Arts, Television, Review

‘Black Monday’ Sheds Light on 1987 Economic Crash

For many young people not apt to history of American economics, the term “Black Monday” will probably solicit furrowed eyebrows and squinted eyes. So, to clarify—no, Black Monday is not related to Black Friday, and no, it does not describe the grungy start to your week. Black Monday refers to the global stock market crash on Oct. 19, 1987. At the first mention of a show about a stock market crash, one might envision a documentary-style series. After overviewing the cast and crew, which includes names like Seth Rogen, Don Cheadle, and Regina Hall, the show becomes more promising for good entertainment.

Showtime aired the pilot of Black Monday for free via YouTube in late December, although the show officially premiered on Jan. 20. The show attempts to offer a comedic, personable account of events leading to the stock market crash through the eyes of Wall Street traders, starting one year before the devastation. Until now, no one had known who or what caused the crash. Black Monday insists that, until now, no one had known who or what caused the the crash. Luckily, the show has come to the rescue of contemporary brokers, as it claims that it’s among the first to truly solve the mystery. Whether Black Monday intends to creatively unfold factual events is unclear, but Black Monday may not be here to incite deep reflection and conversation about finance and economics. The series is only slotted for 10 episodes, but the dynamic personalities of the characters are certain to draw viewers and ensure their weekly return.

The show does not have a central narrator—instead it sometimes relies on various inserts of written text to carry the plot or inform the audience. While the text-infused frames might not always be blatant, paying attention to these inserts will help give insight into the characters. The first instance of the inclusion of text inside a scene—and not explicitly on a blank background—reads “Yuppies Lost” on a graffitied pillar.

The lack of movement in the vignette frame sets a serious tone that is actually not consistent with the rest of the episode. In this scene, there is no sound except the sobbing of a man and the spray can. The vandal and her companion are not rushing to make their statement. The show tries to balance solemnity with comedy, which makes deciphering the direction of the show more difficult.

This may have foreshadowed the introduction of Blair (Andrew Rannells), who has the upward trajectory of the typical yuppie: A recent Wharton graduate, Blair moves to the Big Apple in hopes that his innovation will change the financial world and make him rich. His first steps through the Stock Exchange, which seem to be his first steps out of the coddled environment in which yuppies were raised, leave him in amazement. Between learning to be more assertive on Wall Street and his love interest, Blair appears to be a riveting character to watch.

From a glance, Mo (Don Cheadle)—a black man from an underprivileged background who now works as an executive in one of the top 11 trading firms on Wall Street—is an inspiration to the underdogs. From the moment he turns to ask his robot named Kyle, however, to indulge in cocaine with him, it becomes clear that Mo may not be the hometown hero people once imagined.

While the opening scenes of Blair and Mo involve love interests, Dawn (Regina Hall) is introduced alone in her apartment, submerged in paperwork, and in the middle of a phone conversation in another language. Some might be tempted to paint Dawn as an “angry black woman” based off her loud tone and grand gestures while on the phone, but this passion should be lauded.

Too often black women are overlooked for their tenacity and hard work. Considering black women like Dawn face multiple forms of discrimination, being both black and a woman, flamboyance should not undermine their character. Reticence and complacency do not help marginalized people make social or economic gains. In the same token, black women are just as entitled to emotions as anyone else, and Dawn’s inundation does not make her any less of a hard worker—it makes her human. Of course, Dawn’s assertiveness and extravagant style captures the attention of Mo, and the end of the episode foreshadows a past romantic history or an ensuing one.

Black Monday’s comedy might fall short, but the storyline of the main characters makes the show worth the watch. It may only be the pilot, but the show parallels many aspects of contemporary society and offers various points of discussion. Black Monday is not overwhelmed with incomprehensible finance jargon and offers a dramatized, entertaining investigation of the root of the ’87 crash.

Featured Image by Showtime

January 27, 2019

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