Fox Business analyst Stuart Varney (from Varney & Co.) has some reservations about the new Lego Movie. He thinks it is yet another film in a long line of Hollywood blockbusters that evidences Hollywood’s “anti-business” message.
He says that the main villain in the Lego Movie is named “President Business” and looks like Mitt Romney. But the villain actually calls himself “Lord Business,” and he looks more like Will Ferrel—if you can say a Lego figure looks like anyone. All that aside, there is no doubt that Hollywood makes a lot of movies in which it villainizes the money-grubbing overlords of evil multi-national corporations bent on world dominion.
But this is nothing new. In this video clip, Varney invites a media analyst on his show to discuss Hollywood’s “anti-business” bias. The analyst makes it clear that the movie industry is a big money, free market endeavor run by big corporations. If they are regularly sending an “anti-business” message, it may be, ironically, because that simply makes them a boatload of money. As such, even an anti-business message is, in effect, pro-business. Hollywood is just giving people what they are paying for—what they have voted for with their dollars. Varney retorts that adults are used to Hollywood’s bias, but that it feels somehow worse when movies aimed at children villainize capitalism because parents would be sort of “obligated” to see the movie no matter what. (“Because you have to do what the kids tell you, you know…”)
Aside from the silliness of letting your family be run by the children who are in it, Hollywood isn’t really villainizing capitalism or business. Just because a capitalist is a villain, that doesn’t mean that “Hollywood” is saying “all capitalists” are bad. In the same way, when Hollywood has a story about a Joe Blow who makes it on Wall Street by working hard and chasing his dreams (like Pursuit of Happyness), Hollywood is not thereby saying “all capitalism” is good. In logic, inferring generalizations from limited specific instances is fallacious thinking (called “hasty generalization”).
Making blanket statements about what “Hollywood” is or isn’t saying is largely futile. There are many people in Hollywood with lots of different messages. Many of these people have leftist messages because many people in Hollywood lean left, but it would be easy for people to change that proportion—just don’t go to see movies that you don’t want to see more of. If you don’t want more movies like the Lego Movie, don’t go see the Lego Movie. It’s that simple.
But, again, I don’t think the Lego Movie necessarily leans left. I don’t think it is anti-business either. Are there crony capitalists who use a corrupt big government to gain and abuse power? Yes. I would have no problem calling these people villains. By doing so, am I necessarily condemning capitalism or business? No. I’m actually saving capitalism and business from an unfairly bad reputation. Lex Luthor, Mr. Potter the Banker, and President/Lord Business are wicked businessmen. They use their positions of power to do harm for the sake of their bottom line or to satisfy their lust for control.
Movies cater to the average person to appeal to the greatest number to make the most money. The Lego Movie’s main protagonist is a completely average guy. It makes sense that so many movies have average guys overcoming obstacles to get the gold and the girl. And usually, these average guys are overcoming obstacles set by those who already have great power and are abusing it. Whether the ones with power are tyrannical kings, fickle gods, imperial armies, international crime rings, lame bosses, corporate moguls, etc. For instance, seeing Luke Skywalker the total average idiot fight and defeat Darth Vader (who is one bad mother—shut yo’ mouth) is not so much an attack on corporatism or big government as it is a fantasy wish-fulfillment for the hundreds of thousands of average nobodies eating it up with their too-buttered popcorn. Whatever George Lucas’s stupid politics may be, audiences didn’t love Star Wars for its political commentary. You can view it either way depending on your own personal bias. That’s why it became a blockbuster. You Americans want to view the Empire as the Soviet Union? Great! You Russians want to view the Empire as Capitalist America? Great! We’ll take all of your money, and don’t forget to buy a toy as well.
We could just as easily interpret the Lego Movie the same way. President Business is the public persona—the apparently democratic veneer that gives Lord Business the power he desires. But in reality, there is no democratic process going on. He has rigged the system and wants to take control of the world for evil. Democracy is the public face, but the real content of Lord Business is corrupt elitism. Crony capitalism works the same way. It has a face of legitimizing democracy, but in reality, the free market has been jettisoned and real choice has been constricted. But let’s not fool ourselves. This movie isn’t about Lord Business. It’s about the average “Special” Brickowski.
I have no desire to promote or protect that false brand of capitalism, and Varney & Co. shouldn’t be endorsing it either, no matter how right they are about Hollywood’s leftist underbelly. We need to be careful not to find demons where they aren’t, especially when we’re missing them where they are.