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NP Platformed: Hollywood embraces capitalism

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Plus: Chow’s Toronto takeover View this email in your browser NP PLATFORMED Welcome to NP Platformed, a daily newsletter from NP Comment. Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up here to have National Post deliver it to your inbox. QUOTE OF THE DAY "It’s now impossible for Putin to hide from the world and from the Russian people his uncanny resemblance to some pathetically doddering and isolated high chief of what was a global superpower that now most closely resembles a corrupt and crumbling medieval khanate." — Terry Glavin e Ll ! svn WA i John Mahoney/MONTREAL GAZETTE CAPITALIST GAME RECOGNIZE CAPITALIST GAME It’s officially the summer of brand biopics. (That is, bio-pics, biographical pictures. We should probably have kept the hyphen in there to discourage people from pronouncing that term as if it rhymed with “topic.”) As the L.A. Times observed last month, we are in the midst of a little Hollywood neap tide of business movies that depart from the industry’s traditional skeptical and left-tinged approach to capitalism.  Tetris, released Mar. 31 on Apple TV, has the unlikely subject matter of a struggle over licensing rights to a classic video game. Air, the dramatized story of Michael Jordan’s marketing marriage with Nike, hit cinemas April 5. Canada’s BlackBerry opened May 12, while Flamin’ Hot, the vaguely reality-based movie about a Mexican-American factory worker who dreams up a new product line and becomes a Frito-Lay executive, was released June 9. (Meanwhile, if you’re like us, you’re waiting eagerly for Jerry Seinfeld’s Pop-Tart movie, and of course Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, a self-aware non-business movie about a brand, arrives July 21.)  These pictures are not like traditional or even relatively recent movies about business, which has typically walked hand-in-hand with villainy whenever it appears in fiction. Even when a capitalist is depicted with some degree of admiration for his technical ability and courage, as in The Social Network (2010) or The Founder (2016), he’s usually painted with broad streaks of unscrupulousness and inhumanity. The guiding idea is typically to reveal the dark side, or at least the ill-understood truth, of some ubiquitous product’s origins.  But the new brand biopics — all of them movies where a corporate brand is the real star — are movies that approve of capitalism, that take its high-voltage connection to consumer desire for granted as a good thing. They are thus almost forced to take a Gilded Age view of wealth accumulation: “now there’s a guy who got things done and made something of himself.” In an earlier age, such movies might have been written and shot with a roman-à-clef approach, with the real subject matter disguised. According to the new approach, however, the movie about Tetris has to be damn well called Tetris and not Falling Blocks (the actual working title).  The simultaneous arrival of these movies does have the flavour of an experiment on audiences, perhaps one propagated by some Koch brothers-funded think-tank. We would, naturally, approve of such an experiment — even as we recognize the truths that a leftist or progressive critique of these movies might have. Corporate branding is sometimes a greedy, engineered perversion of our desire for group identity, our human instinct to follow some flag. On the other hand, brands are allowed to fail and expire in ways national flags and religious symbols (mostly) are not, and this is the ultimate source of their virtue.  No doubt the all-pervading gas of marketing science is rushing into a void created by the decline of religion and the dwindling of family sizes. But if we look ourselves in the mirror, we know our parasocial relationships with brands — Sephora, Birkenstock, Apple, Nerf, Alienware, pick your poison — can be pretty intimate and meaningful. We’re material creatures: to deny our appetite for self-defining consumer preferences, which probably emerged amongst rival flint-knappers in the Stone Age, is a denial of human nature. (This is the very crime of which “capitalism” itself is most often accused, naturally.)  Anyway, you don’t need a conspiracy theory about billionaire advocates for capitalism to explain what GQ calls “capitalism porn” … in an article being used to sell shoes, watches and gadgets, because it’s GQ. Hollywood’s preachy progressive streak is well known to stem from a bad conscience. It is, in general, an ultra-Darwinian place where egalitarianism takes a back seat except as a political abstraction. Few other lines of business make more aggressive use of liability-limiting legal fictions, brutal accounting practices, a precarious workforce and psychological abuse of women and children. Maybe the brand biopics are the industry’s way of acknowledging that it no longer has the cultural prestige to deride literally every other way of making a buck. — Colby Cosh  THE LATEST IN NP COMMENT Progressives for Mayor Chow, prepare to be disappointed Chris Selley: Progressives who want quick, dramatic change in this city may prove to be the biggest thorn in Olivia Chow's side Three years of Olivia Chow will push voters to the right Sabrina Maddeaux: Torontonians will be even angrier and open to a conservative candidate with a populist bent The beginning of Vladimir Putin's inevitable end Terry Glavin: Aborted march on Moscow shows the Russian state has been hollowed out, carved up and looted College of Psychologists attacks Jordan Peterson in court Christine Van Geyn: But the clinical psychologist is fighting back A potential Phoenix fix fills Liberals with hope of getting something done John Ivison: The government has been experimenting with a 'next generation' pay system, which has been engaged in pilot projects in a number of departments How social science research is censored to push a progressive agenda Jukka Savolainen: Ideological projects masked as science Mélanie Joly fantasizes that Canada's reputation is 'very positive' Tasha Kheiriddin: The world’s respect for Canada has taken a nosedive Ontario school board 'cultivates' vapid verbiage while its students and teachers suffer Rex Murphy: In the new education world, everything counts except real teaching The last thing we need is Ottawa taking on the productivity problem William Watson: Best thing Ottawa can do for productivity is stop wasting valuable resources on performative exercises 'Biden doctrine' straining the western alliance Derek H. Burney: Almost every element of the president's economic policy to date has a distinct 'Buy America' protectionist tinge One public service where the Canadian government excels: assisted suicide Rebecca Vachon: Many Canadians are being offered or are requesting death because of a lack of support in living their lives Net zero’s march to impoverishment: how is lower GDP an ‘opportunity’? Matthew Lau: Net-zero will slow economic growth, raise inflation and reduce living space NHL's Pride jersey fiasco is a sign of the times Chris Selley: Heavy-handed attempts at advancing social justice are bound to backfire FULL COMMENT PODCAST R . Blaine Higgs on why he won't relent on New Brunswicks school-gender controversy P R BT S FROM ELSEWHERE In other capitalism news … as part of its celebration of the recent tercentenary of the Scottish father of economics, Adam Smith, Reason interviews the contemporary American economist Adam Smith. No spoilers, but the name thing turns out not to be a coincidence, and Adam Smith really does have some insightful things to say about Adam Smith.  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Advertisement To protect your data and organization, trust Palo Alto Networks and IT Orchestrations by DW, LTI Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox. We'd like your feedback. Write to us at [email protected] or hit reply to send us a note. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Advertisement Ll T A T TECHNOLOGY WITH CDW. L Adobe Acrobat Pro soluton that integrates. with Microsoft 365 and allows secure g e P © 2023 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. 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