What's with the “corporate biopic” trend?


I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but theatres are starting to reek of capitalism. Not because of the concession stand prices (that’s a topic for another day), but rather because there seem to be more and more biopic-style movies about… corporations? This “genre” isn’t new, of course - early examples include The Social Network, Steve Jobs, and The Founder - but just last year, we got BlackBerry, Air, Tetris, The Beanie Bubble, and Flamin’ Hot. Maybe I’m just a diehard anticapitalist, but something feels wrong here.

Why do I expect this guy to show up in the credits of all these movies?

Biopics in general are a touchy topic for me. Take Oppenheimer as an example. Was it a good movie? Technically speaking, sure, I guess. But I HATED it for how it presented Oppenheimer, someone who created a nuclear weapon that he knew would going to be used to bring death and destruction to the world on a never-before-seen scale, and made him seem sympathetic. I don’t believe any human is truly evil, but Oppenheimer would have been a much more enjoyable watch if it were willing to really criticise the man instead of turning him into the tortured genius trope. Basically, what biopics get wrong is that their main character is almost always a flawed hero in the end, rather than a flawed human.

Early corporate biopics followed more or less the same pattern. In The Social Network and Steve Jobs, for example, we see who Zuckerberg and Jobs were before they were household names. Both highlight the brilliant minds of people who were otherwise narcissistic if not straight-up abusive - and that awful personality is heavily implied to be the key to create the next big thing. Again, flawed heroes. The Founder is the only one that takes a different approach, portraying the ruthless greed of businessman Ray Kroc as he betrays his partners and takes over McDonalds - but we’ll get back to that in a moment.

I can't believe we're still treating Jobs as though he were some kind of god. At least most people think Zuckerberg is a freak now.

Recently, “corporate biopics” have started to take a somewhat different approach. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still about awful people willing to do anything for a penny. Now, though, the films tend not to focus on a single “brilliant” character but rather the little guys - marketing teams, distributors, a (fake) janitor… and they’re all comedies. It’s a huge tonal shift, so what gives?

Well, studios need money to make movies to make money, and what’s an easier way to get the funds to make a movie than creating an hours-long advertisement for a company? Because let’s be real, that’s what these movies are - commercials. Unfortunately for studios, though, people are starting to wise up. In a world where people are struggling to pay rent and buy eggs because companies only care about shareholders and think record 200% profit margins are normal, corporations aren’t our friends, they’re our enemies. In that context, hero worship is just unpalatable. So now, you have to show the everyman making it big - thanks to their amazing corporations, of course. The corporations can’t be cold, calculating geniuses anymore, either. They’re QUIRKY, WEIRD, just like you! How RELATABLE!

I hate to break it to you, but corporations are not hardworking salt-of-the-earth types no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise.

Honestly, this is peak late-stage capitalism. The first time someone said “corporations are people too”, they doomed us all. Biopics were already just bland copy-paste zero-to-hero stories, and now we get all that while also being sold a product. Hell, the advertising is even leaving the biopic genre. Tell yourself that Barbie is true cinema all you want, but the upcoming Monopoly movie is too on-the-nose to be funny anymore. Art is dead, and I’m dying with it - both in protest and because I’ll probably be too poor to buy food in a few years.

Who would have thought that corporate biopics would be the end of humanity?

…Well, here’s the twist. There’s a chance, a slim one, that corporate biopics might actually save us - that’s where The Founder and BlackBerry come in.

If one of the leads has a slimy grin like this, you know you're in for a good time.

If studios want to make it through the incoming economic collapse, they need to maintain at least a shred of public goodwill. That means less pandering to corporations and more pandering to us, aka admitting that the companies are the bad guys. The Founder features a man willing to screw over anyone for money, and BlackBerry shows us a team of doofuses who get lucky, only to be corrupted and destroyed by pride and greed. That’s the only of corporate biopic that should exist : moral horror, with maybe a touch of The Office-style idiotic comedy. After all, that’s the truth of the corporate world we all need to remember : it’s full of idiots and sociopaths.

So yeah, since I’m struggling to meet all of my basic human needs, I don’t want to watch feature-length commercials about the companies who are to blame. I want them exposed, I want them humiliated, and I want people to start to hate them so much that they shrivel up and die. After all, they’re not people, they don’t have a rags-to-riches story, and they’re not troubled yet inspiring geniuses. They’re the reason why we’re all suffering.

It’s time we realise that.
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