Shawshank Redemption: What Was Red Betting On?

One of the most popular parodies on TikTok is Rooster Capitalist, a comedic take on Warren Buffet’s famous parable about investing. The parody has over a million views, and it’s been replying to many of the comments with clever parodies of its own.

The story behind the parody starts in 2011, when the U.S. stock market began its slow recovery from the Great Recession. At that time, viral-video-maker Jake Paul was working as a financial consultant and started a stock-picking challenge with his friend Marques Brownlee. The two men would take turns selecting the best investments from a group of stocks and then explaining their rationale for why they chose the stocks they did. Eventually, their challenge became a competition, and they called their dueling essays “Red Papers.”

The strategy that Brownlee and Paul eventually settled on was called the “Shawshank Redemption,” named after the famous 1974 film of the same name. In the story, Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins in the film and, later, by Johnny Depp in the 2009 film) is serving a life sentence in a Massachusetts prison for murdering his wife. While in prison, he picks up a new hobby—electricity—and ends up teaching other inmates how to generate and use electricity. After years of hard work, he is finally released on parole and vows to change his ways. He meets a stray dog and gradually realizes that his fellow inmates are not quite as bad as he thought, and he decides to keep his promise to himself and turn his life around. Along the way, he rediscovers the value of compassion and community.

In one of the many parodies that the video has gotten famous for, Paul mocks Warren Buffet’s investment advice in the story: “Mr. Buffet, I’d like to thank you for investing in my friend Brownlee’s wigs,” he says in the parody. “I know they’re wigs, but he puts up with the cold weather for the benefits of styling his hair.”

The Evolution Of A Parody

In the original 2011 version of the “Shawshank Redemption” challenge, Brownlee and Paul would take turns explaining their investments. As the parody shows, the format has since evolved. Today’s Rooster Capitalist parodies are mostly comedic skits that follow a narrative structure similar to a Hollywood movie. It starts with a voice-over by the host, often dressed in a ridiculous outfit, and then moves into clips of the Rooster Capitalist crew—all of whom are impersonating famous people—going live on camera, often while laughing and making fun of what they’re seeing and hearing.

The videos are deliberately meant to be satirical and, as such, are often laced with profanity. In one of the later parodies, titled “Bitch, please,” Paul dresses up in a maid outfit and berates his guests for being “bitch[es]” and then cleans their dishes for them. He also refers to a “pussy” multiple times, and his crew refers to another inmate, who is transgender, as “she/her/ze/zir/them.”

Why Parodies Like Rooster Capitalist Work

The reason why parodies work on TikTok is that the platform rewards users who keep the community happy and participating by displaying high quality, original content. People love a good laugh, and if you can make them laugh, you can usually guarantee them to keep watching and engaging with your content.

Parodies appeal to people because they allow us to laugh at someone or something that we feel is important. The videos let us peek behind the scenes of society’s most prominent figures and expose the absurdities that can arise when a lot of power flows through a few people. We can also laugh at the absurdity of the situation, which makes it easier to empathize with the “characters.”

Humans are social creatures, and we feel empathy when someone else is the butt of our jokes. When someone on TikTok shows us they can make us laugh while exposing the ridiculousness of society’s most prominent figures, we can usually guarantee that they’ll keep engaging with their content.

Most importantly, parodies like this one serve as a vehicle for young people to learn. When you educate kids on financial concepts like the “Shawshank Redemption” in a fun and approachable way, it allows them to build their own knowledge and become more independent thinkers. Kids need to be able to trust their own instincts and question authority. This is a skill that can help them navigate the world, so having them develop a love for learning through games and applications is certainly a bonus.