Corporate Movie Villains: What they say about business and society

Capitalism has a villainous reputation in film. The most infamous villains are personifications of big business or play the role of a CEO. Star Wars weaponizes commerce through Jabba the Hutt. Movies inflate organized crime, from Mafia patriarch Don Vito Corleone to Marvel’s oversized-suit-wearing, cigar-smoking Kingpin. CEO Tom Hanks crushes Meg Ryan’s small business in You’ve Got Mail. Films like The Wolf of Wall Street and American Psycho expose the sins of the finance industry. And megacorporation ‘Buy n Large’ causes earth-ruining materialism in WALL-E.

Greed and Capitalism Personified

Why do these characters personify the evils of business? In filmmaking, it’s best to “show, don’t tell.” So abstract concepts, like greed and capitalism, are personified in a character. They’re often larger-than-life, overbearing, masculine figures.’s theory is that the stereotype came from employee skepticism during the 1970s and 1980s. Maybe at the time, business executives were just easy targets for criticism. One great Wall Street Journal article explains it the best: Hollywood “regards self-interest as inherently immoral or, at best, amoral.”

Fake News Travels Faster Than The Truth

The numbers uphold this trend toward falsities. An MIT study found that false stories travel six times faster than true stories on Twitter, and they are 70% more likely to be retweeted. Netflix’s recent documentary The Social Dilemma explains how and why people fall down that fake news rabbit hole. For some reason, humans gravitate toward the sensationalism of a lie, which makes it all the more difficult for the truth to prevail.

Overcoming the Corporate Stigma

This scary data is why we, as filmmakers in the corporate sphere, have to present real humans through video. We are fighting the uphill battle against all the negative messages being thrown at employees. Social media, movies, and TV reinforce these tropes all around us. So when corporate leaders use video to prove they are anything but villains, they chip away at the longstanding stigma. Authenticity is the only way to dispel the myth.

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