2014’s Nightcrawler is the story of Lou Bloom, a cosmopolitan sociopath who finds success in the media. Unlike other brands of villain, Lou is lucky enough to live in a system which rewards a certain variety of exploitative creep with material goods and prestige. Rather than coming off like a cretin, Lou sends off the right social signals by speaking in the language of entrepreneurship, pop psychology, and power-of-positive-thinking aphorisms.
In the beginning of the film, Lou is eking out a living by stealing scrap metal and bikes. he soon discovers that local morning shows will pay cash for sensational footage, so he begins a career in the news industry, zipping across Los Angeles to film his fellow Angelenos bleeding and dying. Because he possesses no conscience, and there’s no moral line he’s unwilling to cross, Lou is a natural. Over Nightcrawler‘s runtime, he climbs the ladder as he’s able to deliver bloodier, ever more dramatic footage to his corporate patrons. At Lou’s station, one producer tries to agitate for some standard of decency, but is overruled. After all, the basic nature of a money-making organization dictates that profits must comes above all else.
If all this sounds like a lesson about capitalism, that’s what I thought, too. Lou isn’t just rewarded because he is willing to transgress boundaries that others won’t. More importantly, there are built-in, structural reasons for this. No matter how many people within the organization may object on moral grounds, the system has certain demands. Regardless of how well-meaning the managers and day laborers within the system might be, it’ll produce predation a general cheapening of human life. That’s what’s in the film text, anyway–from Lou himself to the producer whose objections are dismissed. Continue reading