I remember distinctly a few years ago when the first few movies/documentaries came out about the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries. My first reaction was that there was going to be an entirely new film genre in due time – the business class. I think I was right. Years ago, it would have been preposterous to think that people would pay to go to the movies to watch a story about some CEO or executive behaving poorly. What could be more boring! Now it seems that a whole slew of movies are coming out about bad CEOs and executives or politicians (they seem to be all mixed up together today in people’s minds). Hard not to agree that this is where all the drama is these days. Unfortunately, the reputation of big business and their chieftains are at an all time low. Weber Shandwick’s research found out several months ago that only 14% of Americans think positively of CEOs. So now we get to watch the bloodletting on the silver screen. And the reputation of CEOs don’t get even a chance to redeem themselves a little.
This all came to mind while reading an article today in The New York Times about several documentaries now showing at the Toronto International Film Festival and soon to coming to the U.S. They do not paint a pretty picture of business. The title of the article said it all — “Documentaries Zero In on Wall street, and They Show No Mercy.” The films are Client 9 about Eliot Spitzer, Inside Job about Wall Street’s role in the financial collapse and Casino Jack about Jack Abramoff, the former business person and lobbyist now finishing up his prison sentence in a half-way house for defrauding Indians. This is not to mention Michael Douglas coming back as Gordeon Gekko in Wall Street directed by Oliver Stone. He too arrives on the scene from prison to advise a young trader.
Ironically, I had a conversation earlier today about how to rebuild trust in the CEO position. After learning more about these movie debuts, it seems that CEO rehabilitation has a long way to go among the general public and filmmakers.