Coming to a Theater Near You: Big, Bad Business

May 23, 2013

The comedy hit Trading Places lampoons business executives.

Hollywood script writers must be going through an unimaginative streak. As The Wall Street Journal reports, this summer will see the release of movies in which the antagonists are…surprise - corrupt, evil, and greedy business executives scarier than Darth Vader, the Joker, or Hannibal Lecter.

Doesn't Hollywood feel some shame for continuing to perpetuate trite mischaracterizations? Apparently not:

Hollywood's latest wave of business bashing is far from over, says Mr. Batmanglij. "A lot of people think 'Oh, making the corporations bad is cliché, we've seen it before,' " he says. "That holds as much water as saying that shooting a scary scene in the dark has been done before. It's scary for a reason."

The East, due out May 31, is about an underground activist collective whose creative attacks allow corporate bosses to “experience the terror of their crimes.” The group creates an oil spill inside the home of an oil-company CEO and makes drug-company executives taste the ruinous side effects of their own medicine. The bad business barometer reaches so high in this film that the "good guys" are people who intentionally inflict harm on others.

I'm waiting for the movie about the oil company executives whose investments in energy technology are responsible for turning small, depressed towns into bustling centers of commerce and new, high-paying jobs due to the miracle of shale oil and gas recovery. Considering that oil and natural gas have created 1 million jobs since 2002, script writers could visit any number of towns across America for inspiration.

I'm also waiting for the movie about the pharmaceutical executives who take financial risks in investing millions of dollars to develop antretroiviral blockbuster drugs responsible for saving and improving the lives of millions of HIV-positive Africans.

But I'm not holding my breath. The scripts of those movies, if they've ever been written, are at the bottom of a trash can in some movie executive's office.

Another summer movie, Paranoia, is about corporate espionage in which executives engage in extortion, blackmail, and murder. Never mind that the type of theft that real corporate executives are most concerned about is being perpetuated by Chinese hackers, Anonymous, and other cyber criminals.

Every movie genre, from comedies (Trading Places) to dramas (Wall Street), has been used to demonize business. I get it – these flicks are frivilous entertainment designed to fill theater seats. Every once in a while, though, Hollywood finds the courage to create flims featuring businesspeople who are, gasp, socially aware, empathetic, and community-oriented. It’s a Wonderful Life and Schindler’s List come to mind. And those two particular movies were hardly duds at the box office.

It’s a shame that audiences aren’t treated to more movies like them.

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