How can Capitalism be an Addiction?

Learning about masters, Marx and moods from the film: Sorry to Bother You

Every film that involves addiction deals with the topic in a different way. Some choose to openly showcase drugs, killings, sex, like Flight or Nymphomaniac. Whereas some others choose to discretely hide the topic of addiction beneath metaphors and unclear symbolism, like Nightcrawler or Prisoners.

There is another way of dealing with addiction, and it involves both discrete as well as open showcasing of the topic. Sorry to Bother You is perhaps one of the most unique ways of demonstrating how humans can get attached to something in an unhealthy manner. It is not drugs, not sex, not murder, but the good stuff: money.

And more. Actually, quite a lot of things. Sorry to Bother You shows addiction on so many fronts that it can get quite confusing to see through the mess that the movie quickly becomes and clearly understand what is happening in any given moment. But the root of all problems is thankfully better defined. It’s the bad c-word, capitalism.

Sorry to Bother You is the boring theorizing and technical vocabulary of Marxism combined with present-day humour, references, context and looks that seem familiar to all of us. Imagine Marx having an Instagram account, but as a movie, if that makes sense. Or more like Marx having a Finsta where he posts drunk pics, but as a movie. With horses (mini spoiler).

The film centres around Cassius Green (amazing pun, Cash is Green, I love it) who is a young, unemployed and relatable guy living in the garage of his uncle with his unbothered and artsy girlfriend Detroit (they really went off with the names). Both have financial issues which cripple their ability to have a secure life. His uncle is barely holding on to his house while Cassius himself is totally dependent on this instable state, even driving an extremely old and fragile car that his uncle gave him.

Cassius finds a way to escape this situation though. He enters a low-paying telemarketing job and together with some friends slowly starts to earn some money to cover the basics. However, the boring job combined with low wages quickly leads the workers to start a series of strikes which go on during the entire movie.

Sorry to Bother You decides to go full Marxist at this point. The man himself describes how modern labour, which is repetitive, boring and pointless, can be alienating. This distance between the labourer and the work that is being produced is so grave, that it causes dissatisfaction, frustration and depression. Cassius feels the same, until he discovers a way of increasing his productivity. Suddenly, the negative, boring work that he protests, becomes exciting.

All he does is adapt a so-called White Voice when he speaks to clients. My favourite scene in the entire movie consists of Cassius being told how this White Voice is characterised by a certain feeling of unbotheredness (if that’s a word). If you speak that way, you made it. No financial struggles, no worries, all good.

The new found excitement through the success he has with his new voice lead him to rise through the ranks of the corporate ladder. Unsurprisingly, this has negative impacts too. He is slowly starting to lose his loved ones and all his principles and values in the process.

All of this may seem very cliché and perhaps like an easy, maybe even lazy critique of capitalist working environment. However, Sorry to Bother You goes through the entirety of the plot in such a unique and amazingly absurd manner, that the class critique that dominates the film may seem obvious, but also quite refreshing. The film manages to present contemporary struggles of low wages, a dissatisfying work experience and increasingly worthless material possessions so over the top, that it is genuinely weird that it all still seems so relatable.

So, is that Cassius addiction? Money? The corporate ladder? Both? Well that’s the thing: It’s all of that, plus more. Making his girlfriend proud of him, his social status, a new car, a new house… Cassius is addicted to everything. His job, which includes morally despicable aspects in his daily routine, becomes more than a job. It is a machine actively producing new addictions all the time. Cassius loses track of what matters to him, he loses track of the real world and becomes increasingly isolated as he moves from the first floor to the top floor in his office building.

Sorry to Bother You demonstrates the alienation of the modern workplace tied with all the financial struggles that so many cheap labourers face on an everyday basis, and sets them into stark contrast with the opposite, the shiny, over the top success stories. The film brilliantly demonstrates, how you cannot be in either one of the positions and not damage the other. The poor riot against the rich, while the rich exploit the poor, but once Cassius is part of the rich, he forgets about his principles and the struggles that he went through before. He transitions from an alienated labourer to an alienated human being.

And all of this happens in the most unique, crazy and unthinkable way. Involving contemporary, relatable examples, and completely unexpected twists and fictious elements. Sorry to Bother You is what would happen if Marx time travelled to today’s world, only to become a passionate symbol for critique at the status quo, while also probably being super high, sharing this entire process on his Finsta. And don’t forget about the horses!!