corporate characters and the limits of imagination

Good Work, Journeying Together

Movies, and perhaps childrens’ movies in particular, often seem to have evil corporations or evil CEOs as the villain these days. Makes sense. It seems reasonable to suggest that huge corporations are among the greatest forces of evil and the biggest threat to all that is human. You won’t get any argument from me. But this led to two frustrating thoughts:

1) Why do we so easily understand the evil nature of corporate culture when making or watching movies, but forget this truth when living real life? We’re all watching these movies, agreeing that Mr. Business is evil (Lego Movie) or that Buy n Large has destroyed the earth (Wall-E), but I don’t see any popular revolt against corporations. What’s going on? (And why are corporations so confident about this disconnect that they don’t seem to mind funding and distributing these movies?)
2) I suspect that there is some latent belief that only some corporations are evil, and so maybe we should be giving capitalism more of a chance. Yet, the odd question in this case is: Why are there never any good corporations in movies? (Or are there – if there are some really notable examples, please comment and correct me. It’s quite possible that this is a memory problem.)

In either case, it seems to me that we’re having a problem with our cultural imagination. Either (in the first case) with the help of these animated movies, we can easily see how evil corporations are threatening our world, but we have no imagination to help us envision actually responding to real corporate evil. Or (in the second case) if we doubt that corporations are inherently evil, we have no ability to imagine what a good corporation would look like – at least not good enough to make for interesting characters and plots in movies.

It seems to me that this is an important breakdown in imagination that we need to figure out because I have a lot of belief in the power of narratives, and in this case the narratives seem to be letting us down. They’re neither empowering us to fight corporate evil nor empowering us to create an alternative, positive corporate culture. Or am I just impatient….

These are real questions – if you’re reading this, please comment, respond or ask further questions on the blog or facebook.


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