The Myth of the Trader Caste
Billions of dollars flow through the stock exchanges, creating and destroying fortunes for groups of men that seem to know something more than the rest of us. The elite caste of traders, armed with their education and power, fight for their fortune. The barrier of entering and functioning in the exchange seems so high to the uninitiated, yet in Trading Places, Billy Ray succeeds in creating a fortune without the pedigree of being in the trading caste. Billy Ray's rise to fortune demonstrates that the trader caste is not an exclusive group due to pedigree and wealth; the group is comprised of individuals and the exchange is manipulated by the decisions of these individuals.
Pedigree is established throughout the movie as a parameter in the question of successfulness. The Dukes read their newspapers and sip their tea in the lavishly decorated Heritage Club, Baroque music playing in the background, evoking a feeling of old wealth and success. Each scene with the Duke brothers is wrapped with a baroque or classic musical piece, further establishing them as official members of the elite trading caste. The Duke brother's Bentley has a built in modem, cell phone, and computer all of which are extraordinarily out of place for the era that the movie takes place in. The car and the technology contained in it are prohibitively expensive to members of any caste other than the extremely wealthy. Lewis' ex-friends serenade their girlfriends with a fraternity song while lounging at a tennis club; all indicators of success and fortune. Beeks sets up Lewis to be a thief in the Heritage Club using a series of awkward instructions to the congregation; however, the congregation happily performs the instructions as if awkward ritual is normal to those of successful pedigree.
In stark contrast to pedigree as a parameter of success is individual common sense. The Duke brothers believe that commodity brokering is a highly nuanced and complex business, and they educate Billy Ray in the various products they trade. During the educating they get to the topic pork bellies, Randolph makes a comment about bacon being in a BLT. Billy Ray gives an incredulous look directly at the camera, the only scene in which the actors break the fourth wall, indicating how detached the brothers are from common sense. After Billy Ray's introduction to commodity brokering, the brothers order a trade on pork bellies at a certain price. Billy Ray disagrees with the brothers and provides a common sense reason on why the people holding the futures contracts want to get out of their positions. Randolph pushes Mortimer to hold the contract to a certain price based on Billy Ray's statement, which becomes a successful order, and garners Billy Ray praise. An important client asks...