Earlier this week, Quartz's Zack Seward argued that throwing lavish, Great Gatsby-themed parties was stupid and ironic. Because, he wrote, the book was written as a condemnation of the decadent wealthy.
The sentiment is admirable. Who doesn't love bashing the very rich? But if we're looking for cultural hypocrisy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's recent punk-themed gala would have been a better target.
Money and its effect on character was obviously one of Fitzgerald's favorite themes. But it wasn't his only theme. Yes, Fitzgerald's novel "reveals the hollow, rotting underbelly of class and capital," but revelation is not the same as condemnation. It oversimplifies the book to ignore the author's complex and decidedly conflicted feelings about class and wealth. It also ignores that Gatsby is, among other things, a tragic love story of breathtaking lyricism. Saying Fitzgerald's masterpiece to a mere screed against classism is like saying that Huckleberry Finn exists only to condemn slavery.
Given all that, what might be most remarkable about Gatsby-themed parties is that you only need a single word to describe them. Perhaps no other novel encapsulates an era so fully that the protagonist's name is enough to conjure the look and feel of an entire decade.