plebs, noun (used with a plural verb) 1. (in ancient Rome) the common people, as contrasted with the patricians and later with the senatorial nobility or the equestrian order. 2. The common people; the populace.
I recently re-watched Knives Out. It’s a fantastic film starring James Bond/ Daniel Craig as the shrewd detective, Benoit Blanc, investigating the death of the head of a rich family. The driving force of this dark comedy is that in the will all the money is left to the servant, Marta (played by Ana de Armas). Naturally, the family is unhappy and do everything possible to get the money. I won’t reveal more, needless to say, there are lots of twists and turns and the right person wins out.
There is something more to the film, though. It plays on the perennial fear of the rich and powerful that the masses or plebs will one day rise up and take away their wealth. In Knives Out, the disgruntled family are overt in their disdain that a servant would inherit the father’s wealth. And in recent years, there have been other movies playing on this theme:
- The Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite (2019) was about a poor family infiltrating the household of a rich family as servants, and slowly disrupting their lives.
- Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker (2019) re-interprets the comic-book villain as a mentally ill anti-hero. In the film, the character gets beaten up on the subway by rich businessmen, which triggers city-wide riots against the rich.
- The acclaimed dark comedy Get Out (2017) centers on the black Chris Washington (played Daniel Kaluuya) uncovering a sadistic ploy by a white community to use the bodies of black people.
Perhaps, it’s a sign of our times that films are starting to address power dynamics, inequalities and social class. The question is whether the real world is ready for the same?
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