On Halogencore and Me
A research update
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On Halogencore Films
This past week, Vox.com’s Dylan Matthews examined J.C. Chandor’s excellent Wall Street thriller Margin Call: a gripping portrayal of how a firm leverages its toxic debt to gain first mover advantage in the 2008-09 Great Recession or Global Financial Crisis. It’s part a a film mini-genre that Max Read has termed halogencore: the ethical dilemmas of mid-level managers and employees who face interpersonal betrayals when they uncover significant ethical and moral lapses.
I’ve been closely watching halogencore films for about two decades. They have influenced both my research program and my career in research administration and quality assurance. Shattered Glass informed how I thought about editorial and journalism ethics whilst editing and writing for the former subculture website Disinformation, in 1998-2008. I used the multilevel dynamics of Syriana’s geopolitics to better understand consulting firms and think tanks like Stratfor and the RAND Corporation. Moneyball informed how I approached research career analytics. Michael Clayton taught me about negotiation and how invisible Professional Staff in a university can be. The halogencore ur-text for me is probably Alien’s Special Order 937 sequence.
All of these films informed a period that cohered around 2008-10 in which colleagues and I reflected on embodied foresight, mediascapes and conscientisation, and how to cultivate personal foresight. This period reflected a sustained period of initiatory work in several different spiritual traditions.
I particularly found - as did many graduates of Swinburne University of Technology’s former Masters in Strategic Foresight program - that I had to do significant self-work to deal with the macro and meso level forces which halogencore films describe. For my 2011-20 part-time PhD studies, I focused specifically on meso level organisational dynamics: that was when I more deeply Understood why halogencore films used dynamics like deception, information revelation, and moral hazard. These ethical and moral dilemmas are part of a neoliberal context of possessive individualism.
Halogencore films relate to several different periods of financial speculative bubbles. The more positive halogencore films capture growth periods or hot streaks (Moneyball perhaps evokes this the best). Others capture the regime shifts in globalisation and the international security environment (Syriana), or in a high-stakes political campaign (The Ides of March; Primary Colours). If financial speculative bubbles can be decomposed into a series of long cons - then halogencore films really depict the discovery process that mid-level manager and low-level employees undergo - when they learn about the white-collar crime conducted by stratified elites.
I may use this book as a writing model for a halogencore related article.