A New Era of Villains: The Rise of Tech Billionaires in Cinema
Villains in movies have always reflected the contexts they’ve been made and shown. Take Die Hard for example with its Eastern European bad guys. It made sense in the late-80s, but you wouldn’t see those tropes rolled out today, because people wouldn’t understand them. No, today’s villains are increasingly being portrayed as big names in tech.
A recent story in Wired has explored this exact phenomenon, looking at how the mad scientist trope, has evolved into the mad disruptor, reflecting changing cultural concerns and the negative impact technology and the people getting rich from it are having on society. From Rian Johnson's "Glass Onion" to "Upgrade" and "Free Guy," filmmakers have increasingly been turning to the tech billionaire archetype to explore the darker side of the tech industry and the harm it reaps upon us all.
It's not something that is hard to understand either. Over the last decade, there have been multiple examples of devastating effects from the fallout of big tech. Facebook’s role in genocide in Myanmar and its devastating democracy-skewing effects both at home and abroad have since been added to by a plethora of examples of malfeasance. Further big tech criminal activities include those of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, WeWork founder Adam Neumann, and many other tech leaders who have been accused of shady business practices or even fraud. These examples have raised public awareness about the negative impact of tech leaders on society, and filmmakers have been using this as inspiration for their movies.
Another reason why tech billionaires are being portrayed as villains is the growing concern about income inequality. As the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen, people are becoming more critical of the wealthy, and this includes tech billionaires. In movies like "Don't Look Up," the tech billionaire is portrayed as a person who doesn't care about the consequences of their actions, and only thinks about their own wealth and power above all else, even as the world burns and faces certain annihilation.
The trend also includes portraying these tech billionaires as stupid, which may be a reflection on the fact that even with all their wealth they seem unmoved by the multiple crises gripping the world today. A cleverer billionaire may be able to do more about them. However, the truth may be something a little more sinister. It’s difficult to imagine these people as stupid when they’ve seen so much success. It is much more likely that they just don’t care. That’s what makes them villains, at least in the movies anyway.
How about a virtual villain? Check out ChatGPT’s racial profiling and other sins.Advertisement