Hollywood’s Favorite Villains

Once upon a time, Cold War enemies, white supremacists, and evil geniuses reigned supreme as Hollywood’s favorite bad guys. No more. Today, it is multinational corporations that are increasingly being cast as the über-villains of our globalized world. For all their subliminal paid promotions and subtle product placements, corporations are getting drubbed in the main story lines of our popular culture.

This treatment goes far beyond documentaries like Michael Moore’s polemical Fahrenheit 9/11 or The Corporation , an earnest if somewhat paranoid portrayal of multinational companies’ role in globalization. It extends to mainstream hits like The Constant Gardener , in which the idealistic protagonists do battle with a malicious global pharmaceutical company that is bent on exploiting Africa’s misery to test experimental drugs.

To be sure, sociopathic corporations have populated books and films for more than a century. But corporate villains, typically multinational companies, have never been so ubiquitous as today.

Is it unfair? Most corporations, after all, are merely convenient mechanisms for ensuring that scarce global capital is used at maximum efficiency, to the benefit of all. Are famously liberal Hollywood film directors spending too much time going to anti-globalization rallies? Perhaps. But I would submit that Hollywood’s misgivings, however untutored, represent only the tip of a growing iceberg of resentment against the perceived injustices of globalization.