Hollywood's Favorite Trope: "It's Just Business"
Its Just Business

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Business is not our society's greatest source of evil. So why is it that whenever you see a businessman in a pinstriped suit appear on screen, he's almost always the bad guy? The stories we read, watch, and hear affect our brains. If we want to empower people to innovate and improve how things are done, we need to paint businessmen and businesswomen in a better light.


Omega Rasetsu : Isn't Hollywood run by.... Dun-dun-dun.... *BUSINESSMEN?*

Jared Hite : It's pretty simple, really. In order to have a compelling story, the hero needs a strong villain to go up against, and in modern American society, having the villain be a wealthy businessman means they will have lots of resources to bring to bear against the hero. It should be noted that the government is also often portrayed poorly in media, often being so incompetent/obstructive that they need to outsource all operations to a teenager. And that's ignoring the genres in which the government, or someone associated with the government, is the villain.

Kekero : “Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century: *Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;* Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected; Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it; Refusing to set aside trivial preferences; Neglecting development and refinement of the mind; Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”-Marcus Tullius Cicero

commiedeer : Not even a minute in and I'm seeing a running theme with all of your cited villains. Most if not all of them put short-term profits over long-term gains or otherwise sacrificing basic morality for a quick paycheck. Many of them are shown trying to beg for their lives when this "get rich quick" scheme invariably backfires in a huge way. Perhaps there is an alternative message here like "shortcuts to success will often see you driving off a cliff."

animeturn : Well, I´m a bussines man too, I manage a modest family company, despite my geek tendencies (yeah I'm as impressed as you), and I understand your point, but sadly out there are facts that surpass fiction and reinforce the bad image of "business men", for example in my country a multinational wants to put a mine despite the opposition of the entire poblation of a city and against the common sense, it uses all kinds of legal and not totally transparent tricks to pressure a government to allow them to put the mine, this mountain is the main source of water for the city and its habitants and it is a proved fact that the mine will destroy the mountain's sources of water (review the case of the páramo de Santurbán). This is one of many examples of why is too easy to set a bussines man as a villian in a movie or serie, because it happens a lot in real life, some people with economical or political power will do whatever it takes to acomplish their goals, and sadly many rich "business men" are this kind of people.

Isvoor : Business game: Make a trade deal every time you hear the word "business" in this video. Healthier than drinking.

Joseph Griffin : "it's just business" "just following orders" ..... it's a real life thing, we hide behind these things when we cause harm or hurt another person. We use these phrases to justify the evil that men do. it has nothing to do with businessmen or soldiers personal mindset. Like a solider follows orders even if he doesn't like it, so too does a business man have to follow the most profitable course of action. No need to over think it... they are over used justifications of ones personal actions when said person might have a different moral respect to the choice..

Mhin'qa : It’s nothing personal... kid. It’s just business.

J.S. Tama : well, it's not really about business itself. it's about the concept of big corporations and how they do business as they tend to seek constant growth. most movies that use this trope are about small business and individuals who fight that big corporation. they hold a capitalist ideal, but reject the extreme version of it. also, tony stark, walt disney and many other ficticious and real characters in films are businessmen, but they represent the creativity of the business, the ideal. the evil corporate man, represents the constant growth mentality. which does bring up a lot of problems in a society. it's like you missed the point entirely

Todd Douglas : This should be taught in junior high school and high school.. the government has the students for 12 years of education and they graduate almost completely devoid of skills and attitude that would make them successful. With a few exceptions who are influenced at home.

Delber Medina : “Business is not about making money” Your entrepreneur friends told you that? As the son of entrepreneurs, yes it is, at least making money is an important part of it. If it makes money it’s rentable, is a good investment, if you don’t make money there’s no business.

TheHabsification : Milton Friedman just straight up owns him.

Grumbles : For ages I've considered corporations objectively worse than governments, but the discussion at 11:08 went a long way towards changing my mind. God damn was the quality of news better back in the day. Honestly my biggest concern with businesses is I've had this opinion that they are somehow less accountable to the people than governments are. However governments seem to be no more accountable to the common man than businesses, hell possibly less so. As an american I've had a special resentment for how money corrupts politics due to the omnipresent toxic nature of lobbying and shit like citizens united. However that seems as much a problem influenced by governmental powers as it is by businesses. So if nothing else you've made some serious headway in changing my perspective on things. Cheers!

Gabriel Appleton : Simple. Hollywood doesn't hate business. It's full of businesses. The movies are made by businesses. That said, greed is a great motivator for villains. It's relatable to real life, too, in both the private and public sectors. So, a greedy businessman makes sense as a villain. It has nothing to do with Hollywood itself hating businesses or businessmen, it's just using what works to tell the story. Remember, greedy businessmen serve as villains in books and video games, too.

Boris Yusufov : I would like to note, that it is not business per se that is vilified, it is the corporate form of business. And it is understandable, since it is a trick allowing people not to have personal liability for many awful actions. As you said, you never see mid or small business owners portrayed in such a light. Because most of us actually see them as people, doing the hard work. Mega-corporations and its CEO's on the other hand are only seen on screens - be it movies or news reels reporting on ever present corporate misconduct. Additionally, for populations that are in some way or another consider themselves victimized, successful people are a natural scapegoat. And a lot off people consider themselves victims nowadays.

Edwin Lukas : Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.

Connor Halleck : I don't think that the trope comes from business people automatically being bad, but as a representation of the conflicts of interest that corporate capitalism creates when it separates the means of production so far from those it is meant to produce for.

JenoPaciano : I take issue only with the link between media consumption, thought, and action. There's a link, but it's not clearly understood. Take violent video games. If being violent in games was the same as being violent in real life, we'd expect most gsmes to be in jail. Actually, violent crime among young men haa overall decreased as violent games have become more popular. I don't think that's causal, but, if violent video games made people violent, we wouldn't expect that to have happened. People can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. I think the real trouble with the evil capitalism Hollywood narrative is that we don't just see it in movies; we get it on the news, in school, and from politicians. It feels real because we hear it from "real" sources, not just fiction. I think people are now learning that much of what they learned in school, on the news, and from politicians isn't real.

Daniel : Yuri Bezmenov warned us this would happen. Subversion through generational propaganda.

DrNanard : I think you miss the point imo. Presenting businessmen like this, they only contribute to the individuation of the problematic, like "it's not capitalism that is wrong despite the fact that it's responsible for the death of millions each year, it's not the system that produces inequalities, no the real problem are the individuals that are within that system and exploit it for they're own gain...". What it achieves is that evil businessmen are depicted as black sheeps, they're the only responsible for the wrong they, and therefore, when they die, the problem is magically resolved. These kind of stories never addresses the real problems, they never talk about capitalism in itself, they never attempt to criticize it, they just depolitize a very political problematic. The reality is that "evil" businessmen are the byproduct of capitalism, not the other way around.

Nathan Higgins : *Customer asks for extra sauce* Me (refuses): It's nothing personal, just business.

Fif0l : 6:30 if violent movies and games make people more violent, then how come we don't live in the most violent time ever?

Darius Thurman : Hollywood is full of Champagne Socialists.

Daniel Baker : Gosh why are these viewpoints so hard to come by?

Sam Land : Economics of Bee Movie 😏

Brian Robbins : Thank you for creating videos of substance

Andrew Shaw : I thought that "All Hail Cesar" was fairly neutral on business. The main protagonist is a kind of business man who is smart and ethical.

Robert Renk : Even if the businessman is just in business to make money, he must provide a product or service for a price people are willing to pay or he won’t be in business long. The exception to this rule is getting government involved to suppress the competition to benefit a politically connected business.

CrashDavi : Pretty dishonest to use Superhero Movies and freaking Doctor Seuss, stories which had their plots written in the 50s and earlier as examples of "Liberal brainwashing". Let's also completely ignore that some of the most criminal organisations of today really do organise themselves as businesses, from drug gangs to hitmen even to the US Military outsourcing its fighting to private Mercs. We live a capitalist mode of production and everyone, good guys and bad, needs to suit their whims to the logic of the market.

Andrew Shaw : This is the one YouTube video that I can't load. Unlimited waiting for the buffer flower.

Isenskjold : Wow, i belive their is a reason for this trope. I don't believe that most of the top buisnes men are trying to help the world. The current system of companies brings the worst people to the top, as the only measure for success is making money.

joelt2002 : I do agree Hollywood has an agenda, but I think you maybe reading into this. Hollywood exists to make good compelling movies. A bad guy, or the antagonist is often an individual that has power. What are the most powerful people within our society? Businessmen, Politicians, and Bueracrats? It's a trope, because it's easy for the writers to sell someone who has power, a businessman, doing something bad with that power. Power corrupts, absolutely power corrupts absolutely.

Daniel : 10:47 Don't use India as an example of "positive environmental outcomes" of globalisation here. Try taking a dip in the Ganges outside the assorted factories and garbage dumps filled with plastic bags and coke cans and you'll find yourself very ill. What's worse is that that river is sacred to the people, who believe it to be all cleansing, so pilgrims (even children) often regularly bathe in it. Many even ask for their ashes to be washed down the river. While I'm sure some business has brought many positives to counties like India, remember there are downsides that need to be addressed too, like worker exploitation and the importation of environmentally harmful materials like plastics. Not to mention the exploitation of children by smoking companies...

whade62000 : There's a death spiral that you've described in the beginning: stories shape out cultural understanding. Yet commercial stories are created not to challenge us and to support our prejudices and clichés so that we consume it more favorably. This is a deadly effect where people aren't challenged by films the way they'd be challenged by events contradicting their beliefs irl, or by quality stories they are not used to hearing. In the case of big money, a lot of people are incompetent, not realizing what economy they live in, blaming The Man for their troubles. It's cozy for some of them to have these prejudices reaffirmed, and their revenge fantasies fulfilled, and it's cozy for Hollywood producers and writers to curry favor by sticking to these stereotypes. This in turn of course keeps making these people dumber and dumber, even less able to break out of the social boxes they feel stuck in - although at the same time provides relief that helps them keep doing their jobs. If you have recognized the problem though then you are on the right track. Doing these videos is one way to try to promote truths rather than clichés, useful information that improves lives, rather than cheap popcorn tales.

LoudAngryJerk : I mean, to a degree, sure. But theyre not portraying *all* businesspeople as sociopaths. Theyre portraying the outliers that way. The people who take business concerns away from humans, of which there *are* plenty, or we wouldn't have had a small depression about a decade ago, and flint would have clean, drinkable water. Notice that almost none of the characters who say "it's just business" are everyday mooks like you or me, just trying to make ends meet. Theyre people in a position to make a decision that can effect the lives of dozens, hundreds, thousands or millions of people, and instead choose the path that will protect themselves, rather than those they represent or serve, of which those people do exist. Granted, it would be nice to see business represented as more of a spectrum, where those businesspeople are much more of a deviation, or even show someone who makes decisions such as those, and then show his side, that if he had decided otherwise, it would risk the jobs of everyone who works for him. Or someone could be in a similar position, and make the right one, to show contrast. But to claim that evil business models don't exist is simply naive.

Matthew P. Chapdelaine Productions : This is why Mythology is vitally important.

Tyler DA BIG BOI : This video blew my mind while watching it, I haven't really considered the lives of the businessmen and this video gave me a new prospective on how businesses are shown in film. Thanks for making this video

Jerk Jerkington : That's a nice nose that Krei guy's got on him.

John Undefined : Seeing high-level executives as largely corrupt does not vilify one's friends and neighbors. Some of the "points" in this video are flatly false. Also, empathy is negatively correlated with business success. Not only do businesses not provide libraries, they actively try to tear them down. But they do think that ballparks should be built at taxpayer expense (paid for especially by those not interested in sports) for the sole profit of the businessman. This isn't from some Hollywood script. This is actual collusion between business and government to tear down libraries and to build sports stadia at taxpayer expense.

CoolestCorpseOnTheBlock : 6:30 I agree with everything else, but this point has been proven false numerous times by... everyone.

Lenard Segnitz : "... businesses are your friends and family...". talk about over-used tropes. When your employer wants more out of you for no compensation then the company "is your family". But when it comes time to lay you off, re-organize you out or just straight up fire you... "it's not personal, just business". Family rises and falls together, it doesn't abandon its weaker members. Or when it does so it ceases to have the moral high-ground of calling itself a family. Commerce is an amoral activity. The player in the superior position will soften the blow of screwing over the inferior player with "friend", "family" and "cuddly puppies". Every player should approach commercial transactions with the same honest, cold truth... "it's just business".

S Blower : The first time I've ever subbed after one video.

Gabrielle Priest : I would love to discuss with you how this stance compliments another one of your videos, where you discuss the dangers of eminent domain that cites the government seizure of private property as a policy that is taken advantage of. Though the video is mostly framed as the government that is guilty of abusing this power, the video does acknowledge the influence businesses have over this abuse. To further expand on this influence, in the video you elaborate on the clearly unethical seizure of the waterfront properties the city of New London committed in order to entice the pharmaceutical company Pfizer to utilize their real estate. The venture proved to be unfruitful, as the company's departure of the city posed a threat to the city's economy, saved not by the city but by another corporation purchasing the leftover space. When the company decided to leave, it did not discuss options with the city or even seemed too concerned with the effect of their departure. It wasn't personal, it was just business. The video fails to explore what motivations the government would have for the desire of that level of control over private property. It seems to me you fear the control the government can have, but neglect to acknowledge the connection business and government has. Though it could be argued that the fault of this threat of devastation lies with the government, regardless, the fate of the city's livelihood relied heavily on the corporation. That is the reason a government would be interested in that level of control; revenue controls what the city is able to provide for their citizens (and money put in politicians pockets), and corporations ultimately control the revenue, meaning they ultimately have the power to heavily influence our government. That is the system capitalism creates. Corporations, including Pfizer, spend millions on lobbying and creating relationships with powerful government leaders, and if you look at opensecrets.org/lobby, it's no surprise that corporations often donate big bucks to candidates that ultimately support ventures that support their corporation's interests. Outside of the inequality issues, systematic barriers, and instability that negatively affect our capitalist system, your previous video acknowledges the system creates incentives for politicians to pursue profit over decisions which would maximize social welfare (the ability to retain private property), yet this video does not acknowledge the flaws in capitalism though you clearly can see the negative effects of it. I say all this to point of that, maybe the shift away from capitalism is the result of a little more thought and analysis than just socialization from media and our college environments. Socialism and Capitalism are essentially two heads of the same coin. Both are inherently neutral, but it is the corrupt nature of the lack of checks and balances in their purest forms that create issues. On both sides of the politic spectrum, the Nordic government is applauded. Leftist celebrate the welfare state, while conservatives praise their free market. In reality, it is probably their mixture of the two systems that led to their success (along with their homogeneous demographic). I very much enjoy watching your videos because got my Master's in Policy from Columbia, a liberal-leaning institution and I choose to work in social welfare research that is often also a liberal-leaning environment. You videos allow me to explore a well-researched point of view that is different than my own and I truly enjoy exploring that. I hope that you are also someone who enjoys engaging with those that disagree with them.

DEL J : What kind of film maker are you? I'm an anarcho-capitalist who used to be a private military contractor and I've taken an interest in screen writing in the last few years.

MINIMAN of iron : 17:55 Big Hero 6 was a part of the Lego Movie? Who knew? ( jk FEE is awesome n stuff but really that needs to be fixed or mentioned )

warcraftnut1354 : How could you not include Stringer Bell in the intro for "just business" quote?

Joel Zedwick : So now that Donald Trump is president, does the trope of the evil businessman make more sense? A huge amount of the suffering in our lives is the result of unregulated, unchecked greed. Business exists to make money. It does not, as you posit, exist to bring cool new ideas into the world and improve the world. It often has the side effect of improving the world but that is incidental. Improving the world CAN be profitable so sometimes people profit from that. It's much easier to make vast sums of money by finding a system of making money and then investing the money you make into shaping the rules of the world so that system never changes. Why attempt to find an alternate energy source when it is so much cheaper to fund political campaigns with the clear implications that you will stop doing so if the politician you're funding doesn't act in the financial best interests of your business? Why make banks better for consumers when you can just ensure that EVERY bank uses the same anti-consumer practices so that there is no real choice and you're free to levy fines and fees to your heart's content? Etc. Etc. Capitalism doesn't have to be this way. Ambition should be rewarded and the market should be kept open for new entrepreneurs to market their ideas, but the existing powers want to game the system so this doesn't happen. That's human nature, and you can look to history for that too. People who have power don't want it to be risked so they use that power to make sure it can't be challenged. Unless that tendency is curbed in some way, business can and will be a force for evil. So as long as every person in your life who is trying to take something from you is a businessman, stories will feature evil businessmen more and more prominently. The 'evil businessman' has been around for a while but it really took hold in the 80s and 90s after the economic effects of the Regan administration really started to become clear. Movies aren't making people hate capitalism. People hate what American capitalism has become and movies are reflecting that.

Warren Bearden : Fair point it is getting a bit old

Hi! I had to cut poverty in the school gymnasium : I think another reason as to why Hollywood tends to portray business in a negative light is because it appeals to the masses. The story of the everyman/woman or the smaller business going up against the bigger, more corporate business is basically a version of the stick-it-to-the-man trope. It could also be that most people aren't the rich heads of big businesses and are skeptical and or scared of people who are. And rightfully so! Businesses have done bad things in the past and there have been business people with bad intentions. And it's important to be skeptical so that when we see corrupt people in power we can do something about it. But it's also important to remember that the majority of businessmen and women are good people who want to do and create a good things. Iike pumpkin spice lattes, movies, music, and even the divice that your reading this comment on right now was created by business people.