Remember that scene in Big where Josh Baskin receives his first paycheck? He’s a 12-year-old boy trapped in the body of a 30-year-old man. He has never had more than a few dollars to his name in his whole life, so when he earns what seems like a huge sum of money to him, here’s how he reacts.
He and his friend from school immediately cash the check in the most gratifying way possible. They relish the thought of having a hundred-dollar bill, but it’s also fun to have a huge stack of dollar bills, which is why they request all those ones.
And then comes the money shot. Josh and his friend have apparently blown their wad on toys and food to the point of being sick of it all. Josh jokingly says he never wants to eat again.
Not a Pretty Picture
I used to think this was funny as a kid, but as an adult I realize it’s kind of horrifying. Now that all of Josh’s money is spent, what is he going to live off of until he gets his next paycheck? And where is that money going to go except down the drain once more? You can hardly blame Josh for his poor spending habits. No one ever told him what to do with money. It’s a childish way of doing things to spend all your money on what you want right now with no thought of the future. It’s also dangerous.
The movie brushes past this problem because, in the very next scene, Josh gets a promotion and a big boost in his pay. But that’s not usually the way real life works. Few people get handed the deal of a lifetime right after starting on the bottom rung of a corporation. Even if that did happen to you, more money would just mean more problems. To be given a huge reward after doing the most irresponsible thing possible – do you think that would make a person suddenly want to make responsible choices or do you think that would make him do exactly what he did before, just on a grander scale?
Big isn’t meant to be a realistic drama or a cautionary tale about the use of money. It’s a comedy. But I don’t want to let it off the hook for its portrayal of such a serious issue as overspending. Let’s think realistically about what would happen to Josh a couple of days after his first payday, if he hadn’t received a promotion. He would likely get kicked out of his rented room for lack of payment. He wouldn’t have any money for food, making his offhand remark about never wanting to eat again rather ironic. And he would probably lose his job as he becomes unkempt through nights of homelessness and as his work ethic declines due to despair. Not a pretty picture.
Living Paycheck to Paycheck
I’ve heard that a lot of people live paycheck to paycheck, meaning that they are always counting down the days to their next payday in order to have a little money in the bank. But that money never lasts long because it gets spent right after it’s received or even before they get it and then those people end up in the same boat that they were in before they got it.
Money magnifies what is already there in your personality. If you’re smart with money, getting more money will not tempt you to do anything rash. You’ll simply have more to save, invest, and move closer to your goals. If you’re bad with money, getting more of it will only lead to misery as you chase happiness through purchases and move away from your goals, if you have any.
A Child Trapped in a Grownup Body
Being a child trapped in a grownup body is a terrible fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and that is exactly what Big portrays both literally and figuratively. To lack willpower, discipline, or vision to see beyond a moment of pleasure is to lack the ability to survive. By not spending every dollar we make, and instead only spending on things we need and can justify purchasing, we’ll be in a much better situation than Josh or any other childish grownup. That’s my two cents.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All video clips are the copyright of their owner.