Hollywood's Default Villain: Your Employer

Watching “24” this week, I realized that our number one threat is multi-national corporations with battalions of hired killers on the payroll.  Similarly, “Michael Clayton,” “The International,” the new “State of Play” and many others have taught me that big companies assassinate their rivals, whistleblowers, policemen and random passersby with astonishing regularity.

I wish.  But then, I’m a trial lawyer and I could use a new house.

Sadly, the real world is much more esoteric than the portrait Hollywood paints, and the real threat is not quite so picturesque.  Instead of corporate death squads composed of hardboiled mercenaries with high tech assault rifles, the real killers are boring jihadi doofuses with dusty AKs, booby-trapped Fiats and the occasional boxcutter.   

Let’s stop and check the numbers.  Real terrorists, counting the victims of 9/11 and American losses in Iraq and Afghanistan: Over 7900 murdered. Victims of corporate murder: Zero. Nada. Zip. I would add in the number of Iraqis and Afghanis murdered by these folks, except that toll is beyond counting.  And to many liberals, their lives don’t seem to count anyway.

Oh, wait, this is where some feverish troll jumps on his iMac and starts spouting off about Karen Silkwood. Silkwood was a union organizer at a plutonium reprocessing plant who crashed and died one night in 1974.  You probably remember the shower scene in the film of the same name where the evil corporate minions not-so-gently decontaminate a shrieking Meryl Streep.   It’s an article of faith among the paranoid left that the evil company ran her car off the road.  You know it has to be true because in the movie before the crash, a pair of headlights looms ominously behind Streep as she drives to a meeting with a reporter.

Heck, I’m convinced.  Those headlights did look really ominous.  

And it’s a pretty plausible scenario too.  The smart move for any multi-billion dollar company facing an expose is to murder the reporters’ source.  No way that could possibly wrong.  It’s much more plausible - and exciting - than her falling asleep and driving into a ditch because of the double dose of Quaalude in her bloodstream like the police concluded.

At least “24″ has an excuse - after seven seasons, it’s pretty much run out of villains, and it certainly has had no problem in the past pointing out that jihadis, you know, really do want to kill Americans.  But others do not have that excuse. 

The homicidal business man is their default villain.  It’s become something more than even a cliché - it’s an assumption.   A businessman appears on screen and you can just assume he’s going to try to off the hero.  That the concept of corporate assassins is objectively ridiculous is not an obstacle.  Remember, these people also think the key to improving health care is to let the same kind of geniuses behind the Department of Motor Vehicles control it. 

Liberal Hollywood loves corporate villains because to face up to the real threat is just too great a challenge to their world view.  Business people?  Bad.  Third world guys who hate America?  “Well, let’s just forget about them and make the villain a drug company that just happens to employ an elite team of contract killers.  Now, where’s my swine flu vaccine?”

Gimme a break.  Even if our bankers, financiers and industrialists wanted to pull off one of these intricate conspiracies, does it really seem like they could?  Look at the news.  Big business can’t even do what it’s supposed to do anymore, much less mastermind fiendish schemes.  Could the brain trust at Wachovia whack an opponent?  They can’t even keep their doors open.  Countrywide would bring the same precise attention to detail to its wet work as it did to its underwriting - and miss the target every time.  GM and Chrysler’s hitmen would organize.  The next thing we would hear is that International Brotherhood of Termination Workers Local 187 is on strike for a cushy jobs bank to retrain snipers with trigger finger repetitive stress injuries to reclassify as car bombers.  And card check would just make it worse.

That assumes that hitmen could keep their jobs at all in this economy.  Murder is not a profit center and corporations are cutting back.  Look for hordes of unemployed button men downtown holding signs saying “Will kill for food” standing next to laid-off New York Times writers promising “Will shill shamelessly for $.”

Where would the companies find these killers anyway - on Craigslist, between the ads for $5 used sofas and creepy adult encounters?  Hollywood always makes these thugs ex-military, which makes sense since the government tells us that veterans are violent extremists.  Still, I must have missed the corporate recruiter’s booth at the veterans job fair promising prospects the chance to “Come grow with us as you kill with us.”   

The fact is that today’s corporate environment is no place for self-respecting hitmen - excuse me, hit people.  The Director of Diversity would constantly be hounding them with PowerPoint presentations about their failure to meet her goal of increasing the number of differently-abled lesbian Hindu assassins by 43.2%.  And don’t get her started on how pistol silencers “send a message of non-inclusiveness through their phallocentric appearance.”

Originally published April 30, 2009 at BigHollywood.Breitbart.com.

Editor's note/Related material: The Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute in 2006 released a trilogy of studies entitled "Bad Company", dealing with the media's portrayal of capitalistss and corporate executives as villains. Part one, dealing with network television can be found here. Part two, dealing with the cinema, can be found here.

Economy Media Bias Debate Crime Broadcast Television Movies Media Business Entertainment Media