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Adam Anderson

Bad company: science fiction and the “evil” corporation

by Adam Anderson | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

March 8, 2011 | 2 Comments »

The evil corporation is as much a staple of the science fiction genre as faster-than-light travel and alien worlds. The most recent entry in the field is Lunar Industries, featured in the 2009 science fiction movie Moon, which I finally got around to viewing a few nights ago.

And maybe it’s because this is my job and all, but I totally could not get behind the premise of this particular evil corporationâ„¢ movie. After all, what self-respecting corporation would staff a lunar outpost with one clone and one AI, especially when the outpost was responsible for supplying 70 percent of the Earth’s energy needs? Even BP had an entire crew on the Deepwater Horizon and that was just one rig.

An evil corporation is evil, not stupid. It would have made more sense to have an actual staff on the outpost, rather than paying for the tricky life support and suspended animation of the vast quantity of replacement clones. Heck, it would probably have been cheaper. There are plenty of other ways evil corporations can be evil and still show quarterly profits — if I were a shareholder in Lunar Industries, I would have to object to its business model. Governments dependent upon Lunar Industries’ continued uninterrupted operation would also be nervous about the “one clone at a time” model.

Some movies really do get it right, in the sense that the evil corporation is a logical, if ruthless, villain that acts according to good corporate values. Here are a few examples:

  • Weyland-Yutani, from Alien. The company diverts the mining hauler Nostromo and wakes up the crew to investigate an alien signal. Things go seriously haywire, but nothing that a well-written letter from the CEO in the annual report couldn’t smooth over.
  • MNU, from District 9. Some corporations are so big they blur the line between government and business. MNU takes on the task of relocating stranded aliens from one shantytown to another. Things go seriously haywire, but nothing that a well-written letter … you get the idea.
  • Cyberdyne, from the Terminator franchise. In the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” category, Cyberdyne creates the AI technology that the cyborgs use to enslave humans. There will be no CEO letter. Not even Warren Buffett can spin this one. Bad corporation! No cookie.

There are others, because if there’s one thing moviemakers love, it’s the evil corporation as villain. And just like any villain, the best ones are the ones that think they are really the good guys and are not just evil for the sake of the story.

By the way, if Tata Group had been running the moon outpost, things would have gone very differently. I’m sure of it.


Photo by Richard Broderick, used under a CC-share Alike license.

And let’s not forget the evil corporation that was behind the military forces on Pandora’s moon in Avatar.

Thanks, John. I keep forgetting about Avatar! I think Cameron did “evil corporation” better in Aliens, maybe that’s why.

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