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Bad Business

A lot of good stuff in the Wall Street Journal today. Let's start with this one from the Taste page: "Primetime Scrooges: For American businessmen, primetime is crimetime."

This topic is a perennial favorite of mine, but it's definitely worth revisiting. For any good capitalist, it's hard to ignore how often in TV and movies the "bad guys" are businessmen of one kind or another. Still, it's not often that someone quantifies it.


According to a study published last month by the Business & Media Institute, in the world of TV entertainment, "businessmen [are] a greater threat to society than terrorists, gangs or the mob."

The study, titled "Bad Company," looked at the top 12 TV dramas during May and November in 2005, ranging from crime shows like "CSI" to the goofy "Desperate Housewives." Out of 39 episodes that featured business-related plots, the study found, 77% advanced a negative view of the world of commerce and its practitioners.

I don't actually think this trend is driven primarily by lefty hostility toward business (though, for some writers and producers, I wouldn't rule it out). It's probably mostly driven by laziness. I mean, do screenwriters have extreme hostility toward Russian nationalists? Or are Russian nationalists just a lazy way of having terrorist characters without making them Muslims?

When it comes down to it, there are only so many motives for murder (love-sex-jealousy, revenge, money) that can sustain an hour-long drama that anyone wants to watch. Maybe most real murders are the results of bar fights and drug dealers killing each other. But that'd be a pretty boring show.

So, popular entertainment hates business. But there's probably not an awful lot that can be done about it.