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Saturday, Oct 05, 2019 - 21:36 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Place Of Privilege

It's heartening to see how our ministers are exploring sophisticated literary forms in their proclamations recently, with last month's comments on the previous Presidential election now followed by an assertion that the electoral boundaries committee is independent and not politically-motivated, despite it being headed by the spouse of another party member (and Minister of State); the exemption of satire from being Fake News has certainly turbocharged its development as an art style here! Overall, I applaud this new aesthetic cultivation amongst politicians, although it has been hard on parody news veterans such as The Babylon Bee, who have recently admitted to being unable to compete with reality in formulating funny headlines. As such, their only recourse was to branch out to real news.

One can well understand The Babylon Bee's woes, from how American congressmen are piling into the satire business too, with Adam Schiff for example passing off his entirely made-up account of a call between GEOTUS and the Ukrainian President (who's a comedian by trade, and something of a terrific troll himself) as a parody. Then again, given that their traditional income stream of lobbyist favours and kickbacks is dwindling, as the current U.S. administration drains the swamp beginning with Biden Junior, it's only natural that they're in for some diversification. Never one to be outdone, the master memesmith of the Oval Office has summoned Nickelback to his cause, but we'll leave the breakdown of the latest pathetic coup attempt for the in-progress Democratic debates roundup.

Hustlers (2019)

Successful businesswomen enjoying the fruits of entrepreneurship
(Source: glamour.com)

In this Oscar dark-horse masterpiece and unofficial prequel to Crazy Rich Asians, a down-on-her-luck Rachel Chu reprises her life story before attaining her lectureship at NYU, which explains Eleanor Young's prejudice against her somewhat. Not that it's warranted, you understand - disrobing is, after all, a time-honoured means for less well-off young ladies to pay for college (though she doesn't help Asian stereotypes by mugging in the club), which I'd reckon is a much more admirable attitude than that evinced by the pampered princess of the last review.

Destiny - that's her stripper name - rapidly masters anatomy, rotational physics and applied psychology under the benevolent tutelage of Jennifer Lopez and real-life practitioner Cardi B, supporting well the Singapore government's latest stance that it's expressible skills, and not paper qualifications, that are most sought after by modern employers.

Sidetrack: This brings us to the latest outrage of modesty uproar here, which came after an NUS undergrad had his sentence for molest reduced as a side-effect of his "good grades" (which weren't even that exceptional, IMHO). There has very rightly been much indignation at the apparent encroaching elitism, specifically as to why getting more As should be a valid mitigating factor, all the more due to the precedent it sets. The university's reputation is once again weathering a battering online, not helped by another badly-timed peeping tom case, but really, it's not as if we were responsible for the sentencing; had those fellows sought their Destiny out more boldly, or simply turned to the wonders of the Internet like most well-adjusted young men, there would be less malarkey all around.

But back to the inspiring biopic on female empowerment, which went from low-profile feature article to probably award-winning-flick in all of three years. From a wider context, it should be recognized as a companion piece to 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street, filling in as it does the other half of high finance's puzzle. While Wolf peers into how the trader Chads make their moolah (the girls sort them into three classes, in roughly ascending order of wealth & power, and concomitant descending order of vulnerability to manipulation & tricks), Hustlers explains how their fairer counterparts relieve them of the loot in turn. As Mufasa teaches Simba, it's just the circle of life.

Sad spoiler: he's the only one to go nude in the entire show
[N.B. He's a specialist & Wolf holdover, which may make up for it]
[N.N.B. But seriously, they couldn't find a bathrobe or towel?]
(Source: slate.com)

And boy, do men have it rough in this film. Yeah, let's be realistic, they're no saints - one slimeball drew the loudest gasps of the night, for cheating Destiny by leaving three twenties instead of the agreed-on three hundreds for a custom job - but it remains kinda sad as to how they're put through the wringer. It begins, as it tends to, innocuously enough: the ladies sashay about in temptingly-revealing digs, and offer one-on-one (or four-on-one, if that's his thing; as the original has it, "while most men might be able keep their wits, and their wallets, around one scantily clad, sweet-smelling sylph, they tend to lose their grip around three or four") private life-coaching tuition to the boozed-up clients; Destiny soon discovers that the club and various hangers-on will extract a goodly chunk of this income, which to be fair did prepare her for how grant overheads and indirect costs work in academia.

If your reaction is that this exploitative business model is ripe for disruption, you'd be right. The expected dynamics, where the clubs paid the performers - their greatest assets, and why the men were there after all - had been overturned in the 1980s, which left the girls as independent contractors (a profit-enhancing dodge that Uber and the like have also used). However, the financial crisis of 2008 would tilt the balance of power back in favour of the performers, with Ramona (J.Lo) and gang realizing that the club needed their contacts plenty more than before. They meet the demand themselves for a bit, before discovering the joys of outsourcing, as those in their position often do, all the more as they were getting outcompeted by hungry newcomers from Russia and Colombia.

Here's where the cautionary lessons for entrepreneurs come in. Number One: hire good personnel. Yes, the selection's not great, given that they were recruiting from the back page of Craigslist, but as Destiny recognized, not being an addled cokehead is a reasonable requirement, even if actual morals was perhaps too much to ask for. Now, while her mentor Ramona can be a cosy mama duck, she was far too trusting of down-and-out gals. As might be inferred when someone's fleeing a hospital parking lot in her lingerie, this was a recipe for disaster.

They might yet have survived this handicap, though, but for the second mistake - oversized greed; one can hardly miss the irony, given that this was also what brought their Wall Street bro counterparts down. Again, Destiny identified the problem beforehand: drugging the rubes to total memory loss wasn't an issue; heck, some of the overgrown frat boys probably expected it. The issue was cleaning out their bank accounts afterwards. Ramona's habit of doing so ensured that there would be next to no reliable repeat customers, which pushed them into riskier and riskier gambles... and like the traders, eventual implosion.

The scam was finally busted when a cardiologist, who had thought he was engaging a comely nursing student for a mutually-beneficial relationship, worked up the courage to report that he had been taken in four times. Destiny does get off kinda light - five years' probation - after taking a plea deal, written a book about her experiences, and apparently become an economics professor, as we have seen. It probably doesn't pay more, that said, and whether it actually qualifies as a more honourable calling would depend on what theories she's selling.

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Next: Alles Allies

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The Man Who Trolled The World (Part II)
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