Tuesday, September 26, 2023

‘Diamond Hands’ offers a good, if narrow, portrait of the GameStop stock squeeze

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Shreya Christinahttps://cafe-madrid.com
Shreya has been with cafe-madrid.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider cafe-madrid.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

In early 2021, a group of retail investors realized that GameStop stock had been recklessly overshort by major investors. Major funds, confident that the retailer was on the brink of collapse, had shorted 140 percent of the company’s total public stock. Individuals, who coordinated their efforts through a subreddit called r/WallStreetBets, knew they could exploit this vulnerability. They bought up all of the outstanding GameStop shares and pushed the price up, forcing the major funds to overpay to avoid losing a fortune when their bet backfired spectacularly.

It’s this story more or less outlined in MSNBC’s new documentary, Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets, which debuted at SXSW 2022. It tells the story from the perspective of some of the individuals who signed up early and stuck with their commitment. Some used the squeeze to make a fortune, while others made a more modest but still fantastic profit. The decision to focus on these personal stories makes for a compelling human-level story, albeit one that is very one-sided.

The overall thesis of the film is that the short squeeze happened largely thanks to the internet and what made it possible. Without Reddit to coordinate the trades and Robinhood, at least in the beginning, as a way to get around the stuffed shirt brokerage, none of this would have happened. It is suggested that the incentive checks motivated people to invest. Which I don’t agree with, especially since people wouldn’t put thousands of dollars into GameStop if they only had $600 left in their name.

As far as I’m concerned, it also offers a surprising amount of time to talk about the broken social contract that most millennials feel hurt by† As useless as the term is, since “millennial” means anyone aged 26 to 41, it’s weird to see MSNBC allowing people under 50 to talk about their plight. Perhaps this marks a new and refreshing change, as people who have lived through the past twenty years of utter turmoil are now considered respectable enough to make it onto the news.

The other notable thing is the lack of expert commentary from the usual types of Very Serious Men in Finance. The big money funds that lost their shirts on GameStop chose not to appear in the film, which is why their story is not told here. Likewise, you get about five sentences from Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, who became the most hated figure on the web when his app chose to restrict trading on the platform, potentially ending the GameStop squeeze prematurely. The uneven screen time makes the coverage of some of the key players in the documentary rather ruthless. Since Robinhood’s launch coincided with SXSW in 2015, it’s interesting to see how nearly 90 minutes of people say the app ruined them at the same festival seven years later. We also don’t get to speak to Keith Gill who, as Roaring Kitty, was central to the attempt to make the first short squeeze.

There’s one annoyance worth being aware of about the film’s decision to create a visual style that mimics the language of Reddit memes. Lots of garish iconography, remixes of old viral videos and the kind of amateur kitsch you see a lot online. It reminded me of an experiment Charlie Brooker did with the excesses of youth television. He stacked a bunch of teens in a movie theater and told them to indicate when they were bored watching some clips of screeching, in-your-face teen TV shows. What kept them entranced, however, was a sequence from an Adam Curtis documentary, with its slow narration and lack of visual spice. The point is that just because a subject deals with kitschy images from the internet, you don’t have to embellish the images to make your story entertaining.

Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets premieres on MSNBC on April 10 at 10 p.m. ET.

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