‘White People Money’ is a comedy film written and directed by Mark Harris. The film follows a young couple, Kareem and Nora, who suddenly find themselves sitting on a billion dollars. Far from being the solution to all their worries, they soon realize that having money comes with its own complications. Through its comedic setup, the film explores various social dynamics with respect to race and wealth. And, of course, the ex-wife of one of the world’s richest people plays a small but crucial role in the movie. Did MacKenzie Scott actually give away $15 billion? We decided to dig around and see just how much of ‘White People Money’ is based on a true story. Here’s what we found out.
Is White People Money Based on a True Story?
No, ‘White People Money’ is not based on a true story. The fact that the movie’s plot relies on well-known real people, specifically the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott (formerly MacKenzie Bezos), makes it appear to be based on a true story. In reality, the film is a satire about problems that come with having money and explores how a middle-class couple deals with suddenly receiving a billion dollars.
The idea for ‘White People Money’ came to its writer Mark Harris during the high-profile divorce of the Amazon founder and his then-wife in 2019. The divorce settlement awarded MacKenzie a 4% stake in Amazon, worth around $38 billion, skyrocketing her to the position of one of the world’s richest people. Even before the settlement was executed, Mackenzie had already pledged half of her fortune to charity by signing the Giving Pledge. In the movie, MacKenzie announces her plans to give away $15 billion to 15 winners through the very same pledge.
In reality, the Giving Pledge is a global movement of philanthropists who have publicly committed to donating a majority of their wealth to charitable or philanthropic causes either during their lifetime or in their will. The pledge was started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010 as a way to foster a culture of giving and generosity amongst the ultra-wealthy and has since grown to include more than 200 of the world’s richest people from over 20 countries.
Harris has used the Pledge and one of its signatories, MacKenzie, as the basis to build his story. However, the reality that the film’s writer and director chooses to explore is a different one. As stated earlier, he uses the windfall to portray the complications that arise from having money but also uses his movie to explore the complicated relationship of the African American community with wealth.
One of the scenes where this is most clearly displayed is when Kareem asks his wife Nora if she knows who Jeff Bezos is, and she says that she doesn’t. He then asks her if she knows who Cardi B is, to which she enthusiastically replies in the affirmative. Harris, whilst talking about this scene, mentioned that many members of the Black community tend to study celebrity culture but remain ignorant to the dynamics of wealth and money.
By placing a Black couple at the center of the movie’s dilemma, namely that of spending their newly gotten money without anyone finding out that they are rich, Harris also explores concepts like trust, ambition, and community. After a particularly distasteful experience, Kareem and Nora realize that they need to use their windfall to support their community instead of only thinking about themselves.
The real-world social dynamics that Harris explores in ‘White People Money’ is also hinted at by the film’s name itself. A cheekily comedic phrase at first glance, the title seems to also point towards the deep-rooted connection between race and economic success that continues to be a major issue in modern society.
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