Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

by

Ben Fountain

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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Josh delivers Dime and Billy to Albert in a hallway outside of Norm's suite. Albert pointedly encourages Josh to leave and then tells Dime and Billy what's going on: Albert has decided to form an investor group to make the Bravo film and form a production company of his own. He says that once Norm gets the company started, they'll sign paperwork, the Bravos will get paid, and then they'll start production. He assures Dime that he'll still be their official producer.
Albert's caginess suggests that this meeting isn't going to go as well as the Bravos hope. The fact that Norm wants to both take on this project and form his own studio is testament to just how much money and power he currently has and wants to continue to amass.
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Coughing, Albert says there is one problem: $100,000 per Bravo is a lot of money when they'll also have to spend several million dollars for a script and a lead actor. Dime tells Billy that this is where they'll get screwed, and Albert insists that he's not going to abandon them now. He says that Norm suggested they just pay Dime and Billy, but when Dime says that's not happening, Albert says he told Norm that. He explains that if they go with this independent film route, the Bravos would get an advance up front and then a percentage of the net profits. Albert says that in the end it'll probably be way more than $100,000, but the initial payment would be only $5,500. Dime sputters and says he won't do it.
As Dime points out later, $5,500 is an absurdly small amount of money to offer Bravo when Norm very obviously has the means to do much better. This suggests, first of all, that Norm likely believes he can make a large profit off of the story and therefore, it's better for him to be able to keep more of it for himself and his investors. Though Bravo is a fine investment for one project, their low statuses means they likely won't be involved in business with Norm again, meaning it's not in Norm's best interest to take care of them.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Albert continues to try to explain how this will all work, saying that they're fighting the fact that the Iraq War films haven't done well at the box office. He points out that $5,500 is still good for men on Army pay. Dime is incensed when he learns that Norm has already named his production company, but Albert insists that this is a good thing. He says it indicates that Norm will invest right away, and he warns that it won't get better than this. Dime points out that Albert said before that everyone loved them, but Albert replies that people have moved on in the last two weeks. Norm knows they've been talking to people, and this is the best they're going to do.
This exchange refers to Fountain's idea in the preface of "news that stays news." As far as those with money are concerned, the Bravos' story is not news that stays news, while the entire framing of the novel makes it clear that it is. Albert's line about the money still being good compared to Army pay betrays that he doesn't fully want to believe the Bravos are human. He very much wants them to take this deal and go away—he wants them to not stay news.
Themes
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Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Mr. Jones pokes his head out of the suite, interrupting Dime as he asks Billy what he thinks. Albert confirms that Dime still wants to talk to Norm, and though Dime agrees to talk, he declares that the deal is still awful. When Dime asks, Albert says that Norm is going to form the production company regardless and says he'll still be involved. He says nothing when Dime calls him a jerk, and the three finally enter the suite.
Interestingly, Albert is fully aware of what he's trying to get Bravo to do, and he knows it's not kind or fair. This indicates that Albert has bought into the class system that allows him to do this to people, and his own privilege allows him to ignore the consequences of his actions.
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The suite is dim and smells of burnt coffee and cigarettes. Norm and his sons greet Billy, Dime, and Albert, as Mr. Jones perches on a stool and Josh stands awkwardly. The executives introduce themselves and then turn their attention to the game and discuss which players to trade out. When Norm finishes looking at the game stats, he finally addresses Albert and asks if Dime and Billy know about the offer. Dime congratulates Norm on his production company, and Norm vows to go all-out on the Bravos' film. He says it's an important film that will give the country a much-needed boost. The executives are involved in their phones or the game as Norm discusses his doubts about Hollywood culture at large.
Remaining engrossed in the game and not speaking to Dime and Billy right away is a way for Norm to assert his dominance. He's powerful enough to keep them hanging as long as he wants, while they're powerless to demand his attention and respect without consequences. Note, too, that by becoming involved in the film industry, Norm would gain even more power to control how people think about America and the war. His treatment of Billy and Dime suggests he wouldn't insist on fair or balanced treatment of soldiers in the film, either.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Heroism and Humanity Theme Icon
Norm says grandly that he wants to make a great film, and Dime asks Norm why he thinks he can do that. The executives, shocked, turn their full attention to Norm. Dime insists that he could sell his grandmother the Bravos' story for $5,500 and asks Norm to show them he's serious. Norm looks dazed but tells Dime to look around and see how serious he is. Billy thinks he'd fold now if he could, but Dime keeps pushing. He asks where the money comes from, and one of Norm's sons explains that they could round up pledges for thirty million dollars by the end of the game. Dime insists that $5,500 per Bravo seems small in comparison.
The comment about rounding up pledges for millions of dollars makes it clear that money at this scale isn't concentrated in one person. There are a number of people that control the wealth and therefore control what would end up on television or in theaters. Norm is likely dazed because he didn't expect Dime to fight back: he's so assured of his power, he doesn't understand that Dime has the power to remove himself from the system by simply saying no.
Themes
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Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
Norm patiently explains again that the Bravos will share in the profits after the film is made. He tries to convince Dime that it would be nice to have something decided before they return to Iraq. Dime agrees but says that he thought Norm liked the Bravos. Norm insists he does like the Bravos, and Dime turns to Billy and says that Norm likes them so much, he's going to screw them. Albert immediately herds Dime and Billy to a private room. Norm is obviously offended, but Dime is on a roll. He asks Mr. Jones if the private room is bugged and suggests that this small room is where Norm sees his hookers.
What Norm likes about the Bravos happens to be that their story is marketable, and therefore profitable for him. Norm is attempting to use his power to dehumanize the Bravos and keep them from ever being able to break into his world by denying them the capital that might allow them to do that. He understands that sharing wealth means sharing power, and that in turn would mean acknowledging the humanity of those who have less than he does.
Themes
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Albert chastises Dime and insists he can't talk to Norm like that, but Dime remains petulant. Finally, Dime asks Albert if Norm needs this deal, or if he's lowballing them just because he can. Albert says it's probably both, and Dime reminds Albert that Bravo leaves in two days. When Albert insists that they can fax signatures, Dime says they can't if someone dies. He suggests holding a gun to Norm's head and rants that everyone wants to support the troops until it comes to giving them actual money. 
For Dime, this experience is proof that the rich and powerful in America only want to support the troops when doing so takes the form of saying "thank you" or applauding, actions that treat Bravos as heroes and props, not as people. These actions ignore the fact that soldiers need money to exist in the world just like everyone else, and money is a way to truly support them.
Themes
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The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
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Albert escapes to the restroom while Dime calls the rest of Bravo. They all agree the deal is horrible. Billy receives a text from Kathryn telling him that she sent a car for him, but Dime interrupts Billy's thoughts asking for his opinion. Billy reasons that he'd rather have nothing than let Norm use him, and says he also hates Norm. He and Dime start laughing, and when Albert comes out of the bathroom, Dime tells him that they won't do it. Albert gets a call from Norm that doesn't seem to go well. He tries to tell Norm that he doesn't have to do "this." When he hangs up, he explains that Norm knows someone high up in the Army, and a General Ruthven is going to call to speak to Dime and Billy. Albert asks if the Army can make them accept the deal.
Billy recognizes that though he and Dime have very little power in the grand scheme of things, they do have the power to simply say no and remove themselves from this convoluted system in which money equals power. Albert's confusion regarding Norm's call and supposed attempt at forcing Dime and Billy to accept the deal reminds the reader that Dime and Billy are still beholden to the Army and what the Army wants them to do.
Themes
Fantasy vs. Reality in the Media Theme Icon
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon
Back in the suite, the TVs show the Cowboys losing. Norm tells Dime and Billy how much he loves winning. When a phone rings, Mr. Jones answers it and hands the phone over to Norm. After a minute, Norm hands the phone to Dime, whose face Billy can't read. On their end, the conversation consists only of "yes sir." When the conversation is over, Dime tosses the phone to Mr. Jones and leads Billy out and back to their seats. He explains that General Ruthven is from a town near Pittsburgh and is a Steelers fan, meaning he hates the Cowboys on principle. Josh runs after Dime and Billy, and he finally has Advil.
Like so much else, it's entirely a fluke that General Ruthven just so happens to hate the Cowboys. This shows that the relationship between the military and the public is just as absurd and nonsensical as the military itself, while also insisting that Dime and Billy are still relatively powerless. Although they made the same decision that General Ruthven did, he had the final word, not Dime and Billy.
Themes
Class, Power, and Money Theme Icon
The Absurdity of War Theme Icon