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Gordon Gekko: Wall Street’s Personification of Greed (Overview)

Last Updated on 10 February, 2024 by Rejaul Karim

The famous line “Greed is good,” spoken by the character Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street,” was inspired by a real-life Wall Street criminal. In 1986, the Chicago Tribune reported on remarks made by insider trader Ivan Boesky during a commencement speech at the University of California, Berkeley’s business school. Boesky stated, “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.” This speech was received with laughter and applause.

Two years later, Oliver Stone used this line in the “Wall Street” movie, which was released in December 1987. The movie was a representation of the excess of the 1980s, a time of financial deregulation and “free-market economics” under President Ronald Reagan. The character of Gordon Gekko perfectly captured the spirit of this era. Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gekko, who argues that greed is a healthy and necessary force in society during a speech to stockholders.

Greed Is Good Speech by Gordon Gekko | Wall Street quote Greed is Good

 

The idea of Gordon Gekko as a symbol of Wall Street excess was further popularized by Jordan Belfort, the “Wolf of Wall Street,” who claimed that Gordon Gekko was a nickname of his. Belfort wrote a book about his experiences as a stock trader, and a movie adaptation of his book, also titled “The Wolf of Wall Street,” was released in 2013 and starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort. The movie depicted Belfort’s rise and fall, as he ultimately lost everything and went to jail.

The impact of the “Wall Street” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” movies is evident in the fact that some people have embraced Gordon Gekko’s ethos and prospered under a system that rewards bad behavior. However, the audience has also lost the moral anchor of a conflicted protagonist, as both “Wall Street” and “Boiler Room” featured characters who offered a relatable perspective and helped to clarify that characters like Gordon Gekko were the bad guys, not antiheroes to be admired.

In 2010, Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone returned to the character of Gordon Gekko in the sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” Despite the fact that Gordon Gekko went to jail between movies, his influence and legacy continue to be felt in popular culture and on Wall Street. The word “capitalist” has been instilled in people from a young age, and for the “Wall Street” generation, it was considered un-American to be anything less. However, the morals and ethics of capitalism are still up for debate and continue to be portrayed in popular culture through characters like Gordon Gekko and Jordan Belfort.

Gordon Gekko and Greed

Gordon Gekko, the infamous Wall Street tycoon played by Michael Douglas in the movie “Wall Street,” is a character that has become synonymous with greed and cutthroat business tactics. His famous quote, “Greed is good,” encapsulates the ruthless, win-at-all-costs mentality that defined his on-screen persona.

The character of Gordon Gekko was based on several real-life corporate raiders of the 80s, including corporate raider Ivan Boesky. However, despite his nefarious on-screen actions, Gekko has become a pop culture icon and even somewhat of an aspirational figure for some.

Unfortunately, Gordon Gekko does not appear in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” but the film’s protagonist, Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a similar character in many ways. Belfort’s famous line, “Money doesn’t just buy you a better life, it buys you a better person,” speaks to the corrupting influence of wealth and power.

It’s worth noting that while “Wall Street” is a fictional film, it was heavily inspired by real events and individuals from the world of finance.

As for how to be like Gordon Gekko, it’s not recommended. Gekko’s leadership style was authoritarian and unethical, and his “greed is good” philosophy ultimately led to his downfall. It’s better to strive for success through hard work, integrity, and ethical decision-making.

FAQ

Who is Gordon Gekko?

Gordon Gekko is a fictional character portrayed by Michael Douglas in the movie “Wall Street.” He is a ruthless Wall Street tycoon known for his iconic quote, “Greed is good,” reflecting a win-at-all-costs mentality.

Is Gordon Gekko based on a real person?

While Gordon Gekko is a fictional character, he was inspired by real-life corporate raiders of the 1980s, including Ivan Boesky. The character captures the excesses of the financial world during that era.

What is the significance of the quote “Greed is good”?

The quote “Greed is good” became iconic through Gordon Gekko’s character. It represents the cutthroat business tactics and ruthless mentality prevalent in the 1980s financial landscape, as depicted in the movie “Wall Street.”

Who is Jordan Belfort, the “Wolf of Wall Street”?

Jordan Belfort is a real-life former stock trader and the protagonist of the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Like Gordon Gekko, Belfort symbolizes excess and corruption in the financial world.

What impact did “Wall Street” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” have on popular culture?

Both movies had a significant impact, popularizing characters like Gordon Gekko and shaping perceptions of Wall Street excess. Some individuals embraced Gekko’s ethos, while others recognized him as a symbol of greed.

How did Gordon Gekko influence the “Wall Street” generation?

The character of Gordon Gekko had a profound impact on the “Wall Street” generation, where the term “capitalist” was instilled from a young age. Gekko’s influence raised debates about the morals and ethics of capitalism.

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