Corporation Filmmakers Democracies

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Comprehensive Critical Thinking Analysis Paper: The Corporation


The motion picture "The Corporation", explores the character and extravagant rise of the leading establishment of our time. Illuminating the grip of corporations on our everyday lives using footage from TV, news, advertising and pop culture, the filmmakers accomplished what many fail at - being both informative and entertaining at the same time. Provocatively using the corporation's legal status as a person to classify it as more than a person, but a psychopath based on its 'human' actions and characteristics. According to American law of the mid 1800's, the corporation became officially recognized as a 'person'. This 'person' was generally imbued with a personality of reckless and obsessive self-interest.

Amassing unprecedented amounts of both wealth and costs, corporations today are larger than the economies of some entire countries. One of the largest costs associated with corporations is those deemed 'externalities': the ones that nobody pays. These are generally seen as 'third-party' costs, and are suffered by society but usually caused by the relentless profit- obsessed production of corporations. Inherently amoral and deceitful, the corporation does not know guilt, breaching social and legal standards for its own short-term gain. The root cause of immeasurable damage to its own workers, human health, animals, the biosphere and the environment as a whole, the corporation, as the institutional embodiment of the invisible hand (or perhaps more fittingly, fist) of capitalism, fully and aptly meets the psychological diagnosis of a true human psychopath.

The filmmakers also raised the notion that perhaps the decision makers behind the corporations (such as managers and shareholders) are truly responsible fro actions taken in the name of the corporation. The fact is that while they individual actors come together to form a corporation, their sole purpose and motive becomes the pursuit of profit. One person being interviewed (some kind of commodities or gold trader) recalled that, on the day of September 11, 2001, his first reaction to the World Trade Center towers tragedy was to wonder how much it had affected the price of gold. Such unethical disregard is commonplace in today's corporate world, affirming that the blame varies from the corporation itself of the actors making the calls.

‘The Corporation’ insights and true form of business

Even undermining democracy itself, the revolution that essentially gave birth to corporations. Investing billions into shaping public opinion, corporations have bought military might and political influence having direct control over each. Playing large roles in the law drafting process of most modern democracies, corporations are gradually rendering governments more and more useless, all the while taking more and more control over our daily lives - usually without us realizing before it is too late.

The film which goes in depth into the problems that plague the corporate world. It is a case study that defines a corporation as an individual person, a person that displays psychopathic traits. This film portrays this individual 'person' as someone who acts purely out of self-interest, not caring about the consequences it may inflict on others, just as long as they get their money. Corporations lack morals, is deceitful and will break legal, social, human health standards to get their way. The film also delves in to the mindset of these corporations. Who is the bad guy? Is it the institution or the individuals who work for that institution? It brings up all these points and question and attempts to answer and prove them by interviewing corporate insider and outsiders alike. This film brought up many questions in my mind.

It is revealed something that I was already aware of. That these powerful corporations possess so much power to the point that it can someday in the future rival the government. In this instance I was forced to choose the best of both evils. This film was of course bias, to a point. They did include interviews from the very people they were attacking. Whenever this happened it showed that these people working for these companies were usually blissfully ignorant to what was truly going on. The first debate, Child labor vs. the Corporations, in my opinion was not a very good debate. Many of the key arguments were weak.

Debates concerning the central idea of the movie in real world

The corporation came up with arguments that when closely analyzed were complete lies. The labor side did not deflect these arguments in a good way a all. Some of the key arguments in this debate were:

the no-tax zones set up by third world countries were an invitation for corporations to set up sweatshop.

Workers enjoyed their working condition and

The corporation was performing a good will, by offering these poor people a job.

The no-tax zones were not an invitation to set up (what in the US would be considered illegal) sweatshops. These countries established these zones to lure big companies to offer jobs, not low paying ones. I felt the other side should have brought this out and said that this was evidence that corporations are truly heartless and do not care for their workers. The argument that workers enjoyed their working conditions was invalid. They based this on one report, a report that was conducted by their own men. It would have been more believable if an outside group were to conduct the survey and make it anonymous. Acts of good will do not include not allowing our workers rest break, bathroom break or lunch breaks. Because of the wages, forcing these people to work long hours is certainly a concern.

Not doing more to stop underage children from working. Like it or not, these factories/sweatshops are connected to corporation's name. If anything happened there which the U.S. deems illegal, it will slander their name. The fact that this was not brought up only further proves these corporation care nothing but making a profit. The film "The Corporation" helped prepare for the debate. But I feel that many of the key point in the film went over the heads of the students. Not completely, but during the debates many of us focused on only one issue. Making it appear that their way only one this either side was doing wrong.

Through the exclusion, as well as the inclusion, of certain footage, the documentary "The Corporation" effectively presents corporations in a negative way. An example of how the inclusion of certain information can influence a particular view can be seen in the beginning of "The Corporation". The director for Business and government at Harvard is interviewed and asked for his metaphor of what a corporation is. He relates corporations to eagles describing them as being 'noble, visionary, majestic' and as being something that 'people can believe in and be inspired by'. Then at the end of the interview, not knowing that the camera is still rolling, he stands up and says 'ok guys, enough bullshit', contradicting everything he had just said. At first the viewer is made to understand and accept this positive representation of corporations, but after realizing that everything the CEO had said before was a lie, the viewer is urged to feel deceived and outraged.

Friedman’s analysis and its implications in the movie

Milton Friedman’s “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” is a thoroughly insights of what the movie deals with the issue lay before them. Friedman writers that:

……the key point is that, in his capacity as a corporate executive, the manager is the agent of the individuals who own the corporation or establish the eleemosynary institution, and his primary responsibility is to them. (Friedman, 21-22)

Evidently the value of honesty and trust are held by both the makers and the viewers of this documentary, thus by showing the corporation disregarding these values, lying and manipulating to the public, "The Corporation" successfully presents corporations as being a big, deceitful organization of con artists. If the makers of The Corporation had not included this bit of footage and had just shown the CEO praising corporations, then the audience would most likely adopt to this positive view and the effect of positioning the audience to view corporations negatively will be lost. Though "The Corporation" presents facts concerning the manipulative and deceitful characteristics of corporations, this negative view cannot be regarded as an absolute 'all truth' representation of corporations. Of course what is being shown in a documentary depends directly upon the view of its makers. Different people will have different views towards corporations, depending on what they value. Other documentary makers may choose not to include these negative representations of corporations, and instead focus on the good customer service that they provide.

Film language is another technique of construction evidently used in "The Corporation". Factors of film language include the use of montage, Juxtaposition, camera shots, lighting and music. Montage is used in the documentary to present corporations as being selfish and inhumane. This montage scene involves two situations happening simultaneously. One situation is of CEOs drinking, laughing and enjoying themselves. They are indoors and the lighting used, bright yellow, evokes a feeling of warmth and comfort. The eye level medium shots used here, influences a friendly and inviting atmosphere. Sound effects of people chattering and laughing can also be heard, again provoking a friendly environment. The other situation is of the military shooting and inflicting violence on protesting civilians. (Friedman, 21-22)

Camera Angles and sound effect: An image of today’s businesses and societies

The camera angle dominantly used is a low angle, which makes the military look powerful, dominant and superior, and the dark lighting, of black and red, provokes a cold feeling of danger and fear. Sound effects of the military marching suggest that the military are like working bees, having no emotion and doing only as they are told, and the sound of gunshots emphasize the violence that they are inflicting. On piecing these two situations together in a simultaneous sequence, the shots of the happy CEOs are juxtaposed with the shots of the violence being inflicted on civilians. The viewer is positioned to feel anger towards the corporation as while there are civilians being brutally bashed, simply for not agreeing with corporations, the CEOs are enjoying themselves pretending like they know nothing about what is going on. Clearly the values of the makers of "The Corporation" here, is that of peace and freedom of speech.

By permitting the viewer to see these images of violence and linking them to corporations, the viewer's values of peace are being challenged and thus viewers are encouraged to associate this inhumane act with corporations, viewing them negatively. Furthermore, violence erupting simply due to civilians expressing there disagreement with corporations, is seen as being an outrage to the viewer, as people have been stripped of their right for freedom of speech. As before, while "The Corporation" presents facts about the violence involved with corporations, the view of corporations being immoral and uncaring is only an interpretation of what the documentary makers feel corporations are all about. Different people may have different interpretations and so there can never be a 'true' representation. The use of verbal language is essential in presenting a certain point of view. The language used by the interviewees and the voice over’s in The Corporation, function to present corporations as being bad. Factors of verbal language include figurative, emotive and formal language.

The use of metaphors in the beginning of the documentary is an example of figurative language. The viewer is immediately bombarded with the metaphor 'bad apple', a version of the common metaphor 'One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel'. However constant stressing of the metaphor changes its original meaning of the 'bad apple' as an exception to the 'bad apple' as all pervasive. By describing corporations using a common metaphor of which the viewer understands means that one bad person in a group can have a bad effect on the whole group, and using it extensively, The Corporation persuades the viewer to see corporations as being completely full of these bad people. Of course no one likes 'bad' people and thus corporations, being portrayed as made up completely by them, are viewed negatively by the viewer. In this case, the makers of the documentary want to immediately present to the viewer how they feel about corporations and how corporations are being presented in the media.


It is obvious that the assumption of the makers towards corporations is that they are simply bad organizations full of rotten apples. Emotive language is also an aspect of verbal language used to present corporations negatively. It works on the emotions of the viewers, by using words, which provoke anger and outrage. Furthermore the word 'stripping' is a harsh word to express the forceful taking away of human rights from people. This situation of corporations taking the law of human rights to their advantage positions the viewer to see corporations as being uncaring and selfish. People value life and freedom, so when the link is made between corporations and the death of people, the viewer's values are breached and thus they are angered by the inhumanity of corporations.

Of course the makers of The Corporation also value the importance of life and freedom as this information would not have been include if they had not felt anger towards the actions of corporations towards people. This negative representation of corporations is merely a one sided view of corporations. Other documentaries may present corporations as being great institutions, which can serve the public and bring people wealth. As corporations can be presented in many ways, depending on the values and attitudes of the documentary makers, it can be concluded that documentaries are not necessarily completely true but rather offer its representation of reality.

Works Cited

Achbar, Mark, Abbot, Jennifer & Joel Bakan. The Corporation. Zeitgeist Films, 2004.

Andreasen, Alan R. Profits for Nonprofits. Harvard Business Review. 2003. pp: 24-27.

Bakan, Joel. The Corporation. New York: Vinatge Books, 2004, pp: 13-142.

Barnett, Michael L. Kicking the Black Box Around: A Review of "The Corporation". Organizational Analysis, 2004, Vol. 12 Issue 4, p419-422,

Friedman, Milton. The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits. New York: Times Magazine, 1970, pp: 21-22.

Hardfield, Mark. The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Book). CIO Insight, Feb2004 Issue 36, p92-92.

Knight, Andrew. The Corporation The pathological pursuit of profit and power. By: New Internationalist, Mar2005 Issue 376, p31-31

Mokhiber, Russell & Weissman, Robert. The Corporation. Multinational Monitor, Jul/Aug2004, Vol. 25 Issue 7/8, p40-41.