Jamie Johnson Loves It When You Hate the Rich

Jamie Johnson
Conflicted: Jamie Johnson is caught in an inner war over what self-image to convey. Photo: Patrick McMullan

Today's the big day for Jamie Johnson, when his documentary The One Percent premieres on Cinemax tonight at 6:30. In the past couple of weeks, he's been doing interviews about it, and, we have to say, we've been continually amused by his painstakingly cultivated stubble and "It's freshman year, and I just took off my white baseball hat" hairstyle. But now it's crunch time, and the twice-Emmy-nominated documentarian is having to face critics and fans who have been waiting to see how he follows up on his debut work, Born Rich. The sophomore effort focuses on the wealth gap in America and tries to get across that, Hello, it's really, really big. "I see it as we have a legitimate problem out there and most people in my position aren't willing to recognize it," he explained to Forbes. "I don't see it as rich boy's guilt." Today's "Rush & Molloy" column points out that, awkwardly, much of the film is an attack on the Fanjul family, members of Johnson's social cohort. (The filmmaker assures the Palm Beach Post that he "doesn't hate" them.) The Times took a croquet swing at the film today, and we can tell they sort of liked it in spite of themselves, though they call it "immature" and complain that "Mr. Johnson thinks he is telling us something we don’t already know."

Indeed, the Times admits that they kind of love it when rich people sound dumb.

Mr. Johnson triumphs when he titillates. Although he sits down to speak seriously about economic inequity with the likes of Ralph Nader and the former labor secretary Robert B. Reich, he reaches the heights of his reportorial talent extracting offensive expressions of cluelessness and self-satisfaction from the moneyed and powerful. Here is the Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea on why he wouldn’t mind getting even richer: “Well, one day I’d like to go to the Moon and look at the planet Earth and say, ‘Wow, there’s part of my portfolio.’ ” The Michael Moore fantasy just keeps going. Here is Mr. Orfalea talking about his random acts of charity: “I don’t usually give homeless folks money. Unless a homeless person is playing music or trying to better themselves, selling pencils or doing something, I generally don’t do much.”


And, they say, Johnson himself is called "an arrogant trustifarian" at one point by his dad's asset manager. This really has the makings of movie gold, if only because Johnson's interior conflict (graphically represented above) will play out before your very eyes. A documentarian who is self-loathing and self-congratulatory at the same time? Someone call Michael Moore, Jamie's stealing his moves.

The One Percent [NYT]
Jamie Johnson on 'The One Percent' [Forbes]
Earlier: Jamie Johnson: The Superrich Are Totally Psyched About Recessions