Once again thanks to Hulu for providing me with movie entertainment at a cost that’s just right for me (watching ads).
Today I’m going to look at the movie The Joneses from a Libertarian perspective. It’s a challenging movie to review from that angle because it contains elements that Libertarians will hate but also parts I think they will find very relatable and enjoyable.
The Joneses tells the story of Steve, Kate, Jenn, and Mick Jones played by David Duchnovy, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, and Ben Hollingsworth. They are a fake family planted into a wealthy neighborhood in order to drive sales of various products. By giving off the appearance of being sublimely happy and very good looking, other people are attracted to the products they use in the hopes of gaining such happiness for themselves.
Steve is a newcomer to this form of advertising while Kate, Jenn, and Mick are veterans with Kate being the team leader.
In some ways this is an anti-Libertarian movie in that it vilifies consumerism and the job the Joneses are doing. The Joneses do their job well and that, sadly, has tragic consequences for their neighbor Larry, played by the always effective Gary Cole. Steve eventually rejects this fake lifestyle and moves on hoping to take Kate from it as well, as he has fallen in love with her.
However, it also espouses Libertarian ideas because the family is living a complete lie and this has obvious consequences on their own sense of self. They are lying to their new friends in the neighborhood in order to manipulate them into buying things. In an interesting moment of the movie, Mick is having second thoughts about this web of deceit and Steve tells him to think of it as connecting people with the products they want. That they are actually helping the people rather than harming them.
That’s why I find myself ambivalent about The Joneses. I loved the negative consequences of their false lifestyle. Living a lie is a bad thing. However, doing a job well is a great thing and the family did their job exceptionally well. They earned the large salary and the many luxuries they got from the various companies that were paying for their services. Consumerism is not bad in itself. Having nice things that we enjoy is good. Buying things we don’t need in order to find the happiness that is missing from our lives is, on the other hand, bad.
The company that pays the Joneses is portrayed as the bad guy which is, again, anti-Libertarian. If a company comes up with an effective way to advertise for which manufacturers are willing to pay, then it’s not the company’s fault. If people drive themselves into bankruptcy trying to keep up with the Joneses, the fault lies with those who spent more than they earned. Not the advertisers.
It’s definitely a well-acted, well-written, beautifully filmed movie. Glenne Headly does a fantastic job as the neighbor’s wife trying to sell for a Multi-Level Marketing company. This plot line is incredibly effective in displaying the power of the marketing strategy employed by the Joneses. From a man-perspective, Moore and Heard are exceptionally easy on the eyes.
In the end I will give this movie $$$ (on a 5$ scale). It just had too many anti-Libertarian qualities for me to highly recommend it despite the excellent production qualities.
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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