Credit Unions and Popular Culture

Yesterday’s post on The Bank of Dave was a tru-ish movie about an actual effort to organize a local financial institution focused on the needs of the town of Burnley.  Dave Fishwick, a real person, was the hero.  The antagonists were regulatory bureaucrats, lawyers and of course entrenched financial institutions.

As in It’s a Wonderful Life, the founder Dave  is portrayed as someone serving the common good versus personal profit.  The movie’s message is that this person’s purpose is one that present day  society should honor and support.

How are credit unions portrayed in popular American culture?  Are there any movies, books, plays or other artistic recognition of their special history?

Last night I attended a performance of The Seafarer, a play about Irish life by Conor McPherson. The scene is Christmas eve. The four personal friends drink for camaraderie and to cover the darkness in their lives.

A fifth character (Lockhart), the devil in disguise, enters to participate in a poker game, the main action (after drinking) of the second act.

This inebriated poker rounds are a metaphor for Lockhart’s stated intention of capturing the soul of Sharky, a character trying to give up drinking.

During the final betting round, the stakes go higher, and all raise with the last money they have on hand. At that moment the lead character challenges one of the other players, “Where are you going to get your stake?  From the credit union?”

In the midst of this realistic-surrealistic tale is a direct reference to a financial  reality an Irish audience would understand.  The play was written in 2006 as credit unions were becoming more widely available in Ireland, a generation-long process.

Similarly, The Bank of Dave is set in the post 2008/9 financial crisis in Great Britain when consumer lending was unavailable.  Current day  viewers would be familiar with the real circumstances motivating Dave’s initiative.

American Culture and Credit Unions

Where and how are credit unions referenced currently or in past American literature?  Is there a Norman Rockwell painting that illustrates this financial opportunity for a  common person? Or a story of a local entrepreneur lifting up the community with a cooperative charter?

Is the credit union story so prosaic that the occasional coverage in the business section of the paper or on CNN/MSNBC captures our public reputation and contributions?

Have the many remarkable achievements of local credit unions been so taken for granted, that they are now just another ready option in the financial marketplace?

Have credit unions so lost their unique cooperative character that American culture and ordinary citizens, no longer see them as doing something special?





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *