We live in the world that is forcedly controlled and dominated by economically elite in ways of institutionalized power exercised on the lives of working class. We see that the control of every move is in the hands of large state organizations, autocratic institutions, and governments. With the control of monopoly in the hands of the state and the impact of representative democracy on the economic sphere as well, working class in capitalist societies gain no control of the economy. This thought raises the questions, what it at the heart of democratic freedom? Which groups or organizations or thought system mainly governs the whole world? What would happen in a situation when common masses are controlled by the governing elite? What strategies these people come up to get rid from the rule of domination. The Spanish series, Money Heist is a radical insight towards the understanding of these questions.
Money Heist is a crime drama series created and written by Alex Pina, depicting the tale of heist against the Spanish government and its capitalistic ideology. The series was originally filmed as a Spanish series titled as La Casa de Papel. Later on Netflix in 2017 accepted the streaming of this series with English dub and renamed it as Money Heist to catch the attention of international audience. Focused on the idea of resistance, the series goes by the enigmatic character of the mastermind who goes by the name, “The Professor” (Avaro Morte). His idea is to plan something unique and incredible: to prepare for the biggest heist in history. For this, he recruits eight people with special abilities, and none of which has anything to lose, in a hope of carrying out the massive heist in recorded history. Following the ambitious plan set by Professor, the group of thieves with ring leader Berlin (Pedro Alonso) takes 67 hostages at the Royal Mint of Spain to aid in their negotiations with the authorities. Though the central idea of the series is the resistance towards the government, it, however, rests with full of action, intrigue, romance, humor, emotion and alliance.
In its essence, Money Heist presents an anarcho-centric attitude through the emotions of professor and primary characters towards the government. The series goes in accordance with the Noem Chomsky idea of anarcho-syndicalism. According to him, an anarchist society is one that is free from power structures and is made of organic social solidarity. Anarcho-syndicalism believes in the replacement of hierarchical structure of economic control with prime focus on the abolition of private property. Thus, in an anarchist world the confinement of power rests not only in the hands of state but also in common masses. With this anarcho-centric nature, the protagonist of the series, Money Heist, ‘The Professor’ proves to come up with legal justification in his defiance while exposing the uneven practices of the Spanish government to whom he protest. He raised his stance after showing people the government’s fiscal policies and its inhuman treatment towards Spanish people. Moreover, the Professor succeeded in overthrowing the social structure and hierarchical system while exemplifying the festive nature of the series.
Although, the series Money Heist is filmed entirely with the heist as its primary plot, but the underlying theme seems to be the fight for resistance against fascist ideology. This is evident from the Professor`s hatred for any form of government, which he believes to hold power for its selfish interests and oppression. Exemplifying the fascist nature of Spanish government in the form of oppression, inequality, class structure and unemployment The Professor and his team come up to challenge all forms of power by the state through a movement identified in the series as “The Resistance”. It begins with the resistance to the government by The Professor and other characters because of some past painful experiences and finally ended with the resistance to the government from the citizens of the Spain. We see the Professor and his group singing a song ‘Bella Ciao’ as a symbol of resistance against Spanish fascist regime. The song, ‘Bella Ciao’ originally an Italian folk ballad and translated in English as “Goodbye beautiful” was adopted as an anthem of the anti-fascist resistance. This song is used in the entire series by the Professor to remind his gang their rebellion against the government.
As explained by many scholars through their work on power and authority, overthrowing the unjust authority and democratic control and replaced by something justifiable and equitable is precisely what the resistance tries to do. The series highlights the power and hypocrisy of Spanish government to whom The Professor and his team takes stance by revealing the unjust economic policy of Spain. From the first episode, The Professor can be seen warning his gang about his anti-capitalist feeling by explaining them the economic inequalities of the country. Although, the series runs in chaos, but the reasons behind the robbery is understandable through the moves and motivations of the characters. At some point, The Professor claims his idea of resistance with inspector Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituno) at his workshop after accusing her being a representative of the state who views people as either ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ (Money Heist 2019 S3.E8). Citing the fiscal policy of the Spain as being unjust to the poor, he questions the idea of ‘liquidity injections’- an injection of money from Royal mint to the bankers, filling the pockets of the rich and left poor behind.
One of the important aspects of the series which goes in parallel with the Chomsky idea of an anarchic society is the use of confidential government information by the robbers against their stance for resistance. Chomsky says that if the power, authority and control of the state are not properly justified, it must be dismantled and replaced by something fair and equitable. Through the control on government information and its divulgence, The Professor has taught us how power can be transferred from the hands of government to the common masses. From the social lens of the series, The Professor and his whole team seems to be humanitarian, respecting the human rights of the people by laying the rule of the game, “newer to kill any of the hostages in hand” (Money Heist 2018 S2.E2).
Another issue that has been highlighted in the series, Money Heist is the manipulation of mass media by the state. It gives an insight about the coercion the government play by using mass media as a source of information. There is a powerful relationship between the mass media and the state based on the economic necessity and mutual interest. This is evident in the series where we witness the State as carrying out misleading information about the robber’s in order to manipulate the viewers. For instance, Raquel invented a narrative about Berlin to defame his social life, a fake interview of Rio`s parents to the media to weaken his sprit in Heist, Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri) plan to construct face documents that The Professor plans to release, highlights the use of mass media as an instrument to propagate vested interests.
As of now, the story of Money Heist depicts the conception of Resistance encouraged by the feelings and emotions of the characters. The narrative and characterization of the show revels that the series is deep rooted in an anarchist ideology, trying to highlight the anti-capitalistic stance of Spanish people against the State. The show highly depicts the coming together of citizens of Spain from all the sections of society for a unified agenda of overthrowing oppression and inequality. Still, the reality had the last laugh. Everyone is waiting to see whether the rebellion will lead to a revolution at the end of the show.
Afaq Ahmad Mir is a Research Scholar at Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.