Monday, 9 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #228: The Business of Evil, and the Evil of Business

Writer James Hudnall did a post last month at the conservative pop culture blog 'Big Hollywood' about 10 More Cliches That Must Die. One of the first cliches mentioned is the "Evil Businessman / Corporation."

You've seen this cliche in action. I can't name all the

One of the most egregious examples is the movie movies that feature some evil businessman or corporation plotting to stage terrorist attacks, make zombies, or do whatever sinister doings need doing whether it makes any rational sense or not, but usually not. The Constant Gardener, which won rave reviews, awards, and was on a truckload of "Best of the Year" lists was one of the most egregious examples. For those of you who haven't seen it, or read the original John LeCarre novel, a bureaucrat goes to Africa and beyond to solve the murder of his wife, which is part of a big international corporate conspiracy. Which is the big problem I have with the film.

Now if you're going to read on, I must warn you that the following contains

Okay here's the conspiracy. A multinational pharmaceutical company, which I'll call EvilCo Inc., starts giving an experimental tuberculosis drug to AIDS patients in Africa. Now the company knows their TB drug won't do anything for these AIDS patients, and will probably do more harm. Well, it does do more harm, and a bunch of people die. To keep this secret, and to maintain the TB drug's marketability the drug company then goes on a international killing spree as a cover up.

Do you see the problem inherent in this conspiracy?

If not, I'll explain, and I'll write slowly so you'll can catch up.

The conspiracy doesn't make any sense.

Think about it, you own a drug company, and you have a new drug that you hope will combat an antibiotic resistant strain of tuberculosis, and you've spent millions of dollars to do the research, and navigate it through the complex and expensive web of the drug approval system.

What do you do?

Well, one thing you
wouldn't do is anything that would screw it up, like giving it to people in a third world country with a different terminal disease without any thought as to the effects. Because doing that will pretty much toss all your expensive research out the window, leave you open to the threat of millions, if not billions in litigation, and probably criminal charges for all involved. And that's not including all the killings that you have to cover it up, and then you have to bribe all the law enforcement, media, and anyone with an internet connection who might expose your plot. It's an ever-expanding web of murders and cover ups, and new murders and cover ups, that not only will never end, it just doesn't make any sense.

Yes, I know that the people behind the story were making a statement about the lawless behaviour of businesses operating in Africa. But failing to offer a remotely logical crime, only trivializes their cause.

In many cases these EvilCo Inc. corporations are solely doing these things not for profit, because there's no profit in zombies, or plagues, or zombie plagues, but solely as a stock evil-doer who only exist to do evil. They're the modern equivalent of the Mad Scientist from the old movie serials. They have no rhyme or reason, because they don't need it, especially when there's evil to be done.

Can you imagine the board meetings at EvilCo Inc.?

"Okay," said the CEO, "what's our plans for the third quarter?"

"I think we can unleash man-eating aliens on the planet," said Terwilliger, Vice President in Charge of Evil Research and Development.

"What can we do with man-eating aliens?" asked the CEO.

"We can sell them as weapons," said Terwilliger.

"How are they controlled?"

"You can't control them," said Terwilliger, "they eat everyone they can get, even our own people."

"Who will buy a man eating alien that they can't control and will most likely turn on you?" asked the CEO. "Because a weapon you can't aim, isn't a weapon, it's a problem."

"That's marketing's problem," said Terwilliger, just before one of his aliens broke out of its cage and ate his head.

Do you see what I'm getting at here?

Now you wonder why do they keep dredging up this cliche, even though it only serves to dumb down stories. Well I think there are three reasons:

1. POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: Hollywood cannot allow anyone that isn't a rich white male be the villain, unless they are under the secret control of the rich white villain, for fear of being accused of racism. That's how the Middle Eastern Islamic terrorists in Tom Clancy's novel The Sum Of All Fears, ended up transformed by Paramount into a cabal of Teutonic Neo-Nazi businessmen in the movie.

2. CLASS WARFARE: Film has always had pretensions of being the art of the working class, even though the people making it have nothing to do with the working class as soon as the start making major films. So they need to appear like they're on the side of the "working man" and to do that, they must raise the red flag and start banging on businessmen. It's not a new phenomenon, in fact, look at any silent movie and you'll see mustachioed tycoons plotting to close the orphanage and tie damsels to railway tracks. The problem is that they're still doing that, albeit in more expensive suits, but audiences need a certain amount of verisimilitude. They don't need much, just enough to keep them from saying: "Damn this story is stupid."

3. THEY DON'T KNOW THE REAL WORLD: Think about it. The only businesspeople Hollywood people are regularly exposed to are media industry businesspeople. Here are business people who will do something outrageously stupid and unprofitable to fulfill some irrational, ego-based goals that would make no sense at all outside of Hollywood. Then they see the cases of Bernie Madoff, and other Wall Street scoundrels, which makes them think the real world is like their world, and can't conceive of someone who just wants to make money and not commit any crimes.

My advice, try to find some new villains, because Hollywood needs them, badly, or at least give them something logical to do.

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