Does being sick of ‘Eat the Rich’ content make me a bad socialist? Three major 2022 movies — two of which went on to get nominated for Academy Awards — had anti-capitalist themes. Detective movie Knives Out 2 ridiculed the absurdly rich tech bros society mistakenly pedestals; The Menu explores how elitism warps consumption culture; and the Triangle of Sadness, as a dark comedy movie, satirizes late-stage capitalism and the inequality it causes.
Those three films alone would’ve been fine, but then The White Lotus season 2 and You season 4 joined in with the fun, with one of the major villains in You quite literally being called the ‘Eat the Rich’ killer. Now, like Anya Taylor-Joy after that cheeseburger, I’m well and truly stuffed.
I physically can’t take any more anti-capitalist TV series or movies with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. But before you start calling me a class traitor, let me explain to you why.
Going back to 2019, the thing that kick-started the ‘Eat the Rich’ cinematic universe was Bong Joon-ho’s Korean movie, Parasite. Winning big at the Academy Awards, all of us can agree that the thriller movie was brilliant in how it portrayed greed and class inequality.
Adding another layer to Parasite’s extraordinary success was the underdog story underpinning its director. Bong Joon-ho had been producing brilliant movies for years, but up until Parasite was released, he was never given the level of attention and praise that he deserved.
Coupled with the fact that Parasite was an international movie, produced without the backing of a major Hollywood distributor, the film’s themes felt especially pertinent with this accompanying ‘dark horse’ narrative. Parasite remains a brilliant commentary on class, and its awards and recognition are well-deserved: it’s what Hollywood did next that’s the problem.
Writers know that there’s no such thing as a truly original story, but there’s something a little uncomfortable about all these major production companies, TV networks, and streaming services jumping on the ‘Eat the Rich’ bandwagon.
And this is because these drama movies, despite their superficial differences, share a broad similarity: they all feel like an extremely corporate response that’s based on appeasing an audience as opposed to actually believing in the values these films are meant to champion.
How are we meant to take a critique about the rich seriously when said critique is funded by billion-dollar companies, and produced by millionaire directors and actors? Sometimes it can work, but other times, as overnight writer Fiona Underhill pointed out in her Triangle of Sadness review, it can come across as shallow.
That isn’t to say that the only truly anti-capitalist movies have to be self-funded and filmed on an iPod Touch. But there is something quite smug and performative about all these millionaires preaching about wealth inequality to an audience that’s largely in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.
Furthermore, the sheer volume of movies falling into this genre makes it pretty obvious that, for the most part, these ‘eat-the-rich’ projects largely operate as a fulfilment of supply and demand as opposed to an authentic satire of anti-capitalism. This is evident because, in my opinion, a lot of these films and TV shows seriously lack depth and nuance in their themes, symbolism, and attempts at critique.
Ultimately, nothing screams ‘capitalism’ more than treating anti-capitalism in and of itself as a marketable trend.