Ed Driscoll

Hollywood's Cliched Corporate Villains

NPR’s All Things Considered considers the role of multimillion dollar international corporations in the entertainment products of the multimillion dollar international film corporations:

There is a difference, let’s note, between most of these corporate-villainy movies, which deal with institutions concealing unwise or corrupt choices, and a movie like The International, which begins that way but turns out to be a cautionary tale about an institution so centrally corrupt — and so central to society — that government, regulators, market forces, even the people who run it, have no power to make it less dangerous.

That’s sort of a science-fiction notion, and in a sci-fi fantasy — say, Soylent Green, where the Soylent Corp. totally controls the world’s food supply — it makes for great conflict.

In the real world, though, it can be less persuasive, especially when events intervene. Sure, we’re angry right now with financial institutions for the collapse of our 401(k)’s, so yes, an evil bank wrecking the world is going to resonate.

But think how much more it would have resonated six months ago, before we found out that if you really want to bring a bank to its knees, you don’t need Clive Owen, or a shootout in an iconic building — you just need a subprime mortgage or two.

Of course, don’t expect Hollywood or a radio network “very much dependent on the public tit” to explore the root causes of that. (Or to explain why cartoon corporate villainy is a such an easy subject in the days of dwindling story lines.)