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 and oppression of the poor and middle class.
- Black Market opportunism: Possibly the least controversial version of this trope, Corrupt Corporate Executives are portrayed as abusing loopholes or outright flouting 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 a Green Aesop is incorporated in an effort to broaden its message in portraying businessmen as blatantly irresponsible in harming the planet in order to make a profit. 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 with certain religions and in some cases argue it as being a sin against its 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 (e.g. pork), etc.). Can be a right-wing attack on capitalism that thinks its market liberalism is too decadent or a left-wing liberation theology example.
- 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.
- Ableism: a more recent critique, similar to Class Struggle and Racial and Ethnic Oppression. Examples of this critique include barriers to employment, lower quality of life, and discrimination, faced by persons with physical or cognitive disabilities.
- Patriarchy: a feminist critique of capitalism, also similar in theory to racial and economic oppression, which emphasizes the tendency of capitalist societies to subordinate women, as well as gender and sexual nonconformists, relative to cisgender, heterosexual men. Notably a feature of Intersectional Feminism, where it overlaps with other anti-capitalist critiques listed on this page. In this context, capitalism is also seen as sexually exploitative (and usually involves a Double Standard).
Unless they are socialist Utopian stories, works employing this trope will generally be on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism and the villains will typically be categorized as Lawful Evil in Character Alignment. Anarchist works will have heroes in the Chaotic Good sphere as heroic revolutionaries while stories involving an existing socialist nation will firmly paint them as Lawful Good comrades. 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 or a point is made on how the human majority is working-class and moral in the face of the rich decadent few.
Use of this trope is no guarantee that the writer understands capitalism and is willing to portray it fairly. Some works invoking this trope have come under criticism for their superficial depiction of capitalism.
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. And then there's the fact that a) people need to eat and pay bills, and b) capitalism is nearly omnipresent, so working outside capitalism is virtually impossible. In the less popular Marxist sense, however, class is merely your relation to capital, so making money isn't a problem as long as you yourself are a worker and not profiting off of employees.
Sometimes represented by The Man. Compare and Contrast with Aristocrats Are Evil and Democracy Is Bad (the latter of which some believe can strengthen people's property rights, and thus enforce Capitalism, in certain situations. Others stress that capitalism is inherently undemocratic when the rich hold influence). 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.
- Anvilicious: Not all works may have this effect on viewers, but some creators using this trope tend to believe in the righteousness of their cause with every fiber their being. Though some well-written works that employ a nuanced view of society can avert this.
- Arms Dealer: It's not for nothing that businesspeople who specialize in the production and sale of weapons have often been called "merchants of death".
- Artistic License Child Labor Laws: For one reason or another, children and teenagers are working menial labor jobs for very low wages, often with long workdays and unpleasant working conditions involved. Due to restrictive child labor laws in most developed countries, many corporations will outsource industrial production to foreign sweatshops in poorer nations, which can easily employ young minors as cheap laborers.
- Artistic License Economics: Certain works propose solutions that are absolutely this, sometimes to the point of inadvertently proving that capitalists have some valid points.
- Bad Boss: Expect most evil entrepreneurs to be incredibly abusive towards their employees, treating them as nothing more than expendable tools (or even slaves) for the bosses' own personal gain. This ranges from bullying and (sexual) harassment, to paying them very low wages with few or no other benefits, and making them work for long days in harshly unpleasant conditions (or even extremely dangerous environments).
- Bread and Circuses: Products and services that are provided by companies are portrayed as a method to keep buyers in a sort of consumerist slavery.
- Corporate Conspiracy: When a business institution is host to a secret evil plot in the pursuit of profit.
- Corporate Warfare: When the pursuit of the almighty dollar leads to violent armed conflict between the megacorporations.
- Corrupt Church: Particular religious institutions or conservative religious groups in general are shown to have a cozy relationship with big business, and benefit from limited government intervention (which big business lobbies to limit further). Typically will be represented by The Fundamentalist or the Church Militant, or sometimes a Church of Happyology.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The main antagonists of the setting. A position that plutocrats will almost always hold and in many cases There Are No Good Executives. Though more nuanced works, particularly those that want to make the point that capitalism in and of itself is not evil, may also feature an Honest Corporate Executive as a counterbalance.
- Cyberpunk: Futuristic works using this trope frequently portray technology as being beneficial to an elite few, whereas Post-Cyberpunk likes the technology aspect but keeps the capitalist critique or ignores it entirely.
- Deal with the Devil: Deals offered by businesspeople are presented as being predatory in that they have a steep price that will leave the deal acceptor in perpetual servitude.
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing: It can be difficult to show the lives of the rich and powerful without some viewers thinking how awesome it would be to be rich.
- Dystopia: Works using this trope tend to portray the governments in such societies as being plutocracies whether de jure or de facto. See Cyberpunk above for the most common anti-capitalist dystopia.
- Eat the Rich: When the downtrodden finally have enough of the exploitation and proceed to fight back to reclaim a slice of the pie.
- Evil Colonialist: The ultimate goal of just about every colonial empire in history was to subjugate weaker countries for the purposes of economic exploitation; by extracting as many valuable resources out of the colonies as possible, in order to enrich themselves at the expense of whatever local peoples they had conquered.
- Evil, Inc.: If the author feels like being particularly anvilicious, the corporations won't just be evil, they'll proudly trumpet their evil from the rooftops.
- Executive Excess: The depiction of important figures in the corporate world as hedonistic, gluttonous, carnal, and self-indulgent who rarely feel the need to actually work.
- Fascist, but Inefficient: A related trope about capitalism and fascism being inefficient in the long run.
- The Gilded Age: Sometimes used as a setting in order to show that this trope has some degree of basis in history and that those mistakes should not be repeated.
- Greed: When self-interest becomes excessive and exceeds the limits of moral boundaries. Though the line between reasonable self-interest and greed will be deliberately blurred by those that are especially hostile to capitalism.
- Greedy Jew: In older works that mingled anti-capitalist or anti-plutocratic sentiments with antisemitism, these were naturally the perfect villains, usually presented as corrupt bankers or speculators who profited off the toil of the helpless common people. The type was perhaps especially prominent in entertainment/propaganda in Nazi Germany, and also (somewhat ironically) in the latter-day Soviet Union (though there the characteristically swarthy, big-nosed profiteers were typically called "Zionists", not "Jews" as such). Ironically, some of the anti-capitalist writers were also Jewish. Becomes several dozen times more ironic when one knows that Karl Marx himself was ethnically Jewish, albeit coming from a non-religious family that converted to Christianity before his birth. Nowadays it is rarely seen, at least in the "Western" world (and also obviously avoided in pro-communist works), and likely to be a source of Values Dissonance when encountered, for obvious reasons.
- Green Aesop: Many stories with anti-capitalist themes also tend to have some sort of pro-environmentalist message, showing big corporations gladly profiting from activities that result in the destruction of the natural environment (including deforestation, industrial pollution, climate change, etc).
- Hates Rich People: Loathing moneyed people in particular.
- Horrible Hollywood: When the media/entertainment industry is depicted as being a ruthlessly cutthroat business just like any other.
- The Horseshoe Effect: Some writers advocating mixed economies using this trope sometimes to portray unrestricted and unregulated capitalistic plutocracies as being functionally no different to communist dictatorships. Obviously, this will not intentionally turn up in works explicitly advocating communism.
- Just Like Robin Hood: The ideal hero in some works employing this trope.
- Kill the Poor: Works based on this trope will typically portray businessmen as treating employees as simply, to paraphrase Willy Loman, like oranges and that they can throw the peel away.
- Law Enforcement, Inc.: Private police or security forces may be used by corporations to ruthlessly consolidate their own power and authority, instead of actually maintaining the rule of law.
- Liberty Over Prosperity: Some works may present liberty in terms of personal freedom even if it means it giving up economic comfort. note
- Loves Only Gold: A more specific form of greed where a character is interested in only a specific form of wealth. In extreme cases, the character will attempt to achieve total control of the world's supply.
- Majority-Share Dictator: A character is able to seize absolute power in an organization by buying a slight majority of its stock.
- Mega-Corp: Works using this trope tend to portray corporations as being modern-day monopolies and in Cyberpunk, may control the nation like a government.
- Morally Bankrupt Banker: See Deal with the Devil above.
- One Nation Under Copyright: When super-wealthy companies and/or cabals of elite businessmen decide that they are no longer satisfied simply influencing established institutions to get what they want and decide to take over the government too. Common in Cyberpunk.
- Paying for Air: Capitalists may even turn the very air we breathe into a product you have to pay for.
- Post-Scarcity Economy: Capitalism is bad and thanks to technology, obsolete.
- Predatory Business: Big businesses tend to destroy smaller businesses that are too weak to challenge them.
- Private Military Contractors: Private armies comprised of hired mercenaries, fighting wars just for the paycheck.
- Private Profit Prison: Prisons controlled by corporations instead of governments are considered to be far more corrupt and unethical. Especially if they're using prisoners as cheap (slave) laborers in an industrial setting.
- Privately Owned Society: When a particular location is effectively ruled by a corporation instead of a government as the official authority.
- Privilege Makes You Evil: Having great wealth and power is very corrupting.
- The Rich Want to Be Richer: When someone who already has a lot of money is obsessed with attaining more, even when the "more" in question is actually far less than what they already have.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Capitalists are shown as immoral and corrupt, taking advantage of a broken system by bending the rules in their favor with bribes.
- Shady Scalper: People who buy and hoard commodities, then sell them at an inflated price when there's a shortage.
- Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Expect extremely unscrupulous businesses to exploit and abuse their workers as harshly as they can get away with; treating them much like slaves, if not outright keeping them trapped in forced labor or involuntary servitude (even if literal slavery is supposed to be de jure illegal).
- The Social Darwinist: Highly affluent businesspeople are frequently portrayed as having a philosophy based on this, to justify their ruthless exploitation of working-class people.
- Techno Dystopia: Another common dystopia setting, but on the more anti-technology humanist tilt that may not outright suggest capitalism is bad, but the effects and growth of it are for humans are, as are the products of capitalist competition.
- There Are No Good Executives: If all wealthy businesspeople are portrayed as being irredeemably greedy scumbags with no relatively decent people among them. Played straight for pro-communist works.
- Toxic, Inc.: Capitalism being bad for the natural environment is common in environmentalist stories.
- The Unfettered: In that businesspeople are portrayed as having no sort of moral restraint. In addition, laissez-faire capitalism is dubbed "unfettered" by some critics.
- Tyrannical Town Tycoon: A rich guy who owns everything in town, who can get away with anything.
- War for Fun and Profit: Expect to see big corporations trying to profit from warfare by selling weapons to various factions in the conflict, establishing private mercenary armies to literally fight for corporate interests, or participating in the trade of valuable resources (like oil and diamonds) found in active warzones.
- White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: Works using this trope portray a select few elite members of this ethnic background as the only beneficiaries of capitalism. Used to drive a point if anti-racism is also a major theme, in that racism keeps the proles hateful and divided. By contrast, in older anti-capitalist works, Old Stock Americans would not infrequently be the heroes of the piece fighting against the corrupt bankers — who would then often be wealthy Jews instead. This combination almost never appears nowadays, after the Nazis and the Holocaust showed how dangerous such antisemitic stereotypes can be.
- Working Class Anthem: A song about how much your job sucks.
- Working-Class Hero: The most likely people to be in opposition to plutocratic villains. Those advocating restrained capitalism instead will likely use liberal politicians or Middle-Class progressives.
- Rurouni Kenshin: An early incident delves into this with the conflict against Kanryu Takeda. Kanryu is an "entrepreneur" who has learned about western capitalism and seeks to spread it about in the setting of Meiji era Japan. The business he runs specializes in opium, which has had a detrimental effect on the local area but nonetheless, Kanryu has profited and thus continues to provide it to meet the demand to make himself wealthier. In addition, he treats his employees Megumi Takani (his chief Opium maker) and the Oniwaban group with no shred of dignity and even attempts to kill all of the latter with a Gatling gun just so he could kill Himura Kenshin (who at this point was seeking, along with his friends, to rescue the kidnapped Megumi when she sought to escape to turn her life around) in the process.
- YuYu Hakusho: Capitalism is indirectly examined in the form of the unfettered self-interests of morally corrupt businessmen, known as the Black Book Club, to use demons to benefit themselves at the demons' expense.
- During the Dark Tournament arc, demons fight against each other in order to get a wish granted by the Human ran committee and to entertain their immoral human sponsors as they casually gamble large amounts of money. When the human businessmen aren't gathering them for the Dark Tournament, they summoned (via human psychics), captured, and bought demons to be kept as slaves (of whom some female demons are implied to be kept as Sex Slaves). One businessman in particular, Gonzo Tarukane (the founder of the aforementioned Club), kidnapped the innocent snow maiden Yukina due to her tears producing rare jewels and tortured her physically and emotionally to get them and sell them. In the absolute worst case, the Black Book Club tortured and slaughtered the demons in their possession to bathe in their blood as part of the Festival of Vices to entertain themselves.
- In the succeeding Chapter Black arc, Shinobu Sensui used all of the aforementioned actions that occurred via capitalism to make his case as to why Humans deserved to be destroyed off the face of the earth.
- In AKIRA, the Colonel doesn't think too highly of Capitalists and their dystopian Neo Tokyo.
- The Asterisk War: The primary villains are the integrated enterprise foundations, a small group of megacorporations that control the world economy, bringing entire countries to the brink of poverty (Lieseltania included), encouraging the unethical treatment of Genestella for its own purposes using the Asterisk Festas to extend their political influence, and brainwashing their own members to prevent any defiance. From what has been seen so far, its only goal seems to be "profit at any cost."
- Every character with a decent amount of wealth in Speed Grapher is a corrupt power-abuser who cares more about money than anything else in the world, several characters give speeches about how money corrupts and kills people and causes wars, many of the Dark And Troubled Pasts involves greed in some way, and to top it off, in the end Suitengu destroys nearly all of Japans money, ruining the current and bankrupting the whole country, which will have a negative effect on the worlds economy, and this is portrayed as a good thing.
- 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 behaviors 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), possibly to demonstrate that capitalism was not inherently evil but also as a personal challenge for Lee, to turn a war profiteer into a beloved character. 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.
- The villainess Viper in Marvel comics (usually a Captain America enemy) thinks capitalism is evil and oppressive, favoring a vaguely defined anarchism instead. Though as with most comic book characters, this element of her characterization varies Depending on the Writer.
- From Hell takes an extremely dim view of Victorian England, with a specific focus on its massive class divide. The comic's version of Jack The Ripper is essentially the worst aspects of the Victorian Era (and by implication the sections of British society and politics that romanticize it), and one of his murders is cross-cut with a poem read at a socialist meeting about the oppression of the proletariat. The comic is also quite cynical about the possibility of any kind of working-class uprising, instead implying that people are ultimately too stupid, evil, or lazy to overcome self-interest and actually build a better world.
- Runaways occasionally delves into this, given that it's a series about former rich kids trying to survive after the deaths of their supervillain parents. And then there's the "Dead End Kids" arc, where they flirt with supervillainy because they've been cut off from their hideout and they're tired of sleeping in their getaway vehicle.
Victor: So we're bad guys now.Nico: You know it's not that simple.Chase: We're bad guys with a stocked fridge and central heating.
- Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed posits that without regulation capitalism is a tool of evil, with the corporate slimeball Chip Drygion intentionally exacerbating homelessness and calling the cops on legal gatherings while buying up housing and the local park and community garden to replace it all with high-end condos as part of his plan to make a profit gentrifying Queens. This is presented as a class struggle that is rooted in racism, misogyny, and greed. Chip is also kidnapping and selling marginalized girls into sex slavery in the area he's targeting on the side.
- 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 the expedition. Then, just to get even more money, he steals the only thing that allows the Atlanteans 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.
- The LEGO Movie: This trope is played with. President/Lord Business, whose name by itself invokes this trope, has several posters/screens emphasizing obeying President Business (particularly buying products made by his company), as well as the surprising suppression of creativity, or then at least his standards of perfection. The city of which Emmet is a resident of are portrayed as sheeple who blindly accept such a plutocratic society, which would be consistent with Socialist and other Anti-capitalist propaganda. However, it is actually invoked in-universe by Finn, of which Mr. Business is an Expy of his father (AKA The Man Upstairs) and is a criticism of the latter stifling the former's creativity due to conflicting with Finn's father's perfectionist ideals.
- WALLE: Rampant consumerism encouraged by a Walmart Expy turned One Nation Under Copyright brought about such ecological destruction that Earth had to be evacuated due to literal skyscrapers of garbage. The humans living in orbit on the Axiom are little better, essentially living as overgrown children who basically exist to eat, lounge around in boredom and buy things whenever prompted by adverts. When the Axiom goes back to Earth at the end, the humans adopt a Solar Punk-style society which is healthier for them and for the planet. Director Andrew Stanton has gone on record for saying he didn't intend for this.
- Many of documentarist Adam Curtis' films revolve around the theme of capital's corrosive influence on government and society. That said, Curtis is not very sympathetic towards communism either.
- Discussed at length in the 2014 documentary America. In addition, it is also brought up that merchants and other businesspeople being considered Acceptable Targets to vilify is Older Than Feudalism, well before The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith was published in 1776. In the documentary is mentioned Tunisian Historian Ibn Khaldun's observation and condemnation of contemporaries of his time who believed that someone who stole something was more "honorable" than someone who traded for an object as they at least had to "earn" their "right" to keep it to by proving themselves in combat.
- American Psycho much like the book it was based on.
- 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 be pro-capitalist) from genuinely enjoying it and misinterpreting 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.
- 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 titular Charles Foster Kane of Citizen Kane is a deconstruction of the ideal American businessman, who genuinely wants to use his money well and help the working class, but is endlessly frustrated by a system that makes real change impossible. His desire to help is also called out as patronizing, and the idea of the working class helping itself by organizing is held up as a positive alternative. The film ultimately concludes that success under capitalism is corrupting, as Kane remarks that he "could have been a great man if [he] wasn't so rich" and the ending reveals that Kanes last moment of true happiness was a boy living in a run-down shack in the Colorado wilderness before he inherited the fortune that led him on the road to fame and wealth.
- In Cube, one character, who worked as a contractor designing the exterior shell of the titular Cube, suggests that the mysterious, elaborate structure that tortures and murders random civilians is a massive pork barrel project created to act as a huge wealth creator and shift public money towards corporations.
- 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, of which its motives is more akin to those of a less overtly religious version of religious extremist groups (e.g. Al-Qaeda) (but equally Knight Templarish) than any sort of Marxist/Communist groups, 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 magazine 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."
- Anticapitalist interpretations of the film don't usually sympathize with Bane outright, but instead see the film as aristocratically reactionary because it portrays the masses of normal people in Gotham as needing the billionaire playboy/psychopath Batman to save them from themselves. Portraying normal people as easy for extremists to mislead and incapable of asserting their own agency is Not Nice.
- Flakes features a homegrown cereal bar with its quirky sensibilities versus the sterile corporate copycat installation across the street. As far as the Flakes employees are concerned, the trope is true. The actuality is that both sides come to realize the other has a point.
- Guess what country likes to use this trope in their propaganda? North Korea! Most of The Flower Girl is a portrait of the Paes, the landowners, as being thoroughly evil capitalist oppressors who victimize the peasants in the village. Kotpun the titular flower girl leads a pretty depressing life, mainly due to the Paes, who are responsible for blinding her little sister and literally working her mother to death. This becomes overt at the end, when Kotpun's brother Chol-ryong urges the villagers to rise up and fight the capitalists.
- Force of Evil: Nominally about rival mobsters trying to control the numbers racket, but really an indictment of capitalism. (Director Abraham Polonsky was a Marxist.) The "numbers racket" is described in terms similar to the stock market, and its analogized to gambling. The various numbers rackets are called "banks". Joe's office is on Wall Street, right next to the New York Stock Exchange. People turn to crime to chase the American Dream, and for the sake of money family, brotherhood, and other bonds are cast on the wayside.
Bauer: I don't want to have anything to do with gangsters.
Gangster: What do you mean, "gangsters"? It's business.
- Fight Club has its fair share of anti-capitalist rants.
- Fun with Dick and Jane: The 2005 remake is made of this trope, being inspired by the Enron scandal.
- The Girl From Monday: The film takes aim at the drive to commodify things, having a monopolistic corporation ruling a future US determined to turn a profit off everything imaginable.
- The Godfather, especially the second part, was regarded by Francis Ford Coppola as being less about the mob and more about the mob as a metaphor for capitalism. This is most prominent where Michael Corleone boasts of his shares in IBM and Hyman Roth states that the mob is "bigger than U.S. Steel."
- 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. Note that the film seems to massively fail at economics.
- Josie and the Pussycats, of all films, could easily take this message, given the huge amounts of Product Placement (that no one seems to notice), a massive brainwashing scheme to make kids and teens buy stuff they don't need to keep the economy going, the suppression of free will and opinion in favor of conformity, and the US government being in on the brainwashing plot. Even the film's antagonists could be recognized as victims of the system who've taken on their current roles and appearances to atone for their perceived "failures" back in high school.
- Jupiter Ascending practically hits the viewers over the head with it. To name but one example, the three villains Jupiter must face have explicitly inherited vast amounts of wealth from a business that literally requires exploiting human lives, while Jupiter herself is a working-class undocumented immigrant who scrubs toilets for a living.
- Jurassic World: The director of the film, Colin Trevorrow, has stated this as being one underlying theme in the film. Colin Trevorrow has stated that the Indominus rex represents the worst of consumer and corporate excess.
"The Indominus was meant to embody our worst tendencies. We're surrounded by wonder and yet we want more. And we want it bigger, faster, louder, better. And in the world of the movie, the animal is designed based on a series of corporate focus groups."
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom also plays with this, with dinosaurs being captured and sold to corrupt crime lords for million.
- La Terra Trema: The wholesale fish merchants of Sicily ruthlessly exploit and oppress the poor fishermen, paying them a pittance and leaving them mired in poverty. They will seek to squash anyone like protagonist Ntoni who tries to rise above his station. The narrator describes their fate as "hopeless slavery." This film was financed by the Italian Communist Party as an electioneering tool for the impending 1948 Italian general election.
- Modern Times: Charlie Chaplin was a staunch leftist, and the film is perhaps the most clear cut demonstration of that in his work. The factory the Tramp works at openly dehumanises its workers and tries to find ways so that they can work even more, poverty and unemployment is rampant, and even a normal worker is forced to turn to theft to survive.
- 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 interest. Then things get worse.
- Our Daily Bread is about a group of Americans in the depths of The Great Depression who form a socialist-style collective farm. The film isn't excessively strident, but the anti-capitalist message is obvious. At the foreclosure auction, a capitalist fat cat right out of Soviet propagandaoverweight, dressed in a suit, chomping on a cigartries to buy the farm, but after the workers silently threaten him with a hangman's rope, he clams up, and the workers buy the farm themselves for less than two dollars.
- The Promised Land depicts the appalling exploitation of workers by factory owners in 1885 Łódź. Mr. Muller builds a palace that he doesn't even live in, just to impress people, while the workers live in squalor and pawn their possessions. A factory magnate essentially forces a pretty girl to go to an orgy. A worker is chewed up by machinery; as he's still twitching with one arm gone and the other still caught in the machine, Karol tells everyone else to go back to work. And at the end, Karol orders his security forces to shoot at the strikers, and a man carrying a red flag is shot In the Back.
- The Purge and its sequel The Purge: Anarchy show this in an oblique way, with the rich being the only ones that can afford proper security during the titular event, and the rich paying for hitmen to do the purging for them (and even auctioning people to kill) in the sequel. It's established early on in the first film that the establishment of the Purge brought about full employment in the US because the unemployed homeless were the most vulnerable target of it. How exactly that works is never elaborated beyond "it's working." The later franchise entries show it most certainly isn't, but the New Founding Fathers spent a lot of money to astroturf its popularity and feasibility.
- Robo Cop and its remake share this theme, featuring typical Cyberpunk Mega-Corp organizations that are very unscrupulous about how they employ their power.
No better way to steal than free enterprise.
- Right before Murphy is brutally murdered, he overhears Emil and another thug converse as to why they can't just keep the money they steal instead of investing in the drug trade, to which Emil ends by saying:
- Salt of the Earth: A portrait of brave, determined miners and their wives joining together to fight against greedy capitalist bosses and their law enforcement lackeys. This was the only American film shown in Communist China between 1950 and 1979.
- Much of the propaganda of the Soviet Union employed this trope. The Sergei Eisenstein film Strike is about how the capitalists who own a factory oppress and victimize their workers. When a worker kills himself after being falsely accused of theft, the workers go on strike. The capitalists call in the police and the army, and the film ends with the workers being massacred.
- In Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by self-professed communist Boots Riley of rap group The Coup, it is revealed that Mega-Corp WorryFree's employees (who are on lifetime contracts and receive no pay, but definitely aren't slaves) are being mutated into half-human half-horse abominations. The film presents this as an extension of the dehumanization of workers under capitalism.
- "CAPITALISM MUST CEASE", says a placard in A Study In Reds. Of course, it's part of a dream had by a rural Wisconsin town in which said town is turned into a Soviet commune.
- 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. This ranges from the mundane (the heroes are blue-collar workers rendered unemployed and homeless by deindustrialization) to the fantastic (the capitalist class are literal parasitic aliens).
- Parodied by The Future, a rather hypocritical group of communists from Hail, Caesar!. As communists, they see capitalism as an oppressive system that takes their good work as writers and gives them nothing for it. This doesn't stop them from not wanting to redistribute their ransom money evenly, or letting their Soviet bosses get all the money for their labor, or from listening to a professor who says the best way to fight capitalism is to try and obtain the most wealth as possible, a capitalist mindset. The whole philosophy is presented as humorously contradictory, except when Eddie Mannix hears a big actor using it to bad mouth the studio after all it sacrificed to rescue him and secure his career. Mannix slaps the actor silly and makes him realize that all the hard work people put in to make a movie is not just to drive some system, it's worth something.
- Acclaimed South-Korean director Bong Joon-ho often has this as a central theme of his films, most notably:
- Snowpiercer uses the stratified sci-fi society of the titular locomotive as a metaphor for the inherent inequality in capitalism and how it commodifies human lives under false pretenses. Its ending carries one of the most striking anti-capitalist messages of them all, with the characters deciding that a system so grotesque and exploitative as the train (I.e capitalism) cannot be allowed to exist and thus destroy it wholesale.
- Okja shows its ruthless capitalists through the shady side of the food industry and how it mistreats animals.
- Parasite (2019) makes its commentary on Capitalism by contrasting the lives of two families: the Parks, a wealthy family living on the top of a hill, the Kims, a poor family of grifters who live in a half basement apartment folding pizza boxes to earn money between get-rich-quick schemes. The story touches on many aspects of why Capitalism Is Bad, from how it turns the desperate into criminals, to how climate change affects those at the bottom of society first by contrasting the Parks being barely affected by a rainstorm vs the Kims losing their home and everything in it.
- A common theme in the works of George Orwell, though one that's often missed. Both 1984 and Animal Farm are very critical of the Soviet Union and thus are mistaken for being pro-capitalist. However, Animal Farm ends with the ultimate condemnation of the Soviet government being that they have become just like the capitalists, and 1984 explicitly claims that the Ingsoc government (despite claiming to be socialist) have created an even more brutal and efficient form of capitalism. Orwell described himself as a democratic socialist, and the closest thing to a utopia in his work is his description of anarcho-syndicalist Catalonia in Homage to Catalonia (the fact that this experiment in libertarian communism was destroyed at least partially by the USSR is a big factor in Orwell's later hostility towards them).
- 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 capitalism is bad.
- 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).
- Anything written by Ayn Rand will be a 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. She portrays them as justified in doing so, though, as up until that point they had to work under intrusive regulations that not only kept them from getting anything productive done but are being manipulated by hypocritical politicians and Corrupt Corporate Executives to line their own pockets at the expense of those willing to do honest work, whether rich or poor.
- The central theme of Daemon. Unlike other works listed, it shows a successful anti-capitalist revolution and society developing.
- Docile has the tagline "There is no consent under capitalism" and purports to show a capitalist dystopia in which debt slavery has returned. However, it has come under criticism for, among other things, presenting only a paper-thin critique of what capitalism even is.
- Jurassic Park: The entire disaster is caused both by Hammond's efforts to cut costs and corporate espionage to secure intellectual property rights.
- The Lost World (1995): Plays with this, with a nice business owner being a main character, but the evils of InGen still being explored.
- 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.
- Kim Stanley Robinson often invokes this in his work. Capitalism is usually shown to be dehumanizing and environmentally destructive, with society moving towards some kind of environmentalist socialism.
- 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.
- 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. And while their children are starving, food being destroyed before their eyes to drive prices up. The workers are understandably upset at this state of affairs, hence the title.
- 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. Sinclair himself later commented, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." Sinclair's other writings also frequently qualify as examples. (There Will Be Blood was loosely adapted from his novel Oil!)
- 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 laborers, 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 a working system.
- Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is ambivalent; the entire world is a Mega-Corp-owned Wretched Hive, the US is fractured into various independent, privately-owned states, down to the neighborhoods. Even the federal government has 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 colorful and exciting, especially as seen through the eyes of the badass 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. Teenage couriers carry messages, armed to the teeth, on motorized roller-blades, via highway, at speeds exceeding 60 mph. Walled neighborhoods have domestic robot guard dogs that run faster than cars and pack mini-guns. And so on.
- Another early example is Jack London's 1908 novel The Iron Heel, which depicts an authoritarian dystopia that takes most of the worst traits of Gilded Age capitalism and exaggerates them Up to Eleven as a form of reductio ad absurdum. It is generally considered the Trope Codifier for the modern dystopian sci-fi genre, rendering it Older Than They Think (though it's also subject to "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny for many modern readers).
- Parodied in These Words Are True and Faithful. Two directly opposed factions in a political dispute blame each other on white gay men and capitalism. Later, Danny dismisses Ernie's common-sense advice on how to be a financially solvent adult as capitalist brainwashing.
- Black Mirror plays with this in several episodes:
- "Fifteen Million Merits": In this dystopian future, people do pointless work to buy pointless things, and celebrity status is the only carrot on the stick. People keep degrading themselves in pursuit of fame, and then when they find fame they realise they've only escaped into another prison.
- "White Bear": Shows a privatized prison being determined into a nightmare and a woman's eternal suffering being used to make lots of money.
- "White Christmas": Matt is an amoral businessman willing to send virtual clones into hell in order to make money.
- "Nosedive": An episode set in a dystopian future where your social media ratings determine everything about you, from your job to your housing to even your priority for hospital treatment. All social interaction in the world is reduced to a game where people exchange numbers, and it makes them behave like shallow sociopaths with no concept of true friendship or decency.
- "Playtest": Shows how ruthless a corporation can be by literally killing a man and treating it as a business loss.
- "Black Museum": Shows an amoral businessman using sadists, white supremacists, and torture to make a lot of money.
- Chappelle's Show: The "WacArnold's" skit satirizes some of McDonald's commercials by showing a young African-American man named Calvin who gets a job at the McDonald's ersatz while the narrator explains the benefits of working at the company in a set of commercials. Though with each commercial, it portrays it in a less appealing manner: one woman who had congratulated Calvin had died from eating cheap, high cholesterol foods from WacArnold's; his Black majority neighborhood's economic well-being is no better than it was prior to the WacArnold restaurant opening; and Calvin can't adequately care for his family on his minimum wage job.
- Doctor Who: "Oxygen" is set aboard the mining space station Chasm Forge, controlled by an unnamed corporation that maintains control of the oxygen supply by only allowing it within employees' personal space suits and vents any unauthorized oxygen into space in order to "keep prices competitive", and which is prepared to execute its own workers because their mining operation has stopped being profitable. The Doctor makes numerous derogatory comments about capitalism and the idea of controlling the oxygen supply for profit throughout the episode, and at the end alludes to the fact that what occurred aboard Chasm Forge will one day spark a revolution that will cause intergalactic capitalism to collapse... until humanity finds another great mistake, but that's another story.
- Leverage: The tagline is literally "The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you.'' The Leverage crew is not above working within capitalism to subvert its negative effects, but many fans have interpreted the show as having an anti-capitalist message. One episode, "The Low Low Price Job" has a pro-union message.
- In Lodge 49, most of Dud and Ernie's problems can be traced to some greedy prick higher up on the food chain, whether it's the bank that took Dud's home and business to pay off his dead father's debts or the customers who stiff Ernie on commissions and force him to eat the expenses when they underestimate the costs of a piping job.
- The Men Who Built America: This History Channel miniseries focuses on the history of the United States from the late nineteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth century 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 were 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 certainly 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 Trusts' 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.
- Except for the apparent voluntary and inconsequential existence of markets in the Federation appearing to be a tolerated "lifestyle choice." Seems the Federation doesn't care whether you accept all their free stuff or not, as long as you're not profiting off other people not having things. So they have money, they just don't allow it to generate socioeconomic disparity. Kind of a "be capitalist at your own risk" mentality.
- Supernatural: The Leviathan arc that makes up the entirety of the seventh season (which ran from 2011-2012) is devoted to criticizing certain aspects of American capitalism, particularly the degree of power that Corporations have to influence people (and frequently for the worse). It portrays corporations, when under the control of especially avaricious and domineering Ubermensches such as the Leviathans, as being like parasites who enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of the population and keep them ignorant while doing so. King Leviathan Dick Roman, the leader of the Leviathans, is also a very unflattering portrayal of Corporate CEOs in that he is an unabashedly hubristic Social Darwinist.
- Your World With Neil Cavuto: Satirized by Stuart Varney, who brings up the irony of anti-capitalist protesters in Seattle, Washington on May Day condemning capitalism while using smartphones and other technological innovations that are the products of companies.
- However, this is arguably also an oversimplification on Varney's part, since a lot of the technology used in smartphones (perhaps most notably, the Internet itself, which evolved out of a U.S. Department of Defensenote project known as ARPANET, and the Global Positioning System (GPS) that enables all smartphones to exist in the first place, which is literally owned by the U.S. government and also grew out of a USDOD project) was also developed with significant amounts of government funding - i.e., socialism, at least by some definitions. Such technology is probably most accurately understood as either the result of social democracy (i.e., a combination of socialism and capitalism) or of private-public partnerships (i.e., companies working with the government) - or both - rather than strictly of capitalism.note
- Punk Rock, Hip-Hop, Synthwave and Vaporwave have a lot of this. The latter two are the choice of music for Cyberpunk soundtracks.
- Punk Rock is popular with anarchists and greens.
- Hip-Hop is frequently used to express problems in capitalist society, especially from the point of view of Black Americans.
- As per this doccumentary, Synthwave rose out of the contradiction with flashing new technology in the '80s and the rampant nearly dystopian cronyism of neo-liberal 1980s America and Britain.
- Vaporwave uses popular logos and clip art to make absurd backgrounds, mocking or brand-filled consumerist lives.
- Bluegrass and other Appalachian music has plenty of songs about coal miner strikes, greedy bosses, prison, and poverty.
- Frank Zappa didn't directly oppose capitalism as such, being a record producer and talent scout himself, but did criticize the brainless, shallow and unethical materialism, consumerism and marketing that goes along with it. He wrote several songs about it: "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" (Absolutely Free), "Absolutely Free", "Flower Punk" (We're Only in It for the Money), "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead" (Bongo Fury), and "Be In My Video" (specifically bout MTV) ("Them or Us"). At the same time, Zappa also doesn't seem to have thought too highly of labour unions and the like (e.g., "Rudy Wants to Buy Yez a Drink"). Overall, he seems to Take a Third Option in his work, maintaining cynicism both about capitalism and socialism.
- Rage Against the Machine: Also a staple of many of their protest songs.
- Money for Nothing by Dire Straits from Brothers in Arms is a scathing attack on MTV and the music videos that bring in big bucks for artists without having to do much. It also attacked the consumerism that typified the 1980s.
- This is a staple of The Pop Group's songs and Mark Stewart in general. As "We Are All Prostitutes" puts it:
Capitalism is the most barbaric of all religions
Department stores are our new cathedrals
Our cars are martyrs to the cause
- This is one of the main themes throughout Foster the People's Supermodel, especially on the bonus track "Tabloid Super Junkie," which opens by stating it outright and critiques the ways in which capitalism prioritizes personal gain and consumerism over artistic value and effort.
- A staple of works by socialist and anarchist acts, naturally. Examples include:
- Pink Floyd's Animals and The Final Cut
- Panopticon's Kentucky and Collapse in particular, but a lot of his early work qualifies ("Flag Burner, Torch Bearer" is probably actually the most explicit about it).
- Almost Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra's entire catalogues.
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "Luciferian Towers", between its liner notes, accompanying press releases, and the song title "Bosses Hang". Their earlier work is less overt about this, but there are still examples like the chart in Yanqui U.X.O. depicting the business connections (at the time) between major record labels and arms manufacturers.
- Deathspell Omega's The Furnaces of Palingenesia is a Deconstructive Parody of a right-wing authoritarian society, and naturally this trope shows up more than once (e.g., "Those who nourish the famished shall be left to starve. Those who heal the wounded shall be maimed. Those who console the lamenting souls shall be buried alive, their stomachs filled with ignominious larvae. Rats shall feed on the eyes of those guilty of empathy towards their fellow men." We might add that they do not possess a high opinion of authoritarian communism, either, as seen in the album's assessment of Mao). In a rare interview conducted in mid-2019, the band also attributes much of the despoilment of the environment to what they characterise as humanity's redirection of its intrinsic violence against nature, which they predict will have devastating results:
"Lucid in some regards Saint-Simon, Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer, Auguste Comte all knew that there had to be a derivative to mans innate aggressive impulses and promoted industry as a means of channelling it and transforming this sinister energy into material progress for the collective. Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, author of La Marseillaise, wrote a chant to the glory of industry and productivism. Instead of conquering other people or other nations, man ought to conquer nature to subjugate the natural world under his yoke. These murderous impulses were neither amended nor negated, simply directed at another target. However, as Spinoza wrote, Deus sive Natura (God or nature). Twice, man committed the highest of crimes: by waging an absolutist war against nature and, therefore, against life itself. And, secondly, by severing the bond to nature and forging an anthropocentric worldview that places man above everything else and, therefore, can be used to justify just about anything no matter how short-sighted or ill-advised so long as it appears to serve mankinds interests. Extracting man from the natural order, by intent if not in effect, was a sign of hubris which remains literally without equivalent and whose resulting devastations will know no equivalent either. Listen carefully enough and youll hear demonic snigger."
- This is the main theme of "XS" by Rina Sawayama, specifically mocking Conspicuous Consumption and shallow materialism, all set to 2000s-era pop.
When all that's left is immaterial
And the price we paid is unbelievable
And I'm takin' in as much as I can hold
Well, here are things you'll never know
Make me less, so, I want more
Bought a zip code, at the mall
Call me crazy, call me selfish
Say I'm neither, would you believe her?
- The original tales of Robin Hood are aversions in that it is Feudalism Is Bad, though some more modern writers deliberately seek to invoke this trope in order to portray modern-day robber barons as being exploitive of lower-class people and thus not that different from aristocrats.
- The Bible presents usury as sinful, which if read strictly literally indicts the entirety of the modern capitalist system (it's hard to imagine banking and stock brokering without interest—not that it necessarily can't be done, but it will end up looking quite different to what we're used to). Though as with many Bible teachings, there are various ideas on how this should be interpreted. In any case, the Bible stories do rather clearly condemn materialism and greed, with even Jesus using a whip to drive out the moneylenders from the temple.
Gospel of John 2:13-16 (Authorized Version): And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise.
- Desperate Acts Of Capitalism doesn't state this outright, exactly - but it does just about everything short of. The show chronicles the foolish, bizarre, unethical, and illegal things that companies do in their attempts to make money - as well as depicting how often those attempts crash and burn spectacularly.
- The hosts of Podcast: The Ride, despite ostensibly celebrating the joys of corporate entertainment and devoting many episodes to businesses and shopping malls, are often highly critical of the corporations that operate them. Jason especially is prone to the occasional Author Tract about the need for stronger workers' unions, and the villains of their "Downtown Disney Ordeal" Story Arc are all wealthy business owners.
- In Eclipse Phase the most overtly capitalistic societies are the corporate puppet-state Planetary Consortium, and the somewhat less-than-ethical anarcho-capitalist Extropians who allow indentured servitude in contrast to their other Autonomist allies (especially the Creator's Pet Anarchists).
- Monopoly is a classic example, by portraying capitalism as inevitable wealth inequality. 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. Also worth mentioning that the original creators of the game said that criticism of the contemporary laissez-faire that existed when it was originally released was its intention. Though people who did not live through the Great Depression tend only to see Monopoly as an escapist game about being able to fantasize about being wealthy businessmen.
- One of the major villain groups in Werewolf: The Apocalypse is Pentex, an immense Mega-Corp that is literally run by demonic powers to destroy the world by playing this trope completely straight on every level. While the aims of the leadership are overtly dystopian, most of its employees below the top management think it's just another ruthless corporation—but accomplish its aims perfectly well through "normal" corporate corruption, avarice and ambition.
- Chronicles of Darkness:
- Mage: The Awakening: Capitalist ideology is a tool of the Chancellor, a Deity of Human Origin who seeks to dominate the mortal world through its Ancient Conspiracy. Its ultimate goal is a world of venal materialists who treat everything, including other people, as commodities and can be easily controlled through their own greed.
- Changeling: The Lost: The Pearl Satraps are a Changeling Prestige Class who operate on the simple belief that everything can be bought and sold. Their Oathbound Powers are founded on a vow never to turn down an offer for trade — the heinousness of the offer merely adjusts their asking price.
- Little Shop of Horrors: The creators of this off-Broadway musical have said that it is about how "power, greed, and the pressure of capitalism to 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.
- Arguably the central theme of BioShock. The setting is a laissez-faire capitalist utopia in a city at the bottom of the ocean, built by industrialist Andrew Ryan (explicably an Expy of Ayn Rand). Without proper regulation, Rapture quickly turned into a Wretched Hive full of Corrupt Corporate Executives and Social Darwinists, the poor were dehumanised and seen as "parasites" and everything became commodified and fitted with a price tag, even breathable airnote . When someone with even more ruthlessness and business acumen began to outcompete Ryan in the market, Ryan turned to state power to come down on his business rival, dashing all of his guiding beliefs and sparking a Civil War with Rapture's other business owners. Ryan won the resulting war, turning Rapture into a tyrannical One Nation Under Copyright. 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.
- Bioshock Infinite: Plays with this, showing us a corrupt corporate oligarchy using nationalist and religious propaganda to hide their brutal exploitation of the working class and ethnic minorities.
- 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.
- Fallout: The background of the games features hundreds of corrupt corporations, an oligarchic US government and a nuclear war being fought over oil resources. Just think about who consumes oil for a second.
- In Final Fantasy XIV, the Monetarists of Uldah are this. The more powerful section of the ruling Syndicate, they pretty much exist to wring out every last Gil out of the poor. If a law is passed, its because they can make a buck off of it. Its also Played With as some members idealize self-sufficiency and actively scold people for trying to throw money at problems.
- Grand Theft Auto: Every game in the series has some kind of attack on capitalist society.
- Haunting Starring Polterguy: Until the day of his death, poltergeist Polterguy is just a normal 90s teenager. He dies because the Sardini Company sells crappy skateboards just for profit without regards for safety and life.
- In Horizon Zero Dawn, the extinction of all life on earth is caused by out-of-control machines mass-produced by a weapons manufacturer whose CEO became the richest man in history. There are references to violent military campaigns carried out in order to secure valuable commodities ("conflict coffee").
- This is the central theme of Kentucky Route Zero, which is set in the middle of the Great Recession in a decaying section of semi-rural Kentucky. The local Consolidated Power Company controls has their has fingers in every pie through ownership of debt and the local whiskey distillery they own is a debtor's prison that's also an unsubtle Hell allegory.
- L.A. Noire has several seemingly legitimate businesses as a front for drug trafficking and massive insurance fraud. It also shows how deep corruption went in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s, with the police and the mayor turning a blind eye to all this.
- 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.
- The Outer Worlds hilariously deconstructs the Gilded Age in the same way Fallout hilariously deconstructed The '50s, so every criticism and stereotype of out-of-control capitalism is taken to the logical extreme and Played for Laughs. Edgewater, the First Town, is run entirely by Spacer's Choice, even the security detail. One of the guards who you meet in a cave outside of town was wounded when his shoddy company-made pistol misfired into his side, and if aided by the PC he will warn them that he'll get reprimanded for accepting medical attention from a non-company source. The town itself has a huge graveyard which is owned by Spacer's Choice and so the families of the deceased have to pay rent to keep them buried there; if the fees go unpaid then the remains are exhumed and unceremoniously dumped into a nearby ditch.
- Ratchet & Clank: More so the earlier games included some mild satire whereas more recent games starting with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction onwards avert this. While the companies that make the weapons that the protagonist and many other people (including villains) use aren't actively malevolent, they are certainly apathetic in regards to the destruction their customs cause after they've paid for them. In fact, this series is actually the Trope Namer for Mega-Corp.
- Red Dead Redemption: Plays with this, showing how the industrial revolution hitting the dying wild west has more than a few consequences.
- Shakedown: Hawaii has this its main message, being about every single dirty, underhanded, and predatory trick modern Mega Corps use to skirt around the law and government regulations, making their products worse to cut costs while also inflating prices, creating monopolies, and generally conning and fleecing their customers. Of course, the Player Character, being a Corrupt Corporate Executive, is impressed by these tricks and starts employing them himself to save his failing business.
- In Stardew Valley, the closest thing the game has to a driving antagonist is a Walmart Expy that is greedily staking claim to the titular region's resources, dumping polluting refuse into it, working the locals into exhaustion and depression, driving the local mom-and-pop store out of business by using underhanded tactics, and just generally strangling the community spirit. You can side with them, and you can make a lot of money in doing so, but it's thematically discouraged and plus you miss out on a lot of other rewards in doing so.
- In Tonight We Riot, the totalitarian capitalist regime is shamelessly oppressing and exploiting the workers and destroying the environment. It is up to the player to lead an army of workers in a revolution to finally seize the means of production.
- Zombidle invokes this trope by having one of the buildings that Bob the Necromancer can build in Hell called the "Corporate Bank of Capitalism". It provides a Money Multiplier.
- The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: A running theme through the series, directly called out by Epic-Man himself on most occasions, though other characters arrive at similar conclusions through their experiences too.
- Lovely People: The story has an anti-consumerist message all while promoting Christian faith as the alternative to it, so it's definite case of the religious criticism variant.
- Innuendo Studios: Ian Danskin suggests that this is a fundamental belief that separates liberals and conservatives; when living in a culture where democracy and a free market can co-exist, most people, he argues, don't have a problem with (or may even consciously think about) their concurrence. But if given the choice between one or the other, liberals tend to believe this trope, while conservatives tend to believe Democracy Is Bad because the natural order of things allows for bigger and bigger fish to eventually weed out the competition.
- The Nostalgia Critic in his review of the 1997 film Congo criticized this trope. While the CEO of the company who sent the protagonists on their mission may have been a profit-motivated jerkass, for the most part he neither violated the law nor knowingly left them unprepared. When one of the protagonists shoots down a satellite owned by the company, the Critic replies that regardless of what one thinks of the CEO, it was unfair for her to potentially cause employees of the corporation to lose their jobs just so she could make a political statement.
- Overly Sarcastic Productions: Red's video on the Robin Hood legend opens with her discussing her belief that capitalism encourages those with money to hoard it for themselves rather than spend it in a way that benefits others, creating a system that favors a tiny rich elite at the expense of the poor, using footage of Smaug's Dragon Hoard from The Hobbit as an "artist's interpretation".
- Reds!, being an Alternate History about a socialist revolution in the US written by a socialist, has this in any depiction of capitalist countries, both in and out of universe.
- This is Jim Sterling's opinion regarding the video game industry (especially the "Triple A" major studios), and capitalism in general, with the industry leaders insatiable greed resulting in various major problems including:
- Destroying the well-being of the companies' own employees by withholding bonuses on flimsy premises, forcing their staff to do thousands of hours of unpaid overtime as a collective during pre-release "crunch" periods.
- Promoting horrible and predatory business practices such as gambling lootboxes, cutting content to resell it later, increasing the grinding games require to sell "fast track" upgrades & in-game currency.
- Using their money and connection to avoid or circumvent regulations and taxes that might be put upon them, with any charitable acts being so insignificant compared to their earnings that they should not be considered as anything else than publicity stunts to appear as good guys and discourage putting regulations or restrictions on them.
- Renegade Cut: In his review of The Simpsons episode "Homer's Enemy", he makes the case for an anti-capitalism message. Instead of Frank Grimes realizing that his all troubles were due to problems Inherent in the System and then working towards changing the system, he turns all his ire towards Homer Simpson over things that aren't in his control because he's an easier target than Mr. Burns.
- TB Skyen is firmly anti-capitalist, which frequently shows in his analysis, particularily of Soulsborne games.
- In his reading of Dark Souls II, he sees the mining in Brightstone Cove Tseldora as a metaphor for capitalism; The Writhing Ruin was first uncovered by duke Tseldora, a spider-fanatic who employed workers to labor in dangerous mines for his benefit. The duke and all his workers are long dead, but the work continues, as the Writhing Ruin has become a force unto itself which turns the workers into literally mindless slaves doing nothing but work to feed a giant spider.
- In his playthrough of Bloodborne, he takes note of how the world design seems to enforce a class separation in Yharnam; Central Yharnam and Cathedral Ward, which are the visibly wealthies areas in the game, have comparatively few plague beasts; The people there are certainly afflicted, but they remain mostly humanoid, suffering only mild symptoms. The people of Old Yharnam, on the other hand, are all mutated into beasts. He also takes note of the multiple points in the game where the player can knock on doors and hear various mocking lines of dialogue from the inhabitants, which he sees as the wealthy that can afford incense to ward of the beast plague, whereas the player character can't, and has to fight for their life to stay alive. Finally, when discussing Micolash, he outright compares him to Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos; A powerful and narcisistic asshole who thinks his scholarly pursuits into higher planes of being are so much more important than the people dying of a plague outside.
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers used the third type of this trope to portray how the results of Unfettered Capitalism detrimentally affect the natural environment.
- Neo Yokio: Sailor Pellegrino and Helena Saint Tesoro both have beef with the upper-class of Neo Yokio.
- The Simpsons and Futurama: Both Mr. Burns and Mom are caricatures of evil businesspeople without any morals and are effectively both the main antagonists in these series, both created by Matt Groening.
- South Park, a series with an admittedly Libertarian-leaning, tends to invert this trope whenever it should crop up:
- The series averts this (or, at the very least, downplays it) in Gnomes. The episode presents Harbucks Coffee as a company, like any other, that started out small, but because of positive quality, was able to grow into a powerhouse corporation. The executive running the place isn't even evil; he's just forced to resort to petty tactics to compete with small-business owner Mr. Tweak, who manipulates the minds of the general public (many of whom already don't trust corporations) into taking his side.
Kyle: Big corporations are good! ...Without big corporations, we wouldn't have things like cars, and computers, and canned soup.
- A Very Crappy Christmas argues that (even if the town mayor is the one pushing it) the blatant and overdrawn commercialism of the Christmas season is what makes it so special. Without it, the holiday season either passes by without notice, or becomes all about peace, love, and togetherness. Which is boring.
Mackey: Christmas is about presents. If we all buy presents, everyone benefits, m'kay?
Choksondik: We got so caught up in the little things of Christmas, like love and family that we almost forgot it's buying things that makes our economy thrive.
- This trope is also played with, but ultimately subverted, in Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes. While the newly-opened superstore Wall-Mart is portrayed as a sapient Eldritch Location that exists only to corrupt and devastate towns across the country economically and socially (to the point of turning South Park into a ghost town, and driving its regretful creators to suicide), the physical personification of the store itself admits greed and desire is what keeps it alive and prosperous; in other words, capitalism isn't inherently the villain, but a lack of personal responsibility and blind consumerism is. This apparently goes over the heads of the adults, who come to this conclusion, but in trying to support a small, mom-and-pop store, end up turning it into a successful corporation, which they decide to burn to the ground.
- Despite the subversion, South Park did show the Full-Circle Revolution nature of businesses, which were shown with the underhanded tactics of Tweak's coffee store and Randy's utilization of Amazon-esque online delivery for his marijuana farm before taking over other family farms and murdering Winnie The Pooh just to be a sole Marijuana distributor in China. As the show has shown that the small businesses would one day become the mega-corporation (or becoming dominant in general) and eventually planning a stranglehold against the same businesses that it once belongs to.
- South Park's stance could be more accurately described as "rent-seeking is bad." If a business is a villain, it's typically not because it sells products to try to make money, but because it attempts to lobby local government to help stamp out the competition. Tweak and Randy are both guilty of this. Ditto the cab drivers in "Handicar", who attempt to spend resources trying to shut Handicar down, instead of attempting to compete fairly by making their own product better (a thinly veiled parody of the how the ride-sharing tech company Uber has experienced backlash from local European governments being lobbied by taxi unions).
Cabby 1: We need to speak to the mayor and tell her to shut down this illegitimate business!
Cabby 2: Or maybe we could have the police shut him down!
Mimsy: Hey, I got an idea! Why don't you guys make your cars cleaner and nicer, and try to be better to your customers, so you can compete with Handicar's popularity in the marketplace?
Nathan: (to the cabbies) Just ignore my friend. He's mentally disabled.
- The series averts this (or, at the very least, downplays it) in Gnomes. The episode presents Harbucks Coffee as a company, like any other, that started out small, but because of positive quality, was able to grow into a powerhouse corporation. The executive running the place isn't even evil; he's just forced to resort to petty tactics to compete with small-business owner Mr. Tweak, who manipulates the minds of the general public (many of whom already don't trust corporations) into taking his side.