Created By: MJShofner on October 21, 2012 Last Edited By: JesseMB27 on October 28, 2014
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Capitalism Is Bad

Works that portray capitalism as evil and/or irresponsible.

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"I think I see the Invisible Hand. It's giving us the finger."
— Dialogue from a political cartoon by an unknown artist

Many people believe that greed is the root of all evil. Some individuals would take it a step further and go so far as to proclaim "Fuck the Rich!" and demand the destruction of the system that they see as being a Plutocracy that is of the Corporations, by the Corporations, for the Corporations to screw the people over.

This trope can come in a variety of forms
  • Class struggle: Arguably the most well known form of this in which Capitalism is portrayed as benefitting a small elite at the expense of the poor and middle class.
  • Black Market opportunism: Possibly the least controversial version of this trope, Capitalists are portrayed as abusing loopholes or outright flaunting the law to aggrandize themselves by immoral means such as drug dealing, contract killing, smuggling, illegal arms dealing, slavery (in settings when/where it is outlawed. See the fifth point for details), and illegal business transactions (e.g. cartels, scamming).
  • Environmental Destruction: Sometimes also used in some works in an effort to broaden its message in portraying Businessmen as blatantly irresponsible in harming the planet in order to make a profit. Sometimes may overlap with Science Is Bad in certain situations.
  • Religious Criticism: Works that have this sort of angle will seek to present capitalism as incompatible certain religions and in some cases argue it as being a Sin against it's god(s) and/or basic principles. At the very least, it will present it as amorally "Incentivizing sin" by supplying material that is prohibited by that religion's guidelines (e.g. Alcoholic beverages, pornography, certain prohibited foods, (i.e. pork) etc.).
  • Racial and Ethnic oppression: Somewhat of an out growth of the first variety, but with an especial focus on the effects of capitalism on certain races and ethnic groups in the forms of slavery, segregation, imperialism, and/or colonialism.

Other tropes that are featured in works using this theme frequently include

Works employing this trope will generally be on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism and villains will typically be categorized as Lawful Evil in Character Alignment. Though some Lighter and Softer versions of this trope may focus on certain aspects of capitalism, such as consumerism and the policy regarding regulation, rather than condemning it as a whole.

More nuanced works with this trope may also employ Humans Are Flawed or Humans Are Bastards being that, after all, businesspeople are humans too, unless they're aliens.

Before snarking about some writers and actors employing anti-capitalist messages while profiting from them as being Hypocrites, keep in mind that narrative fiction creators are more likely to identify as artists than as businesspeople. Though some cases of this may overlap with The Man Is Sticking It to the Man, particularly works that had substantial funding from Big Business.

Compare and Contrast with Aristocrats Are Evil and Democracy Is Bad (the latter of which some believe can either strengthen people's property rights, and thus enforce Capitalism, in certain situations). Also keep in mind that not every work of fiction that features a Corrupt Corporate Executive is necessarily playing this trope. For example Rufus Shinra from Final Fantasy VII and David Xanatos from Gargoyles are both unscrupulous businessmen, but the nature of capitalism is never explored in any detail and therefore those works would not count for this trope. Not to be confused with Adam Smith Hates Your Guts which is a video game mechanic.

For the opposite of this trope, see Dirty Commies.

While it can be acknowledged that capitalism, as with anything else made by humans, is not without flaws, No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples:

Anime and Manga:

Comics:
  • The Boondocks: Capitalism is portrayed as detrimental force on the lives of everyone, with the exception of a white elite, especially on the Black Community in keeping it in perpetual poverty unless one decides to go "Acting White" (though "Acting Black" isn't seen as being wise either). To add to this, Huey Freeman frequently quotes Karl Marx to back up his opinion.
    • In the last season of the cartoon based on the comics, Granndad was driven into prostitution, corpse smuggling, and actual slavery by his own blind, irresponsible consumerism, and the manipulative usury of his plutocrat landlords, the Wunclers. Pissing on the poor seems to be an actual pastime of Ed Wuncler's; he once trapped a little girl into wage slavery in a lemonade stand, by promising her a pony. All of this bleak horror is Played for Laughs.
    • The necessary condition towards upwards mobility isn't "acting white" ("acting black" is perpetually shown to be synonymous with "acting like a damned fool") so much as "affecting a very narrow set of status-quo-abiding behaviours and beliefs". Successful lawyer Tom Dubois needs to act a very specific kind of white; he can't act like any of the Wunclers (especially not the one who "acts black"), or like a redneck, or anything like that. The criticism against him doesn't seem to be that he's a Category Traitor, but that's he's fettered, impotent, and perpetually insecure.
  • Iron Man: The comics play with this on some occasions. Stan Lee and Larry Lieber noticed that all the businessmen in the Marvel Universe, and for that matter comics in general, were those of the Corrupt Corporate Executive type, and thus decided to create a superhero who averted this trope in the form of Tony Stark (AKA Iron-Man) to demonstrate that Capitalism was not inherently evil. Some of the villains that he faces, most notably Obadiah Stane, lack any of Stark's integrity and take advantage of armed conflicts to make a profit. Thus the beneficial and detrimental effects of Capitalism can be played up in certain storylines.
  • In Sin City, Basin City is terribly corrupt and in the hands of a minority of political and economical elites, especially the Rourke family, who use their power to get away with regular dog-kicking so base, so vile, so monstrous, they don't even know what a Moral Event Horizon is. They get away with most of it, too, until eventually the working-class, downtrodden, impoverished underdog Anti Heroes defeat or murder them.

Films:
  • American Psycho is about very young investment bankers that live a carefree, extremely boring life while putting on a façade of work. Their entire existences revolve around status symbols like designer clothes, expensive watches, and getting reservations in highly fashionable restaurants. They are so conformist and same-looking that they keep confusing each other for others. The protagonist uses his money, his resources, his connections, and his anonymity to brutally abuse and murder people, especially of the Disposable Sex Worker and Disposable Vagrant types (probably).
  • In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the Big Bad, Rourke, is a sadistic mercenary who actually describes himself as an "adventure capitalist". Granted, all he is motivated by is money, which is why he leads to the expedition. Then, just to get even more money, he steals the only thing that allows the Atlantians to survive (a giant blue crystal) and tries to bring it to the surface to sell it. Some people see the film as being anti-capitalist because of him.
  • Brazil by Terry Gilliam is a Downplayed example. It is more a satire of consumerism than capitalist economics as a whole, though according to Gilliam in an interview it hasn't stopped some conservatives in the United States (who are more likely to pro-capitalist) from genuinely enjoying it and possibly misinterpret its intended messages.
  • Capitalism: A Love Story by Michael Moore sets out to argue against Capitalism as its writers understand it going as far as to equate it with sin. Please leave it at that.
  • A Corner in Wheat, a short film from 1909, is about an unscrupulous capitalist who corners the wheat market. The capitalist makes a ton of money and eats lavish dinners, while the farmers who can't sell their wheat struggle and the poor people of the cities can't get bread.
  • The Dark Knight Rises seems to go back and forth with this trope. On one hand, we have some good anti-capitalist zingers from Catwoman, who disapproves of Bruce Wayne's selfish lifestyle. On the other, we have a Does This Remind You of Anything? sequence where angry anarchists attack the stock exchange and super-villain Bane's dialogue calls back to the recent "Occupy Wall Street" movement. When the film was released, many decried it as capitalist apologism in defense of the elite. Though it should be noted that Christopher Nolan has officially stated that no political message was intended.
    • In addition to the aforementioned statement from Nolan, the above description utterly leaves out the fact that Thomas Wayne's philanthropy by Ra's al Ghul's own admission had been of benefit to Gotham's less fortunate and that many of the city's problems, including the unemployment and economic crises, had been engineered in the first place by the League of Shadows itself as part of an effort to bring about Gotham's destruction to destroy what the League saw as a corrupt society, regardless of socioeconomic class.
    • The Dark Knight Rises has been mocked as an example of both anti-capitalism and anti-anti-capitalism, with Jonathan Chait writing in New York that "What passes for a right-wing movie these days is The Dark Knight Rises, which submits the rather modest premise that, irritating though the rich may be, actually killing them and taking all their stuff might be excessive."
  • Fun with Dick and Jane is made of this trope, being a movie inspired by the Enron scandal.
  • In Time: Connects capitalism with Social Darwinism in an anvilicious way. Wages are decreased and prices are increased by fiat, meaning the purpose of the system is to Work The Poor To Death at a controllable rate.
  • Mother India is a critique of usury: a family of peasants goes into debt to pay for a wedding, and the moneylender later alters the terms of the deal so that they only ever make enough money to pay the interests. Then things get worse.
  • The Purge and its sequel show this in an oblique way, with the rich being the only ones that can afford proper security during the titular event (although one needs beware of being too rich), and the rich paying for hitmen to do the Purging for them (and even auctioning people to kill) in the sequel.
  • RoboCop and its remake share this theme, featuring typical Cyber Punk Mega Corp. organizations that are very unscrupulous about how they employ their power.
  • Much of the propaganda of the Soviet Union employed this trope. The Sergei Eisenstein film Strike is about how the evil capitalists who own a factory oppress and victimize their workers. After a worker commits suicide when being falsely accused of theft, the workers go on strike. The evil capitalists call in the police and the army, and the film ends with the workers being massacred.
  • They Live: This film was made by John Carpenter to criticize the effects of the Reagan Administration on American society in regard to the increase of materialism.

Literature
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: Deconstructed, and if not this trope itself then certainly the mindset of people who believe that Capitalism is evil. While only glimpses of pre-Ingsoc ruled Britain are revealed via flashbacks, but it is recounted in some detail in the book known as The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. In it, Emmanuel Goldstein, the author who may or may not still be alive, or may not have even existed in the first place, examines Capitalism and other features of Human civilization, leading to the ultimate conclusion that Ingsoc was Not So Different and had become like the very people they wished to destroy.
  • Nikolai Nosov's series of children's books Adventures of Dunno and his friends has little liliputians - Mites - living in a Ghibli Hills -esque Mouse World. That's Earth Mites from the first two books. In the third book, they travel to the Moon and find out that the local Mites are capitalists who live in a Wretched Hive; the book is basically the Soviet children's tour of why exactly is capitalism bad.
  • Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is about a family that emigrates to California, having been told there's lots of lucrative job opportunities. Once there, they find out that there's a surplus of workers, and their salaries are systematically undercut until they earn barely enough to live to return to work the next day, living "like animals"; they become de facto slaves. Things get even worse once they start earning even less than that. The workers are understandably upset at this state of affairs, hence the title.
  • The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance by Russell Roberts is written to be a subversion. Laura Silver, a teacher at the fictional Washington D.C. based Edwards School, is a genuine believer in this trope while in contrast Sam Gordon, a teacher (specifically of economics) and the eventual love interest of the former, argues in favor of free enterprise and also points out some fallacies (such as the zero sum game fallacy) as well as how capitalism can be beneficial (progress in the fields of science such as technology, medicine, etc.) because of economic incentives.
  • Jennifer Government: In many ways the Anti-1984 (read about that one above), in which a dystopia exists by way of powerful corporations seeking to aggrandize themselves and have turned the United States government into a puppet to serve their own purposes. Its condemnation of Libertarianism is so over the top (especially going out of its way to present John Nike as the worst kind of person in existence to make readers come to a conclusion) that it seems like self-parody.
  • Possibly the Ur-example is Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle. Sinclair had intended it to be an indictment of the capitalist system, but it was taken by the broad public as a public health and safety expose.
  • Robert Tressell's The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists published in 1914, but written before his death in 1911, looks at the workings of unrestrained free-market capitalism through the lives and trials of a group of building labourers, the sort who are hired and fired at will and as needed. The boss routinely cheats customers, baiting with expensive materials and then switching to inferior grade once the contract is signed; employees are treated like dirt; in the absence of a welfare state it is easy to slip into absolute poverty; and a new hire teaches the rest the shortfalls of capitalism and the superiority of socialism as working system.
  • Anything written by Ayn Rand will be an deliberate inversion of this trope to attack anti-capitalist ideologies as being absolute conformism and suppressing individual rights. The only time she invokes this trope is when criticizing Crony capitalism and Corporate welfare which she considered not to be legitimate forms of capitalism.
    • Atlas Shrugged seems like an unintentional example in a very different way than the others on this list: billionaires that also happen to be geniuses go on strike, taking all their technology and trade secrets with them, resulting in mass death, chaos and starvation throughout the USA.
  • Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is ambivalent; the entire world is a Mega Corp. owned Wretched Hive, the USA are fractured into independent, privately-owned states, down to the neighbourhoods. Even the Federal Government have become a private company... yet they still "do the work that no-one else believes is worth doing". Violence is common and life is extremely dangerous. It's also very colourful and exciting, especially as seen through the eyes of the Bad Ass protagonists. To give you an example, pizza delivery men work for the Italian Mafia, have gone to specialized universities to acquire their qualifications, and will deliver the pizzas in time, no matter what insane stunt driving they have to do, on pain of death. Teenaged couriers carry messages, armed to the teeth, on motorized roller-blades, via highway, at speeds exceeding 60 mph. Walled neighbourhoods have domestic robot guard dogs that run faster than cars and pack mini-guns. And so on.

Live-Action TV
  • The Men Who Built America: This History Channel miniseries that focuses on the history of the United States from the late Nineteenth to the first decade of the Twentieth Centuries known as the Gilded Age. While it recounts the innovations that came about from the enterprises of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan, it also shows the social unrest of the workers of those companies who endured economic hardships. The Captains of Industry are apathetic towards the plights of their workers and viciously sought to assimilate as many smaller companies as possible to snuff out competing businesses. They also certain had no problem, to paraphrase J.P. Morgan, "buying a president" referring the Presidential election of 1896.

    However the last episode of the miniseries subverts this by portraying the beneficial effects of capitalism when it focuses on Henry Ford successfully challenging the legality of the Trust's claims that his attempt to start his own automobile company infringed on their rights in court and his creation of the Model T, an automobile that middle class consumers could afford.
  • In Star Trek the Federation is post-scarcity communist (Depending on the Writer), while capitalism is generally represented by the Ferengi.
  • Supernatural: The Leviathan arc that makes up the entirety of the seventh season (which ran from 2011-2012) is devoted to criticizing Capitalism. It portrays corporations as being like parasites who enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of the population and keep them ignorant while doing so. It even includes an unsubtle Expy Of 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney, of whom the writers were not fond of to put it lightly, in the form of the King Leviathan Dick Roman.

Tabletop Games

Theatre
  • Little Shop of Horrors (Not to be confused with the 1960 Roger Corman film of similar name): The creators of this off-Broadway musical have said that it is about how "power, greed, and the pressure of Capitalism corrupt" society as represented by the Audrey II plants claiming to offer fame and fortune in exchange for being fed human blood. The 1986 film based on the musical makes it Lighter and Softer by downplaying this message and omitting the ending of the musical in which The Audrey II plants grow out of control and consume everyone in the city of Skid Row, New York and with the rest of the world eventually following in this fate. Don't Feed the Plants indeed.

Video Games
  • BioShock: This is possibly one of the central tropes of the first game, depending on how one views it, as represented by the city of Rapture. It is shown that the Laissez-faire (or Unfettered) capitalist society that Andrew Ryan (Whose philosophy is based on Ayn Rand's) has turned into a Wretched Hive where merchants shamelessly charge people for weaponry to defend themselves during a civil war waged by The Unfettered Atlas (AKA Frank Fontaine). Though Ryan is presented as being a well meaning Anti-Villain, in contrast to others mentioned in this article who are blatantly selfish and deceptive, who genuinely sought to create a utopia based on Objectivist principles. Though it should be noted that Ken Levine has said that the theme of the game was more that Humans Are Flawed and extremism of any kind is not beneficial.
  • Dm C Devil May Cry: This game helmed by Ninja Theory literally demonizes capitalism as a plot from Hell. Mundus (AKA banker Kyle Rider) along with his demon underlings control the Human world through debt and keeps humanity complacent through Virility soft drinks and the Raptor News Network in order to use them as livestock.
  • Everyday The Same Dream: The game has this theme to some degree in that it portrays residing and working in a corporate society is a dreary, repetitive, and mind-numbing way to live. Though it is also an indictment of the monotony and pressure of society as a whole.
  • The capitalist Magog Cartel in the Oddworld franchise is notorious for creating industries that are spectacularly unsafe and ruinous to Oddworld's natural ecosystem, and for treating the employees little better than slaves (to the point that, when a Cartel abattoir begins making a loss in the first game, the Bad Boss decides to butcher the employees and sell their meat as a new product line). Sekto, the Big Bad of spin-off game Stranger's Wrath isn't part of the Cartel, but he is a Corrupt Corporate Executive; he plans to dam the River Mongo and use its water to manufacture Sekto Springs soft drink, which deprives the Grubb tribe that live near the river of their livelihood.

Western Animation
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: This show used the third type of this trope to portray the endeavors caused by Unfettered Capitalism to detrimentally effect the environment.
Community Feedback Replies: 102
  • October 21, 2012
    MJShofner
    Sorry, just sorta adding. Also connected to aesop tropes. A good example is the movie "In Time".
  • October 21, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Possibly the Ur-example is Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Taken by the broad public as a public health and safety expose', Sinclair had intended it to be an indictment of the capitalist system.
  • October 21, 2012
    BrokenEye
  • October 21, 2012
    Bisected8
    ASHYG covers the merchants in video games.

    I think this would be covered by Strawman Political though.
  • October 21, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Only examples I can think of besides Soviet propaganda:
  • October 21, 2012
    McKathlin
    Adam Smith Hates Your Guts might need a "not to be confused with" mention, so that people looking to list examples of capitalism making heroes' lives difficult in video games will know where those go.
  • October 21, 2012
    McKathlin
    Capitalism Is Bad may be conveyed either through specific evil capitalist people, a type of Strawman Political; or by a capitalist dystopia, a type of Crapsack World. The same goes for the equal and opposite Communism Is Bad trope, of which Ayn Rand's Anthem is an example. (The latter usually overlaps with The Evils Of Free Will.) I think that both of these are tropable enough for their own pages, if enough examples are found.
  • October 22, 2012
    Frank75
    In Time connects capitalism with social darwinism in an anvilicious way. (When I have time, I want to write a review about it.)
  • October 26, 2012
    AgProv
    Literature: The Ur-Example might be Robert Tressell's The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists published in 1914, but written before his death in 1911, which looks at the workings of unrestrained free-market capitalism through the lives and trials of a group of building labourers, the sort who are hired and fired at will and as needed. The boss routinely cheats customers, baiting with expensive materials and then switching to inferior grade once the contract is signed; employees are treated like dirt; in the absence of a welfare state it is easy to slip into absolute poverty; and a new hire teaches the rest the shortfalls of capitalism and the superiority of socialism as working system.

    Wikipedia says: "Clearly frustrated at the refusal of his contemporaries to recognise the inequity and iniquity of society, Tressell's cast of hypocritical Christians, exploitative capitalists and corrupt councillors provide a backdrop for his main target — the workers who think that a better life is "not for the likes of them". Hence the title of the book; Tressell paints the workers as "philanthropists" who throw themselves into back-breaking work for poverty wages in order to generate profit for their masters. The hero of the book, Frank Owen, is a socialist who believes that the capitalist system is the real source of the poverty he sees all around him. In vain he tries to convince his fellow workers of his world view, but finds that their education has trained them to distrust their own thoughts and to rely on those of their "betters". Much of the book consists of conversations between Owen and the others, or more often of lectures by Owen in the face of their jeering; this was presumably based on Tressell's own experiences."
  • October 26, 2012
    DracMonster
    This'll definitely need a No Real Life Examples Please warning. In boldface.
  • October 28, 2012
    aurora369
    ^"Communism Sucks" needs the same.
  • October 28, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    • Fritz Lang's Metropolis is about the abuse of the worker by the communist system. It's a beautiful and weird film that uses robots and monsters as imagery.
  • October 28, 2012
    Omeganian
  • October 28, 2012
    TheHandle
    Surely not all Socialist Realism films bother to contrast stuff with capitalism?
  • October 28, 2012
    Chernoskill
    Cyberpunk fiction hints at this, especially Cyberpunk2020.

    "The Corporations control the world from their skyscraper fortresses, enforcing their rule with armies of cyborg assassins.[...] But you can change it. You've got interface plugs in your wrists, weapons in your arms, lasers in your eyes, bio-chip programs screaming in your brain. You're wired in, cyberenhanced and solid state as you take it to the fatal Edge where only the toughest and the coolest can go. Because you're CYBERPUNK."
  • October 28, 2012
    socks
    • This is a major theme of Pixar's Wall-E, where the Mega Corp Buy n Large has reduced the Earth to an unlivable tower of garbage, forcing the obese, consumeristic remnants of humanity to leave the planet on a space ship, where they are infantilized to the point of being unable to stand.

    • The Dark Knight Rises goes back and forth with this trope. On one hand, we have some good anti-capitalist zingers from Catwoman, who disproves of Bruce Wayne's selfish lifestyle. On the other, we have a Does This Remind You Of Anything sequence where angry anarchists attack the stock exchange and super-villain Bane's dialogue calls back to the recent "Occupy Wall Street" movement. When the film was released, many decried it as capitalist apologism in defense of the elite.
    • Fun With Dick And Jane is made of this trope, being a movie inspired by the Enron scandal.
    • The Great Gatsby, which deconstructs the American dream.
  • November 10, 2012
    aurora369
    Nikolai Nosov's series of children's books Adventures of Dunno and his friends has little liliputians - Mites - living in a Ghibli Hills -esque Mouse World. That's Earth Mites from the first two books. In the third book, they travel to the Moon and find out that the local Mites are capitalists who live in a Wretched Hive; the book is basically the Soviet children's tour of why exactly is capitalism bad.
  • July 11, 2013
    Ryonne
    Sorry for replying so late to the party, but I'm really quite interested in this. I think another variant of this trope would be a sort of Capitalism Will Ruin Your Life theme, where residing and working in a corporate society is a dreary, repetitive, and mind-numbing way to live (like in Every Day The Same Dream), where your "freedom" is more or less an illusion and your life is really controlled by conformity to the standards of a malicious Mega Corp and fear of starvation should you choose to leave.
  • October 7, 2014
    JesseMB27
    Should a reference be made to The Man Is Sticking It To The Man as something to compare and contrast with? As for an example to contribute:

    Film

  • October 7, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^ This is exactly the kind of example we don't need. It's dripping with bile and Ad Hominem. Perhaps documentaries should be avoided along with Real Life sections?

    The title should be changed to something less flame-batining: Captialism In A Poor Light, or something like that.

    • Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is ambivalent; the entire world is a Mega Corp owned Wretched Hive, the USA are fractured into independent, privately-owned states, down to the neighbourhoods. Even the Federal Government have become a private company... yet they still "do the work that no-one else believes is worth doing". Violence is common and life is extremely dangerous. It's also very colourful and exciting, especially as seen through the eyes of the Bad Ass protagonists. To give you an example, pizza delivery men work for the Italian Mafia, have gone to specialized universities to acquire their qualifications, and will deliver the pizzas in time, no matter what insane stunt driving they have to do, on pain of death. Teenaged couriers carry messages, armed to the teeth, on motorized roller-blades, via highway, at speeds exceeding 60 mph. Walled neighbourhoods have domestic robot guard dogs that run faster than cars and pack mini-guns. And so on.

    I dunno about Wall E, the human spaceships seem like the archetype of the nanny state freeloader-feeding traits that anarcho-capitalists and neo-conservatives loathe.

    The Great Gatsby doesn't say much about Capitalism as such, only about dreams of upwards social mobility and check-lists of worldly possessions and accomplishments that are expected to grant one happiness.

    I mean, what are these works supposed to be criticizing in the first place? Ploutocracies? Systems where everything is in a free market (children, fundamental rights, [[Repo The Genetic Opera organs)? Are the wealthy bound by the law, or are they above the law? Are the markets free or only regulated to the advantage of the rich? Is there a meritocratic upwards and downwards mobility, or is everyone mostly stuck where they are from birth? What is capitalism, and what is it being criticized for?

  • October 7, 2014
    randomsurfer
  • October 7, 2014
    TheHandle
    Even that first sentence could use some work; it's too subjective. Maybe there's an even worse light somewhere. How about:

    Again, there are films where it's not clear what the moral is, especially those that say Do Not Do This Cool Thing. Wall Street and The Wolf Of Wall Street depict businessmen doing very callous, and/or illegal things, to enrich themselves at the expense of innocent people, and have inspired generations of courtiers to attempt to become rich that way. But are they a critique of Capitalism itself, when the characters doing the bad things are criminals acting outside the law?

    To give a parallel example, could you say that shows like Yes Minister or The Thick Of It or House Of Cards are anti-representative-democracy, as such?
  • October 7, 2014
    JesseMB27
    In regard to The Handle's criticism of the example I proposed (and I will admit that the wording you have proposed will be more acceptable), I was not intending that to be about Moore himself, but Ideologically driven Liberals in general (though that's not to say that I have any good opinion of the Reactionary, Homophobic Fundamentalists that dominate the Conservative movement either and thus wish they would quit giving legitimacy to these stereotypes of Conservatives).

    I will also admit that I plan to explore this theme in my own works, but as a subversion in the form of Humans Are Bastards / Humans Are The Real Monsters, and not just businessmen (and yes I'll admit that I'm a Swiftian Misanthropic Humanist, because Cynicism is the highest form of wisdom, but we still need the opiate of Idealism to survive), as well as the interactions of Self-Interest ("How can I improve myself") and Idealism ("How can I improve my community/my country/the world") and how an imbalance and/or excess of these forces can be detrimental.

    As for another example to contribute:

    Literature
    • The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance by Russell Roberts is written to be a subversion. Laura Silver, a teacher at the fictional Washington D.C. based Edwards School, is a genuine believer in this trope while in contrast Sam Gordon, a teacher (specifically of economics) and the eventual love interest of the former, argues in favor of free enterprise and also points out some fallacies (such as the zero sum game fallacy) as well as how capitalism can be beneficial (progress in the fields of science such as technology, medicine, etc.) because of economic incentives.
  • October 7, 2014
    TheHandle
    The Anthem example is out of place: the inverse of Capitalism is not Totalitarianism. A capitalist property system is entirely compatible with an oppressive, ideologically and morally stringent social system. Conversely, a communist system is entirely compatible with a permissive society with lots of personal freedoms and freedom of expression.

    • Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath is about a family that emigrates to California, having been told there's lots of lucrative job opportunities. Once there, they find out that there's a surplus of workers, and their salaries are systematically undercut until they earn barely enough to live to return to work the next day, living "like animals"; they become de facto slaves. Things get even worse once they start earning even less than that. The workers are understandably upset at this state of affairs, hence the title.
    • Mother India is a critique of usury: a family of peasants goes into debt to pay for a wedding, and the moneylender later alters the terms of the deal so that they only ever make enough money to pay the interests. Then things get worse.
  • October 7, 2014
    DAN004
  • October 8, 2014
    MorningStar1337
    Something tells me anti-consumerism might be a common theme with these works
  • October 8, 2014
    DAN004
    The "politically charged" part of the laconic irks me. That phrase means that all works that portray capitalism as bad are works of propaganda when they aren't always be (it can be used just to tell a story; Appli Cability explains more on this).
  • October 9, 2014
    TheHandle
    Add to the Monopoly example that Capitalism there progresses by the accumulation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and the progressive and inevitable bankruptcy of each player, and that the winners owe much more to chance than to strategy or personal industry.

    The Boondocks should also appear on the Western Animation section, and it should be noted that, in the last season, Granndad was driven into prostitution, corpse smuggling, and actual slavery by his own blind, irresponsible consumerism, and the manipulative usury of his plutocrat landlords, the Wunclers. Pissing on the poor seems to be an actual pastime of Ed Wuncler's; he once trapped a little girl into wage slavery in a lemonade stand, by promising her a pony. All of this bleak horror is Played For Laughs.

    I'd also argue that the necessary condition towards upwards mobility isn't "acting white" ("acting black" is perpetually shown to be synonymous with "acting like a damned fool") so much as "affecting a very narrow set of status-quo-abiding behaviours and beliefs". Successful lawyer Tom Dubois needs to act a very specific kind of white; he can't act like any of the Wunclers (especially not the one who "acts black"), or like a redneck, or anything like that. The criticism against him doesn't seem to be that he's a Category Traitor, but that's he's fettered, impotent, and perpetually insecure.
  • October 9, 2014
    CrimsonZephyr
    The Dark Knight Rises has been mocked as an example of both anti-capitalism and anti-anti-capitalism, with Jonathan Chait writing in New York that "What passes for a right-wing movie these days is The Dark Knight Rises, which submits the rather modest premise that, irritating though the rich may be, actually killing them and taking all their stuff might be excessive."
  • October 9, 2014
    robinjohnson
  • October 9, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^^ That's actually hilarious.

    • Robo Cop and its remake share this theme, featuring typical Cyber Punk Mega Corp organizations that are very unscrupulous about how they employ their power.
    • Atlas Shrugged seems like an unintentional example: billionaires that also happen to be geniuses go on strike, taking all their technology and trade secrets with them, resulting in mass death, chaos and starvation throughout the USA.

    How is this trope different from Corrupt Corporate Executive? Is it a Super Trope? Do we need a Super Trope for Sleazy Politician that also covers other kinds of leadership, from Absurdly Powerful Student Council to God Save Us From The Queen?

    If the trope's going to be about works that criticize capitalism, we might need a definition of what the criticism is about. "The checks and balances are too weak to stop evil people from abusing the system"? "The system of reward and punishment, and how those are decided, is inherently flawed, even if everyone in it were good people"?
  • October 9, 2014
    eowynjedi
    TV:
    • The Ferengi of Star Trek are a society based around greed and profit, where scamming, exploitation, and double-dealing are virtues. It's usually Played For Laughs. It's usually Played For Laughs, but the Ferengis' lionization of greed and profit either leads them into criminality or (in the case of Rom from DS9) traps them in dead-end lives because their society only values business when they could be successful in other areas. Meanwhile, a big part of the Federation's utopia is the abolition of not just capitalism but money itself, allowing people to pursue whatever dreams they want without fearing ruin. (It does get played with sometimes when the Ferengi make salient points against humanity.)
  • October 11, 2014
    robinjohnson
    Straw Capitalism isn't right. What many of these works have a problem with is capitalism, not a strawman of it.
  • October 11, 2014
    TheHandle
    I agree. Plutocrats Pissing On The Poor is pretty much perfect; very few of these works focus on said poor's hand in making the system what it is.

    • American Psycho is about very young traders that live a carefree, extremely boring life while putting on a façade of work. Their entire existences revolve around status symbols like designer clothes, expensive watches, and getting reservations in highly fashionable restaurants. They are so conformist and same-looking that they keep confusing each other for others. The protagonist uses his money, his resources, his connections, and his anonymity to brutally abuse and murder people, especially of the Disposable Sex Worker and Disposable Vagrant types (probably).
  • October 11, 2014
    maxwellsilver
    I think the point is the tendency for works to use straw-man arguments to show capitalism in a deliberately negative light to get their point across, rather than using even-handed arguments that voice their problems while showing capitalism does have its positives.

    For example, portraying all executives as a Corrupt Corporate Executive who would sell their own mother if it profited them, or every company is an evil Mega Corp that screws over old ladies and orphans for fun more than anything.
  • October 11, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    I don't like the name Straw Capitalism, it insinuates that these works use straw arguments. Capitalism Is Bad/Evil is a more appropriate title, similarly to Dark Is Evil.
  • October 11, 2014
    DAN004
    Either dat plutocrat thing or Capitalism Is Bad shall be the title.

    Straw suggests that it is a work of propaganda against something.
  • October 11, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^^^ Implying that anti-capitalist works are necessarily full of strawman arguments is itself a strawman. Doubtless some do, but one that doesn't would still fit this trope.
  • October 11, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    Exactly my point. Since works that don't have straw arguments still count, the title shouldn't use 'Straw'.
  • October 11, 2014
    maxwellsilver
    Yes, Plutocrats Pissing On The Poor is much better. I was personally wondering if using 'straw' in the title might cause the article to become a YMMV trope.

    And of course there are just as many arguments that don't employ straw arguments as there are that do, if not more.
  • October 11, 2014
    TheHandle
    And then there's works like Atlas Shrugged that idealize capitalism but come off as criticisms anyway, and Snow Crash which seem to have a Do Not Do This Cool Thing approach.
  • October 11, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    I find 'Pissing on the Poor' vulgar and evoking way too Squicky an image to be used.
  • October 11, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    The Purge and its sequel show this in an oblique way, with the rich being the only ones that can afford proper security during the titular event (although one needs beware of being too rich), and the rich paying for hitmen to do the Purging for them (and even auctioning people to kill) in the sequel.
  • October 11, 2014
    JonnyB
    I also read it wrong, as "pissing on the floor" and was having trouble wrapping my mind around the concept at first.
  • October 11, 2014
    TheHandle
    Perhaps, but it expresses the sentiment perfectly.
  • October 11, 2014
    gallium
    Using "Piss" in a trope title seems like a bad idea. I like Capitalism Sucks better.

    Film

    • Much of the propaganda of the Soviet Union employed this trope. The Sergei Eisenstein film Strike is about how the evil capitalists who own a factory oppress and victimize their workers. After a worker commits suicide when being falsely accused of theft, the workers go on strike. The evil capitalists call in the police and the army, and the film ends with the workers being massacred.
  • October 11, 2014
    SatoshiBakura
    Film

    • In Atlantis The Lost Empire, the Big Bad, Rourke, is a sadistic mercenary who actually describes himself as an "adventure capitalist". Granted, all he is motivated by is money, which is why he leads to the expedition. Then, just to get even more money, he steals the only thing that allows the Atlantians to survive (a giant blue crystal) and tries to bring it to the surface to sell it. Some people see the film as being anti-capitalist because of him.
  • October 12, 2014
    maxwellsilver
    There are numerous tropes which use profanity in their titles, so I don't think there would be much issue here.
  • October 12, 2014
    gallium
    ^Well, it's not an "issue" so much as it is just a bad title. Capitalism Sucks is shorter and pithier.
  • October 12, 2014
    TheHandle
    Nah, I think it's a great title. Pithiness comes at the price of clarity. A lot of the examples involve "crony capitalism" where the government and money elites cooperate at the expense of everyone else, which conservatives would argue not to be legitimate, properly-free-market capitalism. Flawed Capitalism would be less controversial. But Plutocrats Pissing On The Poor is what most if not all examples boil down to, and is a lot simpler to point out. In Snow Crash, "capitalism" may or may not be criticized, but plutocrats most definitely are pissing on the poor. Plus, Added Aliterative Appeal.

    • In Sin City, Basin City is terribly corrupt and in the hands of a minority of political and economical elites, especially the Rourke family, who use their power to get away with regular dog-kicking so base, so vile, so monstrous, they don't even know what a Moral Event Horizon is. They get away with most of it, too, until eventually the working-class, downtrodden, impoverished underdog Anti Heroes defeat or murder them.
  • October 12, 2014
    gallium
    ^"which conservatives would argue not to be legitimate"

    Well, who cares? Giving a trope a name does not imply that TV Tropes endorses that point of view. Just because we have a trope named Men Are The Expendable Gender doesn't mean that TV Tropes as a community says that men should give up spots on the lifeboat to women.

    And what trope titles have profane words? Scunthorpe Problem?
  • October 12, 2014
    TheHandle
    That's why we changed many "Rape is okay if" titles to "Double Standard Rape", such as "Double Standard Rape Female On Male". It's obtuse, but avoids people thinking TVT endorses opinions it doesn't. You wouldn't believe how much people jumped on our throats for There Is No Such Thing As Notability, for instance.

    Piss Take Rap, to begin with. All the Bad Ass tropes. All the Bastard and Bitch tropes. It goes on.
  • October 12, 2014
    DAN004
    It's not the fact that the title has "piss" on it. The fact is, it's unncessarily long.

    Capitalism Sucks is both clear and concise.
  • October 12, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    So is Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, and don't see any complaints.
  • October 12, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Grandfather Clause. That name must've been made before Clear Concise Witty rule is made.

    And "too much wicks" clause.
  • October 13, 2014
    JonnyB
    Why not simply Evil Plutocrats? Why the need for the urological reference?
  • October 13, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ which one is the focus, really? Plutocrats or capitalism?
  • October 13, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    I think I found the perfect image.
  • October 13, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^^ 'Plutocracy' is really just a word used for 'capitalism' by people who oppose it (and I speak as one of those people.) That's why I prefer Capitalism Sucks; it's more neutral and simple. Capitalism Is Evil works too, though it's probably more contentious.

    Evil Plutocrats (or Evil Capitalists) makes it sound like it's about evil characters, rather than the system being portrayed as evil (or just sucky). For the former, we have Corrupt Corporate Executive and others.
  • October 13, 2014
    DAN004
    What about Capitalism Is Bad?
  • October 13, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^ Works for me.
  • October 13, 2014
    randomsurfer
    ^^^^That image is already in use on the wiki. Don't remember/can't find which trope has it, but I know it's here somewhere.
  • October 13, 2014
    maxwellsilver
    How about this? A bit literal, I admit.

    The image search for the John Oliver sticker also turned up this, and a number of comics about Nike.
  • October 13, 2014
    gallium
    Capitalism Is Bad, Capitalism Sucks, both superior to the current proposed name.

    BTW, I see that two different works in the Literature section are described as "possibly the Ur Example". Need to fix that.
  • October 13, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Which one's oldest?
  • October 14, 2014
    GrigorII
    If it is about characters, this is either Aristocrats Are Evil or Corrupt Corporate Executive; and that's the case in most cases. If the author is trying to use the plot to say that capitalism itself is something bad, then that's just an Anvilicious story, or even a case or an Author Filibuster.
  • October 14, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^ I generally agree, except for the 'just'. There's a massive body of work here; surely it's strong enough to be its own trope.
  • October 14, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^^ I doubt that just containing political commentary is enough to make a work automatically unsubtle, preachy, or otherwise badly-written. 'Anvilicious' does not mean 'conveys a message I don't like'.
  • October 14, 2014
    gallium
    This trope looks pretty good otherwise, come up with a better name and I'll give a hat.
  • October 14, 2014
    GrigorII
    Handle, "Anvilicius" and "author filibuster" are not for works with an aesop that someone does not like, but for those with an aesop that is very explicitly imposed and repeated to the watcher. For example, Spider-Man reminding us that "with great power comes great responsability"; which does not mean I do not like Spider-Man or agree with the aesop.
  • October 14, 2014
    TheHandle
    From the article:

    If the work goes beyond anvilicious into hectoring lectures, then it has become an Author Filibuster. Note that some works are openly intended to hammer home points, and are essentially teaching material in literary form: fairy tales, religious works, and position papers of all sorts may be heavy-handed, but that doesn't make them anvilicious. To achieve that distinction, the reader has to experience the sense that the author is foisting opinions, in the guise of telling you a supposedly entertaining story — and doing it clumsily enough that it becomes uncomfortable or irritating. Similarly, it is not anvilicious only because you disagree with any inherent message.

    To summarize:

    The author using the plot to convey that Capitalism is Bad is, by itself, An Aesop. It becomes Anvilicious if the author is heavy-handed about it. It becomes an Author Filibuster if the plot stops to a grinding halt to deliver the message. Furthermore, this trope need not be An Aesop; it can just as well be an assumption by the author, a feature of the setting that they included because that's how they thought the world was, without a thought for proselytism or propaganda.

    Aristocrats Are Evil does not apply: that would be for a Feudalism Is Bad trope.
  • October 14, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Re Dan 004: A thing could be said about Trope Namer . Yeah, it's a GURPS rule, but the thing has been in effect long before Star Wars came along, so why call it after them? Something along the lines of "Absurdly Lousy Marksmanship" would still fit.
  • October 15, 2014
    JesseMB27
    I have read peoples requests for different names for this trope: Here are some possible suggestions to change it to: "Plutocratic Dystopia", "Capitalism Is Evil", "Rage Against the Economic System" or "Capitalism Eats Your Soul".

    In addition, I'm considering creating another trope article called "Capitalism Is Flawed" and putting some of the examples on this list that do not condemn Capitalism as a whole and possibly also show beneficial effects, such as the Iron Man comics, Bio Shock 1, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Do you think I should go through with creating another potential article?
  • October 15, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ it'd be called Capitalism Is Good, in any case.
  • October 16, 2014
    JesseMB27
    ^ The Capitalism Is Flawed potential trope would still involve some criticism of capitalism, along the lines of how Democracy Is Flawed and Humans Are Flawed still offer criticism of Democracy and Humanity respectively, but don't dismiss the potential for good as Democracy Is Bad and Humans Are Bastards / Humans Are The Real Monsters do (of which this trope, currently titled "Plutocrats Pissing on the Poor", would be like the last three).
  • October 16, 2014
    gallium
    I see no need for a trope called Capitalism Is Flawed. That would be redundant to this trope.

    Let's have a crowner for names, and then we can launch this puppy.
  • October 17, 2014
    DAN004
    W Hy not a shorter name? Please?
  • October 18, 2014
    TheHandle
    Hm. I'm fine with the current name. It precludes the examples where it's just a Corrupt Corporate Executive, like in Catpain Planet, so that one has to go.
  • October 18, 2014
    robinjohnson
    Plutocratic Dystopia makes it sound like something very different, a sci-fi-ish state in which corporations literally are the government. That's a potential trope (if we don't have it already), but it's wildly different to almost all of the examples.
  • October 18, 2014
    Astaroth
    • The capitalist Magog Cartel in the Oddworld franchise is notorious for creating industries that are spectacularly unsafe and ruinous to Oddworld's natural ecosystem, and for treating the employees little better than slaves (to the point that, when a Cartel abattoir begins making a loss in the first game, the Bad Boss decides to butcher the employees and sell their meat as a new product line). Sekto, the Big Bad of spin-off game Stranger's Wrath isn't part of the Cartel, but he is a Corrupt Corporate Executive; he plans to dam the River Mongo and use its water to manufacture Sekto Springs soft drink, which deprives the Grubb tribe that live near the river of their livelihood.
  • October 18, 2014
    DAN004
  • October 18, 2014
    AmbarSonofDeshar
    Should contrast with Dirty Commies.

    And the current title makes it sound like a specific type of dystopia as opposed to "the work shows capitalism as being flawed." This needs a title change.
  • October 19, 2014
    DAN004
  • October 21, 2014
    robinjohnson
    I still prefer a simpler title, and "capitalism" is better than "plutocracy" because it's not necessary to equate them. Can we have a crowner?
  • October 21, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^Give me one single example of capitalism being bad where it doesn't take the form of a plutocracy.
  • October 21, 2014
    robinjohnson
    ^ Arguably, rich people being able to use their influence for evil without literally being the government isn't plutocracy, though I agree the practial difference is small. And there are certainly plenty of real and fictional examples of plutocracies where rich nobles who inherited their fortunes are more respected, and have more influence on/in government, than "new money" types who made their fortunes through capitalism.

    And capitalism is an easier, wider recognised, and less loaded word, so if they do mean the same thing, 'capitalism' is better.
  • October 21, 2014
    gallium
    ^^ There are plenty, aren't there? You gave two, Wall Street and The Wolf Of Wall Street. Pretty strong indictments about the evils of capitalism without necessarily invoking a plutocracy. Here's another: the Nazi version of Titanic, in which the whole disaster is blamed on corporate stock shenanigans and "England's quest for profit".
  • October 21, 2014
    SatoshiBakura
    I think that saying "Capitalism" instead of "Plutocrat-ism" is more straight forward, since more people know what capitalism is then what plutocrats are. By the way, can anyone start a crowner for trope names in the YKTTW, or does the sponsor have to do it?
  • October 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ anyone can, but the op's support is essential.
  • October 22, 2014
    JesseMB27
    While I would like to believe that Viewers Are Geniuses and hence keep it as "Plutocratic Oppression", but if it has to be changed, would it be alright if it was something along the lines of "Corporate Oppression"?
  • October 22, 2014
    TheHandle
    Corporate suggests a board of shareholders, and several of our examples are about specific individual billionaires.

    Plus "plutocracy" is such a beautiful word...

    Is Ayn Rand's perfect capitalism a plutocracy?
  • October 22, 2014
    DAN004
    Capitalism as ppl said here is broader than plutocracy. So I choose the former.
  • October 25, 2014
    SatoshiBakura
    ^ Agreed. It's better to use Capitalism than to assume people know what Plutocracy means. Plus, using Viewers Are Geniuses to justify your actions is not exactly the best route to go down.
  • October 26, 2014
    robinjohnson
    "Unfettered capitalism" still doesn't say that capitalism is being portrayed as bad. Why not Capitalism Sucks or Capitalism Is Bad? The latter would match things like Democracy Is Bad, Science Is Bad, etc.
  • October 26, 2014
    DAN004
    I'm not sure you're using "unfettered" right.
  • October 27, 2014
    gallium
    Film

    • A Corner In Wheat, a short film from 1909, is about an unscrupulous capitalist who corners the wheat market. The capitalist makes a ton of money and eats lavish dinners, while the farmers who can't sell their wheat struggle and the poor people of the cities can't get bread.
  • October 27, 2014
    MorningStar1337
    ^^, ^^^ I agree with the above. While terms like The Unfettered can be used to describe say, Sociopaths, It can also be used to describe people with a clearer moral compass (though that would be a very fine line between sociopathy and other forms or unfetteredness). Also, there might be some cases where even if MegaCorps rule the world there would still be some restraint like politics, competing with other companies and PR
  • October 27, 2014
    gallium
    Regarding the name, I'd say that Unfettered Capitalism is better than Plutocrats Pissing On The Poor and such, but I also agree with the posters above that plain old Capitalism Is Bad is the best name. This is a trope about works with a certain message, and the message is that Capitalism Is Bad. You don't have to agree with that philosophy to recognize it and document it when it's used in fiction.

    We should probably have a crowner for names, because otherwise this trope is ready to launch.
  • October 27, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Vote for Capitalism Is Bad.
  • October 28, 2014
    robinjohnson
    The "Before some of you start snarking..." paragraph makes a necessary point, but it reads as unnecessarily combative. Just cutting the beginning to "Before snarking..." would makes it impersonal, and not directed at anyone in particular.
  • October 28, 2014
    gallium
    Woot! Love the new name! Launch this puppy.
  • October 28, 2014
    TheHandle
    ^^Indeed.

    Unfettered Capitalism works great.
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