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Wall Street: Money,Sex, and Power Struggles Between Genders

Updated on October 2, 2011

Capitalism is an economic mechanical machine designed to create an environment that strives for domination over others by obtaining wealth. It is a jaded system in which several factors play key roles in who succeeds and who doesn’t. These factors vary, but can include sex, education, popularity and motivation. In the film Wall Street capitalism is exploited and is used to shape power relations between both men and women.

In Wall Street, the main character, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is shown as a hard working broker who is struggling to become rich. When he is at work he is shown as one of several working males who all are shown working in stressful conditions. The presence of any femininity is absent. In the book Gender and Anthropology it talks about the gender structure capitalism provides. It explains this by saying; “It also intensifies the sexual division of labor since under such circumstances men tend to be integrated into formal capitalist work relations while women are relegated to pre-capitalist or domestic work”(64). The correlation between the stressful working conditions of being a stockbroker and having no feminine presence, suggests that women cannot take the demanding job of being a stockbroker.

The first true appearance of female presence in the film is shown when Bud Fox is off from work and has a prostitute in his bed. As she leaves to go get robed Bud Fox stays in bed for a moment enjoying the silence. By showing the first woman in the film as a prostitute, the film sets up the expectation that all women are viewed as sex objects, or at least Bud Fox believes them to be. This is problematic because although there are no more prostitutes in the film, the women that are shown are nothing more then objects obtained through a system of wealth that capitalism provides.

While sexuality is closely tied within the dynamics of the film and how capitalism is portrayed, power struggles between males are shown to make a point. When Bud Fox ultimately accepts Gordon Gekko’s (Michael Douglas) offer, a relationship is hatched. Born out of greed, Bud Fox can be seen as a character with noble intentions begin his descent into the devil’s den. It is through the descent of a truthful stockbroker, that the audience can see the corruption that is tied within wealth. In some ways the power struggle to obtain wealth can be shown with how much Gordon Gekko possesses. At one point in the film Gekko is seen at an auction house bidding on expensive art that ranges in the several thousands. Although the art is not needed, art becomes an object of desire that symbolizes the true power that Gordon has obtained.

The women that are portrayed in the film, while shown as objects also stand as a power symbol. “Women were relegated to the domestic sphere and reduced to a position of dependence and subservience”(61). Ultimately the gorgeous women that are placed in the film are nothing more, but an extension of capitalism. They provide men sex and as an object that they can showcase to other men. However, women use this power symbol they provide men as a way of making money. Whether it is through the use of prostitution where the women get paid directly or by becoming the girl friend of a wealthy man and getting the life style they want. In this way the film can be looked at as women having a lot of power. Both because they help men’s careers, but also because they are an object that men need to keep feeding money into in order for them to keep women.

Homosexuality that is portrayed in the film is shown as corrupt and a power struggle that persists between same gender relationships. Between Bud Fox and Gordon Gekko a relationship of homosexuality is shown. This is because Gordon Gekko is a person who tears down the foundations of good businesses instead of helping build them up. When Bud Fox becomes Gordon Gekko’s partner, Bud helps Gordon destroy businesses. It is through the destruction of corporations that the director shows that homosexuals cannot create life, but only take life away.

Although capitalism is portrayed as a positive and negative mechanism in Wall Street, the film has a key purpose. The main point that it makes shows the power struggle that resides between men and women. That for a life style that is full of wealth, one must be prepared to enter a shallow life filled with several obstacles with other powerful men and eye candy women. Through the gender dynamics of capitalism and the power of film, Wall Street captures the very reality of a world funded by the corrupt.


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