It was love at first scene. Barely two minutes into “The Lego Movie” — the latest animated film from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who also directed 2009’s excellent “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” — I knew that the film’s zany humor and pop culture references were tailored to fit my offbeat sensibilities. By the time the credits rolled, I also knew that the folks at Fox News would get their Underoos in a knot over the film’s antagonist, a Mitt Romney-lookalike named President Business whose dastardly goal is to glue all of the various Lego worlds together.
Sure enough, Charles Payne, a Fox Business anchor, recently tore into “The Lego Movie,” criticizing it for promoting what he called an anti-business agenda. He compared it to other films directed toward children that feature similarly corrupt businessmen, such as 2011’s “The Muppets,” whose antagonist is an oil tycoon played by Chris Cooper, and “The Lorax,” which pits the titular Lorax against “anyone who dared to create a new business.”
That “anyone,” of course, is The Once-ler, whose Thneed business leads to the global decimation of Truffula trees. Presumably Fox News is cool with that.
During the segment, titled “Hollywood Hates Business,” Payne lashed out at movies that paint CEOs in a negative light.
“Why is a head of a corporation — where they hire people — people go to work, they pay their rent and mortgage, put their kids through college, they feed their families, they give to charities, they give to churches. Why would the CEO be an easy target?”
Payne’s guest, Rentrak Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian, offered a somewhat perceptive answer:
“It’s a simple way to make a villain out of someone who is — who has power, has money.”
Indeed, the crooked businessman archetype that “The Lego Movie” employs is at least as old as Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” written in 1843. Ebeneezer Scrooge’s DNA can be detected in many popular villains over the course of the last century and a half, from Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life” to Vito Corleone in “The Godfather” to Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood.”
What Payne and his guest try to suggest is that Hollywood takes potshots only at the private sector. However, you can easily make the case that filmmakers are just as critical toward politics and politicians. From “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” to “All the President’s Men” to “A Few Good Men” to “The Manchurian Candidate” to “Syriana,” Hollywood has made countless films that expose the corruption in and failings of our government. You might even call Hollywood anti-government, but that claim doesn’t square with the Fox News mythology.
In brief, great writers for centuries have delighted audiences by featuring powerful, larger-than-life villains. For the Greeks, it was frequently the gods. (Did Homer and Sophocles have an anti-deity agenda?) For Shakespeare, it was kings such as Richard III and Claudius. (Was the Bard trying to push an anti-royalty agenda on the groundlings?)
Today, our villains are often those who have their hands on the steering wheel of this country: corrupt politicians and, yes, heads of corporations such as President Business.
Below, you can watch the Fox News clip.
?Joseph Guyer?lives in Texas. An ad man by trade, he firmly agrees?with Bill Clinton that there is nothing wrong with America that can’t be cured by what is right with America. You can read more of his work at?Liberals Unite?and follow him on Twitter?@joerobguy.