Here’s a movie idea: A big greedy business resorts to fraud, dishonesty, and shysterism in order to line its pockets. Original, right? Well, except for:
- Erin Brockovich
- Wall Street
- The Insider
- It’s A Wonderful Life
- The Lorax
- Batteries Not Included
- Gremlins II
- Other People’s Money
- Boiler Room
You get the idea. A story about greedy businessmen steamrolling over the little guy is probably the least original movie premise you can think of.
Which leads me to this column by Holman Jenkins. Jenkins comments on the new movie Promised Land staring Matt Damon—a movie that targets fracking, a technology that has already created oodles of jobs and provided Americans with a gusher of affordable energy. In Jenkins’s words, Promised Land is “a typically stupid Hollywood thriller plot . . . that doubles down on the conventional ‘evil oil company’ stereotype.”
Jenkins goes on to highlight a different angle on the fracking issue that he thinks would make for an interesting movie: not one about the struggle between “Big Oil” and environmentalists but between neighbors who welcome the energy industry into their neighborhood and those who who don’t. This, Jenkins adds, is the original source of the opposition to fracking.
Yard signs abounded. Longtime acquaintances bellowed at each other in town-hall meetings. Groups professionally hostile to energy development only arrived later, having had the wit to notice that the more affluent, country-home owning opponents of local fracking were the environmental groups’ natural constituents.
Thus was born a political war, complete with standard “Big Oil” versus “Greenies” symbology, out of what had been a neighbor versus neighbor dispute. Yet, truth be told, neighbor versus neighbor is still the only story that’s interesting.
The only story that’s interesting? Are you kidding? What about a movie that showed the daring, ingenuity, and creativity of those spearheading America’s energy revolution? More generally why are there virtually no movies that show the exciting world of business?
It can’t be because these stories are boring. Look up the history of the oil industry. It’s no less dramatic than any episode of Breaking Bad.
It can’t be for lack of a market, either. One of the bestselling books of 2011 was the biography of Steve Jobs, which focuses mainly on his business achievements.
Why do we never see the exciting world of business? I have to think it’s because Hollywood is unwilling to show businessmen in a good light.