Table of Contents
It is often said that the business community thrives on capitalism and greed. This perspective of business is based on the principal notion that improving the quality of life requires society to have some level of greed. It is true to state that businesses are driven by the desire to have more in terms of profit, therefore exhibiting some level of “greed” (Stout 26). In this paper, the issue of ethical business behavior will be analyzed in the light of two films, Wall Street and Election.
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Shareholder Perspective of Business Ethics
Oliver Stone in Wall Street takes us through the unscrupulous business deals that imply a significant decline in the business ethics and values that should be the cornerstone of businesses in America. Gordon Gekko is a character in the movie portrayed as an unscrupulous and wealthy corporate player. The movie portrays an economic aspect of the society characterized by greed (Stone). The movie presents ethical dilemmas, one of the most significant involving security fraud and significant use of insider trading by two money hungry characters.
The two big shots in the Wall Street exhibit great ambitions and greed for extreme wealth. Significantly, Gekko and Bud Fox are the aim characters who start taking advantage of shareholders through the manipulation of stocks and insider trading. This exemplifies an unethical business practice. Bud who is a stockbroker and has a strong desire for wealth, as a result, he works in the firm by the day and works with an angle with Gekko who is extremely successful, high-powered, greedy, and ruthless in his spare time (Stone). Eventually, Bud subscribes into Gekko’s principle of “greed is good” and start participating in shady business deals in pursuit the pursuit for fast money and good life. The two then start conniving to use insider information and manipulation of stocks to their advantage at the expense of the shareholders as it lowered stock prices. In the stakeholder management perspective, the film has identified how unethical and unscrupulous business practices corrupt business values thus sacrificing the interest of the shareholder due to greed.
Actions of Characters
The actions of Bud Fox and Gordon Gekko show unethical business practices. Both characters have connived to use their positions in the society and in the corporate world for their own benefit and at the expense of others, especially the shareholders. Most importantly, this is driven by more desire and greed. From the perspective of ethical theories and management ethics, Bud breaks the principles of ethical business practices because he spends much of his efforts and time in the adventure to get in Gekko’s inner circle (Stone). As a stockbroker protecting the interests of shareholders is of primary importance, Bud works against this principle by working with Gekko at the expense of the stakeholders. This shows the conflict of interest between Bud’s ambitions and shareholders’ interest at the firm because he wants fast money and good life.
From the movie’s perspective, investment regulations and financial reforms are important in the business environment. Although the ethical concept in this movie may be hard to relate to financial reforms, the motives to benefit oneself at the expense of others are harmful and immoral (Stout 37). Such practices are caused by poor business strategies which are coincidentally determined by the moral standards of the contemporary society. However, in the business context, investment regulation and financial reforms are necessary as the local ethical standards cannot be used as the appropriate guide for business.
In Election, the theme of morals and ethics is well defined. In this satirical movie whose plot develops in a school in Nebraska, every character is put in a dilemma as they make choices in their relationships and behavior. McAllister who is the civics teacher has trouble relating with Tracy Flick who is an overachieving and overzealous character running for the post of the student president in the school (Payne). Tracy has had McAllister’s colleague and friend fired after their secretive love affair was discovered. The movie shows how relationships built on contempt, vindictiveness, hidden secrets, and crime are unethical as they end in regrets and frustrations.
From the movie, different characters are engaged in punitive relationships. The most obvious being the relationship between McAllister and Tracy. Although it is understandable that McAllister holds grudge against Tracy after she was involved in a secret love affair with his colleague friend, Dave, the way he treats Tracy is with contempt and is both immoral and unethical (Payne). Although McAllister is enthusiastically involved in the school, other aspects of his social life are full of frustrations and his involvement only masks these frustrations. One of the frustrations he has is that he is envious of Tracy and he has a sexual attraction to her. However, he has contempt over her as she had been involved in a sexual relationship with Dave, which unfortunately ended in Dave’s firing upon discovery.
McAllister despises Tracy because of her overachieving character and her sexually vindictive side. This is unethical and immoral. From the play, it is clear that Jim I sexually attracted to Tracy but he treats her with hated and contempt because she is seemingly armor-plated with ambitions and armed with a victim stature (Payne). This infuriates Jim who secretly works on an undignified plot to bring her down and destroy her political career. Certainly, this contempt was highly fueled by the fact that Tracy was a female who seemed somewhat successful and McAllister feared being outpaced by her. This is an unethical way is which the strong are usually sabotaged by the weak.
American Political Context
In the context of popular culture, business and politics, the description of Tracy and her victimization is indicative of the treatment of most women by men. For instance, the “Tracy Flick Effect” greatly affected the candidacy and election of Hillary Clinton in America’s 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton is also an overachieving personality but her candidacy was treated with contempt, disrespect, and spite by her opponents. The treatment of Tracy shows the unethical, immoral, and undignified plan to destroy and sabotage the political career of women in the American political context.
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From the two films, the theme of ethics has been deeply illustrated. Although Wall Street delved into business ethics and values and Election dwelled on personal values and morals, both movies addressed the issue of ethical dilemma. In Election, the movie has dissected the unlovely, immoral, and unethical male psyche which is characterized by a mean-minded envy and a seething desire. It is show how the sexual-political arena exemplifies nightmarish vision which cheapens and humiliates self regard with paranoia. In the business context, “Wall Street” shows how desire and greed destroys company’s left and the management mercies of unscrupulous people who serve their personal interests at the expense of others.
- Payne, Alexander. Director. Election, 1999.
- Stone, Oliver. Director. Wall Street, 1987.
- Stout, Lynn A. The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012.