside world impacts the characters.

But can lefties comfortably cheer the film as anti-monopolistic? Sure, having the heroes break up a monolithic business, and having it presented as a moral act seems welcome. And its done in such a subtle way, as an unquestioned premise, that the concept seems like an attempt of an inception for audience watching the movie.

It’s an open question. While Watanabe ends the film as a sympathetic character, he begins as an antagonist and never loses all of his sinister edges. His business connections are murky, but it seems clear that he works for a multinational corporation of some sort. What we might be watching throughout the film is a small, family owned firm getting about to be stripped of its assets by a faceless conglomerate.

In the end, I’m not sure where that top lands.

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One thought on “Please Help Me Finish this Half-Baked, Pretentious Essay About the Left Wing Economics of “Inception”

  1. The problem is not so much Saito– he’s a cartoon villain slathered unceremoniously with blood to make him sympathetic– it’s Cobb. The man is an amoral crackpot. Quite a trick, making me sympathize with the Big Bad Businessman of the piece, but that’s what happened: Robert Fischer is an innocent man subjected to a heinous form of mental violation. The “economics” here backfired. No surprise, really, since Nolan is more interested in puzzles than in characters.

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