Hollywood's New Villain: Businessmen

     There’s no business like show business – thank goodness. No other industry would make a name for itself attacking the very businessmen who make it a success. Hollywood goes even further, undermining the very concept of free enterprise that supports its industry.

     Already the movies this year are repeating the anti-business slant of the previous 12 months. One-sided, anti-business documentaries like “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Who Killed the Electric Car?” have filled the screen where similar stories like “Syriana” and “North Country” left off.

     Now we get Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” to take over from “Wall Street’s” Gordon Gecko. She’s just one more iconic evil boss added to the growing Hollywood pantheon. Even the kids’ movie “Hoot” set up “greedy” businessmen as the enemies of nature.

     Coming on the heels of the 2006 Academy Awards, this should be no surprise. The Oscars highlighted Hollywood’s contempt for any business except its own. Half of the 16 movies earning top Oscar nominations showed businessmen committing crimes in either primary or secondary roles.

     Of course, they weren’t all deadly. We had the pimp Djay and his friends from “Hustle & Flow” using drugs, prostitution and violence to launch a “legitimate” business career. In a particularly disgusting act, he even traded the services of one of his hookers for a microphone. But for a professional crook, he was a rank amateur compared to some of the other businessmen found on the silver screen last year.

     Those other bosses, CEOs, store owners and more served up attempted murder, assassination, mass murder and an international conspiracy to overthrow a nation’s government.

     Maybe that’s how business is run in Hollywood, but for all others in America, it’s far from the case. Movie executives have become fond of this new villain, and they kick businessmen around in the very same way they claim businessmen abuse others.

     This trend was documented in an extensive study of the 16 films that received the 30 nominations for the top Oscar awards – Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. The study was released by the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute, which works hard to advance the whole idea of free enterprise against media that deem it out of fashion.

     BMI found businessmen were depicted as either criminals or simply unethical four times as often as they were portrayed in a positive light.

     Take the lead character in “A History of Violence.” He owned a small diner, was the perfect father and loving husband. But we knew that couldn’t last. Instead, he went from local hero to murdering mobster almost overnight.

     I guess even evil businessmen have to get a paycheck somewhere. For example, “The Constant Gardener” portrayed drug companies intent on killing people to maximize profits.

     One of the characters tried to defend how a business had used poor Africans as guinea pigs for a new drug. “We’re not killing people who wouldn’t be dead otherwise,” he claimed. The business ethics shown could be summed up in three words: “Don’t get caught.”

     That same strategy was an essential element of the movie “Syriana,” dubbed by London Observer writer Gaby Wood “the most political film to have come out of Hollywood since there was a war in Vietnam.” Just in case you might be tempted to like the businessmen involved, it included a memorable rant in favor of corruption. That ended with: “Corruption is why we win.”

     “Syriana” certainly won – for Best Supporting Actor. It and two other Oscar nominees were products of Participant Productions, a company that claims on its Web site “a mission to make the world a better place.” “Better,” in this case, meant where businessmen accept that they are evil incarnate. Everyone else gets to despise them to their heart’s content.

     Using propaganda to wipe out another American value is just a day at the office to the Hollywood hate-igentsia.

     It’s important to remember that these aren’t just any movies. These are the ones the movie moguls and their minions have decreed are somehow the best they have to offer. What a pathetic declaration.

     Where are the ethical businessmen? Oh that’s right, we had only one of those in a major role actually doing business. That was Paul Giamatti’s character in “Cinderella Man,” who even sold his furniture to invest in “something” he saw in an aging boxer.

     That character succeeded because he knew his business. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t know any but its own.

     Hurray for Hollywood? Not hardly.

   Dan Gainor is a career journalist and The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow. He is also director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute www.businessandmedia.org.