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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Succeeding Succession: books, games, music and more about the ultra rich

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Music

Hell hath no fury like a pop icon scorned, and nobody does indignant financial rage better than Rihanna on the impeccable Bitch Better Have My Money. Hummed under the breath of many a freelancer drafting their 14th polite chase for payment, its playful trap beat enlaces a tale of dodgy accountant exploitation with a shot of chest-puffing braggadocio: “Don’t act like you forgot, I call the shots.” Whether you are negotiating a pay rise or cajoling yourself into another day’s hard grind, it’s all the encouragement you need to stalk into that office and demand what is yours. Jenessa Williams


Film

Sunset Boulevard
Faded glamour … Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, still enjoying the trappings of wealth. Photograph: Allstar/Paramount

How many films about extreme wealth are a cautionary tale: the lonely mogul, the billionaire’s comeuppance? A bit rich, of course, coming from a movie business built by the profit-hungry. (For another irony, think OF ALL the antiheroes – Scarface’s Tony Montana or The Wolf of Wall Street’s Jordan Belfort – who end up as posters on bedroom walls.) All of which leaves the deathless Sunset Boulevard. Faded silent-movie great Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is no one’s role model. Hollywood was kinder to her decades ago. But knee-deep in caviar and leopardskin, with the light glinting off the pool, she is still a woman who enjoys every cent of her fortune. Danny Leigh


Book

The Age of Innocence
The Age of Innocence. Photograph: Macmillan Collector’s Library

One of the magic tricks Succession pulls off is the way it makes the Roy family simultaneously repulsive and relatable. These awful people are so rich that they don’t even need coats; the only time they go outside is when they’re moving from their chauffeured cars to their private jets. Yet, somehow, we start to love them almost as much as we hate them. Edith Wharton does the same in The Age of Innocence. Her gilded denizens of late 19th-century high society – all carriages and opera and country mansions – seem like petty, privileged monsters. Yet they are also achingly, passionately, beautifully human. It’s a powerful spell. Sam Jordison


Game

Grand Theft Auto Online.
Criminally entertaining … Grand Theft Auto Online. Photograph: Rockstar

I have rarely felt as rich as I did when I finally paid off my house in Animal Crossing – but that was wealth accumulated through selling prize fish and labouring diligently around the neighbourhood. For something that is both a fantasy and a parody of gross capitalistic excess, you want Grand Theft Auto Online, a violent, nihilistic virtual city-state that lets you earn and spend millions on faster cars, helicopters and luxury apartments – only to find that none of it really does anything or makes you feel any better about your life. Keza MacDonald


Art

Rembrandt
Embarrassment of riches … Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast. Photograph: Alamy

Riches have never been painted in a more hallucinatory way than in Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast, his version of the biblical story of Belshazzar, who feasted from plates stolen from the holy temple. Even without the writing on the wall, this man is in a gilded hell. Gold glows everywhere but turns to rancid butter. His glowing golden cape is a quagmire of pigment, a swamp of money. A horrible dead light glints off it and the burnished metal receptacles from which his corrupt company drink. A golden jug with its neck turned towards us opens a shining void. Wealth, warns Rembrandt, is a whirlpool of insatiable desires. Jonathan Jones

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