The birth of the corporation began after the Industrial age in 1712, when the need arose to boost productivity. They have since grown into a dominant and prevalent part of our daily lives as we consume every product and service, which they release to us. We like to believe that the corporation was established to work together with the community, to inspire them towards a more economical future.
However, with the rise of the cyberpunk genre, the image of an ‘evil corporation’ otherwise known as the megacorp has altered the way we view corporations and their work for the community. William Gibson’s 1984 novel ‘Neuromancer’ captures the niche market of the science fiction genre, cyberpunk, steering heavily towards a “technological near-future dystopia” (Samplereality, 2014).
Gibson also refers heavily to a recurring political dominance of ‘megacorps’, which suggest a “person” (organisation) who hold “immense power over many markets and often have more power than any conventional government” (Samplereality, 2014). Gibson created this term in the 1980s economy, which saw unprecedented economic mergers, the trilogy resonates with a new sense of the corporation as “the multinationals that shape the course of human history, had transcended old barriers. Viewed as organisms, they had attained a kind of immortality” (Encyclopedia, 2000).
Hollywood has also shown us how the corporation, although may seem humble and wanting to do good by their customers, actually have a different agenda on their minds. This power hungry, artificial creation is seen in many sci-fi movies and TV shows. Quora (2017), has created a list of the most iconic evil megacorporations from science fiction literature and movies (which you can see the whole list here)
But here are a few that you may know, with a brief description of some by Alyssa Johnson who wrote ’15 Evil Corporations in Science Fiction’ (2009):
– Chronowerx: Startrek Voyager
– International Genetic Technologies: Jurassic Park
– Kaos: Get Smart
– SPECTRE/SMERCH: James Bond movies
– Momcorp: Futurama
– Cyberdyne Systems: Terminator series – While the corporation is said to be benign in the first two films, manufacturing parts for bigger companies, they then make the mistake of creating Skynet, a system of artificially intelligent supercomputers that control (among other things) nuclear missiles. This was not a smart move. In fact, it’s just un-smart enough to warrant Cyberdyne’s inclusion on this list. (Johnson, 2009)
– LuthorCorp: Superman – Hailed as one of the largest, most diversified multinational corporations in the world, it also happens to be founded by Lex Luthor, who runs it with his characteristic ruthlessness. The list of cities and countries where the corporation has holdings is basically as long as the list of cities and countries on Earth, and the number of companies controlled by LexCorp is almost as long and just as varied. (Johnson, 2009)
– Tyrell Corp: Blade Runner – The Tyrell Corporation produces the replicants, lifelike androids designed to the work deemed to dangerous and demeaning for humans, and is named for Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the founder and genius inventor of the replicants. While it’s debatable how truly “evil” the Tyrell Corporation is, there is a definite sinister quality to their dealings and it’s nigh impossible to deny that they definitely smack of “evil corporation.” (Johnson, 2009)
It is these fictional representations of corporations that bring to light the reality of real, functioning corporations. The documentary ‘The Corporation’ (2004), highlights how like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation overpowered him, corporations are doing that to us as they lie and deceive us constantly to remain on top. Profiler Robert Hare declares “corporations can be categorised as psychopathic because they exhibit a personality disorder: that of single-mindedly pursuing their objectives without regard for people in and around them” (Top Documentary Films, 2004).
Annette Kuhn writer of ‘Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema’ (1990, p. 45), helps us understand that the depictions of corporations though they are fictional, hold a sense of reality within their behaviour. Stating that movies like Alien and Blade Runner justify megacorps by “presenting an entirely different version of the capitalist future…question, but also the bourgeois patriarchal structures of power and values that give rise to these ways of behaving…where conformity to the demands of these structures is dehumanising and dangerous.” However, reflections and criticism about the ‘real-world’ “pre-exists and determines representation, and that representation portrays the real world in unmediated fashion.”
It is obvious that real-life will always be worse than what is represented in fiction, as it happens on a greater scale and to us in real time. The documentary highlights how much damage corporations have had on our communities, how much they have been harming their worker, the environment and how many fines they have had to pay out in order to fix what they have ruined. However, the consequences don’t seem to catch up to these corporations whether they are fictional or not.
Therefore for my digital artifact, I wish to expose these corporations for who they really are…CRIMINALS! I want to create a podcast series of 3/4 episodes, of about 3 minutes long taking on a who did it approach to the topic. Taking inspiration from my favourite crime shows like Waking The Dead, Broadchurch, CSI, Cold Case, 48 Hours and the documentary The Corporation. I want to unfold Gibson’s take on fictional megacorps and highlight them in real-world corporations and how they have caused as much damaged in the real world as the fictional ones did in their world.
Encyclopedia 2000, Gibson, William (1948-), Encyclopedia, weblog, viewed 16 March 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gibson-william-1948>
Johnson, A 2009, 15 Evil Corporations in Science Fiction, i09, weblog, 18 April, viewed 16 March 2017 <http://io9.gizmodo.com/5217560/15-evil-corporations-in-science-fiction>
Kuhn, A 1990, Alien Zone Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema, Verso, Finland
Quora, 2017, What are the most iconic evil megacorporations from science fiction literature and movies?, Quora, weblog, viewed 16 March 2017 <https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-iconic-evil-megacorporations-from-science-fiction-literature-and-movies>
Sample Reality, 2014, Megacorporations: How Close Are We?, weblog, 14 September, viewed 16 March 2017 <http://samplereality.com/davidson/dig101/2014/09/14/megacorporations-how-close-are-we/>
Top Documentary Films 2004, The Corporations, Top Documentary Films, weblog, viewed 16 March 2017 <http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-corporation/>