Directed by: Zack Canepari and Drea Cooper
Distributed by: MSNBC Films
Written by Maria Athayde
“Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets” reminded me of how much I appreciate documentary filmmaking not because it did anything out of the ordinary. But because this film was able to synthesize a complex subject, about the stock market, in a way that did not dumb down the information and, instead, just made it easily digestible. As viewers are told at the outset of the doc “the stock market was just the purest form of YOLO”. As the documentary progressed, however, I found there was much more to it than just this “you only live once” attitude. It became more of a commentary on the changing economic realities caused by the COVID19 pandemic, Wall Street, the internet, and investing culture more generally.
Let’s start at the beginning “Diamond Hands” tells the short of the GameStop short squeeze in January 2021. The short squeeze was driven by a group of Reddit users, specifically users who frequent the r/wallstreetbets subreddit. This subreddit is known for its irreverent discussion of stock and options trading. r/wallstreetbet primarily uses memes and colorful language to talk about different investment options and “strategize” about what members should invest in next. In their own words, r/wallstreetbets bill themselves as a “community for making money and being amused while doing it. Or, realistically, a place to come and upvote memes when your portfolio is down.”
You can feel this irreverent energy on screen as you watch the documentary. The visual language of the film also adds to energy with the use of memes and casual communication to get their message across. Many of the subjects featured on screen appeared to be excited to be on camera with the exception of Sir Jack-A-Lot who chose to remain anonymous hidden behind a knight’s helmet. None of the subjects’ stories stick out and most of them simply describe how they decided to take a chance and invest their money influenced by the discussions on the r/wallstreetbets subreddit.
The most appealing part of the doc came to me towards the latter half of the doc when Canepari and Cooper seemed to argue that the GameStop short squeeze phenomenon was a big f-you to brokerage firms and Wall Street. It was an “explosion” of the financial frustration faced by an entire generation who was tired of being taken advantage of and having little to no savings and investments. It was about a shift to commission-free trading apps like Robinhood which allowed people to take investing into their own hands without an intermediary. In the end, this documentary became a story of an online community that gave individuals more agency and the ability to outsmart and shake up the stock market in an unprecedented way.