Monday, August 16, 2010

"Everybody needs Money. That's why they call it Money."

David Mamet's Heist, an underrated movie, includes the line "Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money." I have a friend who hates that line, and mocks it by saying things to me like "Everyone needs chairs. That's why they call them chairs." I was defending it in an email, but then figured, why not put it on the blog, and link him to it, just to get on his nerves.

These are the opening lines of Heist.

Coffee Cart Man: Hey buddy. You forgot your change.
Joe Moore: [Takes the change] Makes the world go round.
Bobby Blane: What's that?
Joe Moore: Gold.
Bobby Blane: Some people say love.
Joe Moore: Well, they're right, too. It is love. Love of gold.

Gold, money, is established as the end-all be-all in the opening exchange, the thing that makes the whole world go round. Money is not FOR anything else -- everything, including love, and the world spinning around, is FOR MONEY. Money is the THING IN ITSELF. It is the ROOT, in Mamet's view. Radix malorum est cupidita. Money is the root of all evil. Psychoanalysis describes the object of desire as this ever deferred thing -- you want something, but when you get it you want something else. Mamet does not agree. Love and the world turning are for something else -- MONEY. But money is it, the end of the line.

The the key exchange is Heist is this:

Joe Moore: Anybody can get the goods. The hard part's getting away.
Bergman: Uh-huh.
Joe Moore: You plan a good enough getaway, you could steal Ebbets Field.
Bergman: Ebbets Field's gone.
Joe Moore: What did I tell you?

So this is not just about low level street crime, dudes swiping gold from each other. This is about capitalism, which in Mamet's view erodes all values. Mamet's American Buffalo was about the same thing. The street level gold theft is the same thing, according to Mamet, as major corporate deals.

So when the Bergman says "Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money," this a joke about the same idea set up in the opening. If you want to understand Love you have to look outside of love because love is really a love of money. In David Mamet's world you can't joke "Everybody needs love, that's why they call it love," because the objection would be "but people don't really need love, what they really need is money." But the desire for Money is not a desire for something else. It is its own justification, its own reason for being. So Mamet jokes that the word "Money" by definition means "Everybody need money." Because the desire for money is so obvious and pervasive, and such a dead end, he ironically claims that the word it self must justify the thing it refers to. In Mamet's world, it is unique in that nothing else could justify it. It would be like asking a religious person, "if god created the world, who created god?" At some point you find this self-creating origin, and for Mamet, in our world, that thing is cash.


Christian O. said...


Does this mean we're going to get more of this sort of content now?

Marc Caputo said...

I'm too lazy to dig the disc out now, but doesn't Rebecca Pidgeon say in 'The Spanish Prisoner' about money, "Makes the mare go round"?....which has led me to wonder if 'merry go round', with its horses, derives from mare....

Gee, if there was only someplace online that could tell me those things...

REALLY lazy tonight.....

But, great post, Geoff....this is why blogging is so great....the discourse on the littlest of things....

Geoff Klock said...

Thanks guys!

I don't know ifI will do more like this, but this is very much what the blog was supposed to be about in the first place -- I would get on once a week and do a post like that. I will try to do it more often.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem Mamet hold these views anymore.

Robert Beames said...

Thanks! I've been quoting it with a friend for years, but never understood it. I feel like I do now.

SSP Lab said...

Very nice analysis of this line, in the context of the movie. I think one of the reasons why some people find this line confusing is that when you watch Mamet, you are kind of looking out for subtle double meanings and this type of thing. However, Mamet just has a lot of idiosyncratic sayings too. The thing is (and this is what your piece points out quite nicely) is that they are consistent with the tone and character of the movie, which is why Mamet's movies have such a sense of realism about them and his lines stick.

proverb inquisitor said...

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