Last week, we linked to essays by Mark Steyn and Brian Anderson on Hollywood’s ever-shrinking ability tell stories that don’t involve stock baddies such as Neo-Nazis and eeeeeevil businessmen.
With a few notable exceptions, Hollywood has been making businessmen and corporations villains since the leftwing Young Turks took over in the late ’60s. Those young turks are now establishment old men themselves these days (Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, Coppola, et al), but that doesn’t mean that their thinking has changed in any way shape or form since those Medium Cool radical chic days.
Edward Jay Epstein writes that these days, there’s another reason why businessmen are typically Hollywood badies:
Why don’t the movies have plausible, real-world villains anymore? One reason is that a plethora of stereotype-sensitive advocacy groups, representing everyone from hyphenated ethnic minorities and the physically handicapped to Army and CIA veterans, now maintain liaisons in Hollywood to protect their images. The studios themselves often have “outreach programs” in which executives review scripts and characters with representatives from these groups, evaluate their complaints, and attempt to avoid potential brouhahas.
Finding evil villains is not as easy as it was in the days when a director could choose among Nazis, Communists, KGB, and Mafiosi. Still, in a pinch, these old enemies will serve. For example, the 2002 apocalyptic thriller Sum of All Fears, based on the Tom Clancy novel, originally had Muslim extremists exploding a nuclear bomb in Baltimore. Paramount decided, however, to change the villains to Nazis residing in South Africa to avoid offending Arab-American and Islamic groups. Yet, even if aging Nazis lack any credible “outreach program” in Hollywood, they can no longer be credibly fit into many contemporary movies. “The list [of non-offensive villains] narrows quickly once you get past the tired clich