Japan’s top government spokesman on Thursday defended a speech by the prime minister in which he compared the career of fictional Wall Street titan-turned-criminal Gordon Gekko with his own country’s economic resurgence.
Shinzo Abe’s address to the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday – which touched on everything from hot dogs and sushi to baseball and US heavy metal rock band Metallica – repeatedly mentioned the anti-hero of the 1987 film Wall Street.
“Today, I have come to tell you that Japan will once again be a country where there is money to be made, and that just as Gordon Gekko made a comeback in the financial world ... so too can we now say that ‘Japan is Back’,” Abe said.
The Oliver Stone-directed film portrays Gekko as a corporate raider who is ultimately sent to prison on insider trading charges and other securities violations. His memorable line that “greed ... is good” became a popular symbol of 1980s excess.
Actor Michael Douglas, whose performance netted him an Academy Award, reprised the role in the 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps which chronicles Gekko’s notoriety after his release from prison and his subsequent move to seek redemption.
“What the prime minister wanted to say the most was that ‘Japan is Back’. And in the sequel, Gordon Gekko was redeemed, wasn’t he?” top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
Suga was responding to questions about why Japan’s leader had cited a cinematic convicted criminal as an inspiration for a policy blitz aimed at reviving the country’s long-limp economy.
Abe noted that the original film a quarter-century ago portrayed Japan as an economic powerhouse, while in the sequel “the investors that appear are Chinese – Japan is conspicuous only in its absence”, reflecting its two-decade slide.
The premier’s wide-ranging speech, on the eve of his appearance at the UN General Assembly, was strewn with metaphors, from the musical to the culinary.
In one section he pointed to hopes that sushi carts would one day be lined up alongside New York City’s famous hot dog vendors – apparently confirming Japan’s revival.
In a slightly strained sporting simile, Abe compared the “sharp breaking cutter” of Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, with the inevitability of Japan’s economic revival.
“Even now, at age 43, Rivera has that one pitch – that sharp-breaking cutter – that every batter finds entirely unhittable,” he said. “I am convinced he is the best closer anywhere in the world.
“There is likewise no need to go to extraordinary lengths to find a scenario in which Japan reemerges. I believe that, just like one of Rivera’s cutters, Japan will be able to revive as long as it unleashes its intrinsic potential.”
New York Yankees star Ichiro Suzuki and Japan’s super-efficient bullet trains also got a mention, as part of a pitch for Japanese involvement in a proposed maglev link between Baltimore and Washington DC.
After swinging through lithium-ion batteries, wind turbines, deregulation, trade pacts and an upcoming meeting with the editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, he returned to Michael Douglas’s big-spending trader.
“To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, “How are we going to revive the global economy? Well, I’ll tell you. Three words: ‘Buy my Abenomics!’”
The quote was an apparent reference to a scene in the second film in which Gekko is trying to convince an audience to buy his book.
The Japanese prime minister, who is not known to have previously expressed a liking for hard rock, finished his speech touching on the title track from a 1991 album by US heavy metal group Metallica.
“Japan is once again in the midst of great elation as we prepare for the (Olympic) Games seven years from now,” he said.
“It is almost as if Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” is resounding throughout Yankee Stadium: you know how this is going to end.”