Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Persecuted "movie" Minority

One of the things that I hate about the modern cinema is the relative frequency with which businessmen play the role of villian in movies. From Devlin MacGregor Pharmaceuticals in The Fugitive, Cyberdyne Systems in The Terminator series, Biocyte Pharmaceuticals in Mission Impossible II, Gordon Gecko in Wall Street or the corporate mainframe in I, Robot (the corporate CEO headed the list of suspects until he was murdered), it seems Hollywood has a love affair portraying business as inherently unethical.

I always thought this was disproportionate emphasis on business as "the bad guy", and now I have some data. From a Wall Street Journal, (July 14, 2006) article entitled "TV's Killer Capitalists",
According to a study published last month by the Business & Media Institute, in the world of TV entertainment, "businessmen [are] a greater threat to society than terrorists, gangs or the mob."

The study, titled "Bad Company," looked at the top 12 TV dramas during May and November in 2005, ranging from crime shows like "CSI" to the goofy "Desperate Housewives." Out of 39 episodes that featured business-related plots, the study found, 77% advanced a negative view of the world of commerce and its practitioners.

On the various "Law & Order" shows, for instance, almost 50% of felonies -- mostly murders -- were committed by businessmen. In almost all of the primetime programs, when private-sector protagonists showed up, they were usually doing something unethical, cruel or downright criminal.

Dan Gainor, director of the Business & Media Institute and the study's author, told us that he finds the shows very entertaining. "It's not like I hate the programs," he explains. "I hate the way they're characterizing business.

"Every other special group is concerned about how they are portrayed in the media -- and they should be: It does affect how people perceive them."

Over time, he says, plots that ritually make entrepreneurs the bad guys have a pernicious effect: "This becomes part of our collective worldview. We think all businessmen are somehow scummy. We think you had to lie, cheat or murder to get ahead."

Here, here. The view comes from a philosophical view of businessmen as evil, and business in generall as a grubby endeavor. Even when the evidence is overwhelmingly different.

No comments: