American Studies Blog Week 12
The text selected as representative of a contemporary version of The Great Gatsby is the film Casino Jack. The film is loosely based on a real story and focuses on the career of a political lobbyist called Jack Abramoff who was eventually charged and imprisoned for fraud in 2006 for conning the Native Americans out of 85 million dollars. Several similarities can be found between the two tales; in both, for example the main characters acquire wealth through illegal means, live lavish lifestyles, but ultimately end up suffering the consequences as a result of relationships with women and because they have pushed the boundaries. For example, Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy eventually led to his death and in a similar manner, the affair of Abramoff’s partner Michael Scanlon with the stewardess leads to his girlfriend leaking information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to Wall Street journalist Susan Schmidt, resulting in Abramoff’s lies being exposed and his subsequent imprisonment. The two characters are also involved in the murder of other people, though in both cases they are unwilling participants and are not responsible for the crime themselves.
What both texts serve to highlight and criticize is the way that American society is prone to judge success primarily in terms of money and status. They seem to be suggesting that the manner in which Americans define success means that people such as Gatsby and Abramoff, who to an extent have good intentions, end up committing actions that are corrupt and characterized by lies and manipulation.
So Casino Jack shares several similarities with The Great Gatsby and this means it can be considered to be a contemporary version of the novel. However it is important to note that as this is a movie, it is probable that it is not an entirely true representation of all the facts of the Abramoff case and that certain elements of the film may be skewed or invented to appeal to the tastes of the audience. As such it is somewhat problematic to claim it as an accurate critique of the case and for that matter of American society.