The Symbolism And Influence Of The Netflix Series "Money Heist"

Symbolism And Influence Of The Netflix Series
Image Source: Wallpaper Safari

There are movies and shows like Ocean’s Eleven, or Now You See Me about heists for personal gain by stealing banks and casinos. Some add a Robin Hood element, making them political action films, but they still steal from businesses.

Money Heist doesn’t do this; instead, they directly take money from the government by breaking into and create one billion euros in the mint of Spain to escape the country and gain financial freedom.

It’s stated in season two by The Professor to Raquel that the government has repeatedly poofed money into the hands of the rich during economic crises while the working class suffered. The government wasn’t called thieves nor punished for their corruption, so he’s doing the same. In particular, he says, and I quote:

“In 2011, the European Central Bank made 171 billion euros out of nowhere. Just like we’re doing. Only bigger. 182 billion in 2012, 145 billion euros in 2013. Do you know where all that money went? To the banks. Directly from the factories to the pockets of the rich. Did anyone call the European Central Bank a thief? No. Liquidity injections they called it. And they pulled it out of nowhere Raquel….I’m making a liquidity injection, but not for the bankers. I’m doing it here in the real economy.” 

After this, the professor invites Raquel in their quest for freedom, which shows how the capitalist government is oppressive to the working class. Even the professor says that people who study to earn a good-paying career end up with a “shitty salary.” He’s right, and that salary is worse for people without an education, leaving them at dead ends, making the phrase “Pull yourself by your bootstraps” ignorant of our oppressive systems.

With that said, Money Heist is a show about resistance by challenging the system. But aside from the plot and the direct quotes that give the theme away, resistance is also symbolically seen in the group’s uniform and theme song.

The Red Jumpsuit Signifies The Desire For Reform From The Working Class. 

The color red can mean romantic love, lust, and passion, but it can also indicate anger, danger, violence, and aggression. So combining anger with passion makes red signify the desire for reform in protests. But when a jumpsuit with the color red is worn, the two elements together convey the protesters as victims of corruption and their solidarity with each other since jumpsuits have an association with the working class.

The Red Jumpsuit Signifies The Desire For Reform From The Working Class
Image Source: Wallpaper Safari

Jumpsuits have historically been worn by factory and manual laborers to avoid burns and hazards from the conditions of the Industrial Revolution. Today, the jumpsuit serves the same purpose for custodians, plumbers, sewage cleaners, mechanics, and miners.

They work hard and get dirty, yet they’re under the working class, barely getting by. And because the working class is the most disadvantaged group, the jumpsuit symbolizes oppression. The red jumpsuit in Money Heist then signifies the working class as victims of corruption. 

However, on a practical level, because the hostages in Money Heist are forced into the jumpsuits, it serves as a tactic for them to be indistinguishable. Yet, at the same time, it equalizes the class difference between the two groups since the hostages have upper economic statuses, which symbolizes the group’s cause- economic equality among the masses.

The Dali Mask Carries Anti-Capitalist Sentiment.

Like the jumpsuit, the Dali Mask symbolizes resistance since Salvador Dali was a surrealist painter from Spain. The surrealism movement disrupted the norm from its absurd and bizarre art style, making the movement association with Dali symbolizes him as a sign of rebellion, especially since Dali was a rebellious individual.

In 1923, he got expelled from the Academia de San Fernando for leading a student protest for not getting the Chair of Painting. And in 1926, he got expelled from the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Madrid for calling his professors/examiners incompetent. 

But maybe Money Heist should have picked a different Spanish Surrealist since Dali supported fascist ideologies. Specifically, he was a Hilter supporter. He would publicly express his admiration for him and once said he dreamt of Hitler as a woman.

To add on, in his book “The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dalí,” he wrote, “Hitler turned me on in the highest.” And along with these dreams came a creepy imagination that transferred into a painting called “The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition.” In it, there’s a nurse he calls “Hitlerian,” which was expressed with a swastika on the nurse’s armband, but it was removed when the surrealist community forced him to paint it out. 

The Dali Mask Carries Anti-Capitalist Sentiment
Image Source: El Economista

However, Dali has claimed that his paintings “subvert fascist ideologies.” He even defended himself by saying the Nazis could easily chastise the left for being ignorant about fascism. It was also investigated that the nurse in “The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition” resembled Dali’s childhood nurse, suggesting that Dali might have had a Hitlerian upbringing. With that said, it’s possible that Dali was a right-wing troll. 

Either or, this is a possibility that can’t be risked. We will never know his true beliefs, and because of that, his image shouldn’t be used. Yet, at the time, surrealist artists were commonly communists, which may be equally wrong to some supporters then and now.  

Socialist, communist, or fascist, surrealism is anti-capitalism, which is a sentiment the characters of Money Heist share since capitalism is the reason for their government’s corruption, making surrealism the symbol of the group’s resistance. 

But how is that? Surrealism has been accused of escapism from looking inward and being in a dream-like state. However, Surrealism looks inward to free the unconscious and its image from the repressive elements from having independent thought and creativity.

Capitalist culture salves the mind to make people mechanical sheep through entertainment, education, and social values. Surrealism reflects upon this and more to overcome oppressive capitalistic logic.

Though the association with surrealism could have been with someone else, someone who isn’t fascist, making me wonder why Dali. In my opinion, the answer is fame since he’s someone easily recognizable from his “The Persistence of Memory” painting, or aka, the melting clocks. 

The song “Bella Ciao” Is A Battle Cry For Freedom.

Aside from the uniform, Money Heist has a theme song that’s Italian called “Bella Ciao,” meaning “Goodbye Beautiful,” which has a historical significance of being a rebel ballad and protest song during World War Two against the Italian Social Republic and their Nazi allies.

Seasonal rice workers created and sung the song as they pulled weeds to keep the rice fields healthy. They would spend long hours with low wages knee-high in water with bare feet and backs bent in hot and humid weather exposed to mosquitos.

Because of this, the original lyrics were different, yet an unknown author revised their song with lyrics about resistance during World World Two for the anti-fascist movement in Italy. In fact, Money Heist acknowledges this with the narrator Tokyo saying, “The life of El Profesor revolved around a single idea: Resistance.

His grandfather, who had fought against the fascists in Italy, taught him the song, and he taught us.” In other words, the song has evolved to symbolize resistance. 

The song “Bella Ciao” Is A Battle Cry For Freedom
Image Source: Variety

However, even though Money Heist has influenced the song’s popularity in protests, it wasn’t the first time. It had become a symbol of resistance way before Money Heist was created and aired. In 1968, the song was sung during protests against Franco’s regime in Catalunya.

Yet, in recent years, the song has symbolized solidarity as well. In 2015, the song was sung in France after the terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo. And in 2020, the song was sung in Italy for the victims that fell from covid-19.

But as the song gains more popularity with new covers and mixes, the song has also become a sign of hope and celebration. Well-intended by Money Heist by keeping its theme of resistance, this association of hope and celebration created by the public are disrespectful to the older generations. Because despite being a song about resistance, it brings painful memories to the older generation who experienced the war.

Money Heist Influenced Global Resistance.

But why would Money Heist present a resistance instead of a rebellion or a revolution? 

Ideally, we would love to have an uprising and overthrow our corrupt governments, but it’s not realistic. Our battle for change has always been slow through advocacy and protests. Sometimes we get laws and policies changed, but they’re hardly enforced or looped around. Because of this, events of resistance are essential for inspiring more and more citizens to get involved in social reform. Money Heist is fiction, but it inspired global resistance. 

In Puerto Rico, when their debt crisis increased unemployment in 2020, they protected for the resignation of the Puerto Rican governor, Ricardo Rosselló. And as they protected, they wore the Money Heist costume of Dail masks and red overalls with banners saying, “Somos la puta Resistencia,” meaning “We are the f*cking resistance” in English.

Money Heist Influenced Global Resistance
Image Source: Imago

But a personal favorite of mine was the hacking of Justin Bieber’s "Despacito" music video in 2018 since the video was replaced with an image from Money Heist with a message to free Palestine. 

With that said, Money Heist realistically portrays citizen resistance. By seeking the same financial freedom the government gave the rich, they send a message for the public to think about and take inspiration from. And since most people are aware of our governments’ corruption, their heist sends the message that their corruption will no longer be tolerated.  

And it’s not going to be. The show’s plot and symbolism have influenced an uproar of protests involving the Money Heist’s costumes and theme song. Yet because we’ve increasingly been questioning our society’s systems and culture, Money Heist reflects the public’s collective consciousness, making it the reason why the show resonates with its audience.

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