Even though shorting is a totally legitimate maneuver, its practical application causes no small amount of antagonism among institutions. The ideology behind this kind of investment is based on pessimism, and pessimism does not make Wall Street happy. “The Big Short” and “Betting on Zero” are two films which present short traders as very logical straightforward folks, the kind who’d shout out “the king is naked,” but generally speaking it’s a sector that derives gain from other people’s troubles. It’s a sector with a unifying title, “hedge funds,” and it’s the objective of the millennial generation, which drove one of the oddest and most interesting financial rebellions of the 21st century.
“Eat the Rich: GameStop Saga” is a 3 part Netflix docuseries describing a wide-ranging viral event which began at the close of 2020 and is in fact still taking place, although at lower volume: investments made by economically clueless youngsters in the slippery GameStop share to drive a head-on collision with capital market sharks who the millennials view as killer vultures.
GameStop’s roots began in the 2008 subprime crash when children watched their parents being fired from jobs while others were raking in big money from the same economic collapse. The images at the time showed classily outfitted smiling managers who continued receiving government support despite their abysmal failures; the managers were perceived as rubbishing the woes of their subordinates. The people who really made fortunes at the time were hedge fund managers. A hedge fund is a type of investment that aims to earn profits in every market situation, whether the market is going up or down, whether it’s stable or in a state of high fluctuation. That’s the most fertile ground for these managers.
Hedge funds had a field day and the younger generation got angrier and angrier. For more than a decade hedge funds fueled this anger until the time came to act. “Eat the Rich” describes these events excellently, in simple terms and with a plot that’s clear and easy to follow. It shows how social networks and the TikTok culture undermined hedge fund managers’ confidence, causing seismic anxiety on Wall Street.
It all began with a very intentional action by several friends on the Reddit network which by nature still has something of an underground nucleus. The friends, regular users who aren’t necessarily even connected with the capital market, decided to invest in shares of GameStop, a failed chain of gaming stores that made huge losses and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Why did they invest? Because they could. Because that was the whole point. The phenomenon went viral in no time. Hugely viral. Using the “Robin Hood” app, which simplifies investing even for people with about zero experience in the field, massive quantities of GameStop shares were bought up, against all logic and to the vexation of fuming hedge fund managers who had no clue how to deal with the accelerating trend or how to fight this entirely new type of opponent.
Delving into this stunning social phenomenon, the docuseries shows how young adults with no capital market skills were able to shift the tectonic plates under Wall Street. This investment trend, which then took on other shares too, can cause the market to collapse, but Reddit investors couldn’t care less about that. As far as they’re concerned, they’re the little guy fighting the forces of darkness. “No matter how dangerous the situation is, no one’s going to support Goliath,” said one of the interviewees, describing the sentiment fueling the investors moves, even supported at some point by one of short trading’s hugest haters on our planet, Elon Musk.
It’s no easy thing to produce a docuseries about the economy that will keep viewers glued to their screens. Even the “Dirty Money” series which closely followed real financial crimes contained several chapters which, to put it mildly, were dreary. “Eat the Rich” is a small scale series totaling a brief two or so hours, isn’t intense, and presents the clash of worlds caused by an extraordinary social movement. By the way, unlike what you might expect, the movement’s leadership was figuratively beheaded by tough forced actions by government, and those actions’ legitimacy can definitely be argued, but GameStop’s shares are now alive and well, as are those of the AMC chain of cinemas which also took a starring role in Reddit’s meme-stock culture. Watch “Eat the Rich,” it’s worth it. And it’s worth keeping an eye on real time developments.