The Big Short and the Role of the Narrator

Those who tell the stories rule society - Quote by Plato

After seeing “The Big Short” a few days ago, I am still mulling over scenes of stressed out investment managers and profit-driven bankers. As someone who worked on multiple Wall Street trading desks, I winced at the “101 finance” explanations but wonder if they are helpful to someone who works in another field. From what I’ve read about the movie, narration by a central character was likewise intentional on the part of director Adam McKay. His goal was to put the audience at ease about “complex” and “very serious” topics (my quotations). I like Ryan Gosling, the actor who talked to viewers, but kept thinking it odd that this approach is seldom used in movies about technology, military strategy, espionage or any other topic that is alien to most moviegoers.

The movie is newly released so it is too soon to know whether moviegoers will embrace or avoid “The Big Short.” Those who work on Wall Street won’t need a jargon guidebook. Others may seek lighter entertainment elsewhere. Nevertheless, the unique approach to explaining perceived arcana is drawing attention. Scenes with Margot Robbie in a bathtub or Anthony Bourdain in the kitchen are likely to whet the appetite of the curious.

My take is that a storyteller needs to understand his or her viewers, readers and/or listeners and assess what communication style makes the most sense without turning people off.