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Suit with Vested Interests

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"In [Jaws], you will recall, the danger of shark attacks was concealed by venal real estate speculators who didn't want to scare the buyers away. That's the case this time, too; The Realtor throws a party for prospective home buyers and denies that there are piranhas in the lake until most of his would-be buyers have been digested. Implausible, you say? Try telling that to the piranhas. Next, I am anticipating a movie called Realtor."

If you've seen a Disaster Movie or Monster Movie, you've probably seen this trope. There's an oncoming disaster and The Hero is trying to get everyone to see the Cassandra Truth. Problem is that there's this one guy, a businessman in a nice suit, involved with something that's going to suffer if the disaster comes about. He'll argue against people believing the hero or the Ignored Expert, he'll try to convince people that they are safe with his product, he'll focus on the potential rather than the safety, and he'll try to stop word from getting further so that the stock prices don't sink, all while the boat does.

The vested interest varies with each story. He could be the owner of the project that is actively causing the disaster or whose destruction is the disaster. On the other hand, it could just be that they would lose a lot of money from the Attack of the Town Festival. In fact, in the Attack of the Town Festival, expect this role to be played by the mayor. Finally, the best way to really up their villainy and corruption is for them to actually try to profit off the disaster when faced with the truth, with the disaster itself becoming the vested interest.

Similarly, his portrayal and motivation varies. He could be an outright Corrupt Corporate Executive who believes the disaster and just doesn't care, or simply so emotionally invested in what he has that he can't bring himself to face the truth. The latter tends to resonate better and appear more realistic to audiences, as well as having a natural connection to the common theme in disaster movies of Mankind vs. His Folly.

He can be either an old set-in-his-ways businessman, or a young, up-and-coming-with-a-lot-to-prove, charming guy. Pretty much Always Male due to the age of these movies, the characters, the nature of the flaw, and the Love Interest occasionally starting off as his and then changing over to the hero. By the way, the old guy vs. young buck choice tends to work as a foil to the hero.

He'll often be the Doomed Contrarian and get finally called out as Lethally Stupid. Compare Death by Materialism.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Boys: It takes a while for Stilwell to get it through his head that the Corporate-Sponsored Superhero is a bad idea, even if Vought tries to run damage control for their worst excesses. "Mount a coup and murder the President of the United States"-bad. When he's seen again in "Dear Becky", he's gone nuts, and spends his days growing pineapples while quoting economic theory.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs:
    • Flint accidentally creates a machine that makes food fall from the sky, and the mayor immediately latches onto it as a way to save the failing town. After a month, the food that falls starts to get bigger, which Flint realizes is due to its molecular structure overmutating. He's considering shutting down the machine, but the mayor talks him out of it, since it's one day before the town's grand re-opening.
    • The mayor is slightly more proactive than most in causing the disaster — Flint returns to his laboratory to find that the now-gigantic mayor has somehow gotten in there first and has programmed the device to produce a "Vegas-style all-you-can-eat buffet". Cue Food-A-Geddon…
  • From the film adaptation of Horton Hears a Who!, part of the reason that the council rejects the mayor's warnings of Whoville's imminent danger is the upcoming Whocentennial celebration.
  • The Mayor in Osmosis Jones. Wants to get reelected, and hopes to stay popular by going to a Bufallo Wing Festival, instead of keeping Frank in bed (to fight off his sickness). He also opposes changing to a healthier lifestyle in general.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Burke in Aliens - in the first act, he's set up as a 'good guy' - the only one who believes Ripley's account of what happened to the Nostromo, only to have a hidden agenda of wanting to come back with a sample of a Xenomorph when going on the mission back to LV-426. Then again, the company he works for, Weyland-Yutani, is depicted throughout the series as the epitome of corporate corruption. He even lampshades this when he says, "I work for the Company - but I'm really a good guy."
  • Selfridge in Avatar: The only thing worse than a PR disaster is a lack of dividends for stockholders.
  • Dante's Peak actually has this trope invoked — the initial reaction of the town council was to take the threat quite seriously.
  • Don't Look Up: NASA's mission to destroy the comet actually went off without a hitch... only to be abruptly aborted when Peter Isherwell, a top donor to the president, argued that mining the comet for its mineral wealth was more important than preventing The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Executive Decision: One of the passengers aboard the Oceanic Airlines plane that was taken over by terrorists is a U.S. Senator named Mavros, who late approaches the terrorists to try to help them negotiate with the Pentagon because his aide convinces him that if he succeeds in calming things down he will get brownie points with his constituents as a hero that he may ride into a presidential ticket. In a similar fashion to Ellis in Die Hard, Hassan, the terrorist leader, puts Mavros on the radio and then blows his brains out to prove to the Pentagon that he's not bluffing about his threat to kill all of the passengers unless his demands are met.
  • Jaws has the mayor, who's more of a Politician with Vested Interests, but with a focus on all of the town's businesses and how they'll suffer if everybody avoids the place due to a shark panic on the Fourth of July. In the movie, the portrayal is of a man who just can't grasp the seriousness of the situation until a shark attack finally occurs in broad daylight while his grandchildren are at the beach (though in his defense, he does have a point — a summer community like Amity needs tourists, or they go on welfare at best, out of business entirely/bankrupt at worst). In the book, however, he is just a puppet of the local Mafia, who profit from the town's businesses and just don't care whether there is a shark or not.
  • Jaws 2: It becomes a bit ridiculous at this point when the mayor and the city council still refuse to believe Brody's claim that another shark is on the loose and fire him for his refusal to hush it up after the events of the previous film. Possibly they were hoping that the "lightning never strikes twice" principle would hold true.
  • The Lady Vanishes has two elegantly dressed men who deny seeing any evidence because they don't want to miss a cricket match.
  • Shark Attack 3: Megalodon has two for good measure. There's a holiday resort owner who doesn't want the beaches closed but at least wants the problem solved. Then there is an electricity company owner whose wires are attracting the shark and who has a big wire junction opening coming up to which he will take a boat full of corporate guests. He knew there was a problem and still doesn't care and goes ahead with the launch of the magical shark attractors and boat ride. Then when ship hits the fin, he knocks somebody else out to use his jetski to escape before being Hoist by His Own Petard and driving right into the shark's mouth.
  • When Time Ran Out..., a volcano disaster movie by the same director as The Towering Inferno, has a hotel resort on a Pacific island being jealously guarded by a guy whose portrayal starts getting worse starting with some daddy issues, through hiding the evidence, ending with his fiancée leaving after she finds out he used her to get to her rich godfather, right up to locking himself in his hotel in hope of avoiding a river of lava.
  • Speaking of The Towering Inferno, the developer James Duncan tries to thwart both the architect and the city's fire chief when they urge the top floor be evacuated during the opening gala due to the fire some stories below. (An evacuation would clearly and embarrassingly undercut his previous public assertions that this record-breaking building was safe.) Duncan even tries to pull rank on the fire chief by mentioning the presence of a U.S. senator; the chief retorts that in an emergency, he outranks everyone there.
  • Knight Moves: After the first murder, the Mayor visits the Sherrif's office to suggest that he pin the murder on some random criminal to avoid any more bad publicity for their town during the international chess tournament that is taking place at that moment. The sheriff curtly rejects her idea.
  • King Cobra (1999): When the main characters go to the mayor with claims of a giant cobra hunting people throughout the town, he refuses to cancel an upcoming town carnival because of the bad publicity. It takes the death of one of his closest friends for him to call in back-up.
  • In The Night Stalker, the Las Vegas authorities do their best to downplay the vampire serial killer’s killing spree so as not to jeopardize the tourist industry, and so that they can look goodnote . The sequel, The Night Strangler, has the incompetent chief of police do the same thing.
  • Ghostbusters (2016) plays with this in the Mayor of New York, who tries to downplay the ghost infestation and calls the Ghostbusters frauds but turns out to be secretly funding them. In a pretty meta joke, when he is directly compared to Mayor Larry Vaughn (the one from Jaws), it is revealed that such a comparison is his Berserk Button.
  • To Catch a Killer (2023): Baltimore mayor Jesse Capleton appears to be more concerned with the negative blowback on his administration that would result from imposing curfews or shutting down public places of gathering than in public safety. Lammark directly compares him to Mayor Vaughn from Jaws.
    Lammark: Jesse, have you ever seen Jaws? Right now you're the asshole trying to keep the beaches open!

  • Breckinridge 'Breck' Scott, the Corrupt Corporate Executive from World War Z. He was the head of a pharmaceutical company that produced Phalanx, a supposed vaccine for Solanum that actually did work... that is, against rabies, which is what the media was initially attributing the zombie outbreaks to. All it did against Solanum was allow society to keep blissfully ignoring the emerging Zombie Apocalypse until it was too late. In his interview afterwards, done at the Antarctic bunker where he'd been holed up for years (even after the zombies were beaten, given that the the US will arrest him if he ever returns home), he even gloats about how he knew that Phalanx was a sham, and blames everybody who bought it for being dumb enough to think that it worked without doing their own research.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: NY: During the Cabbie Killer arc ("PersonalFoul"), Mac is asked by a reporter at a press conference if he'd get into a NYC taxi. He replies that he wouldn't and as soon as the conference is over, the Mayor's assistant chews him out for causing a panic in the city and keeping thousands of cab drivers out of work. He replies that he'd rather be unemployed than dead and she says, "That can be arranged." He finally shuts her up by asking if she's going to take responsibility for the killer's next victim.
  • Richard Pritchard, the Vector Petroleum executive in the Doctor Who episode "Under the Lake", insists on keeping the craft underwater so he can claim both the oil he thinks is there and the alien artifacts. This after a ghost kills Captain Moran. Pritchard himself is next.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street:
    • In "And the Rocket's Dead Glare", Lewis and Crosetti head up to Washington to investigate whether the Chinese government had a political refugee assassinated on U.S. soil for participating in the Tiananmen Square protest, only to find themselves stone walled by a Secret Service agent. The agent privately hints to Lewis that he's right, but exposing it would cause political turmoil the government would prefer to avoid.
    • In "Subway", a man is shoved into the path of a train and is left pinned between the train and the subway platform, and Pembleton and Bayliss investigate to try and find out who pushed him. While they do this, a transit official repeatedly hounds them to get them to move the man out, even though this would kill him, because the trains are being held up because of this.

  • Peter Stockmann in An Enemy of the People is mayor of a town with public baths that (as his brother Thomas has discovered) are dangerously contaminated. Unwilling to accept the economic repercussions of closing the baths, he insists that they are safe and pressures Thomas to go along.

    Web Comics 
  • The sheriff acts the role of the mayor in Jaws for the same reason in the Sluggy Freelance arc "Kitten". Parodied when the doctor trying to send out warnings points out that the "tourist industry" that the sheriff doesn't want disrupted consists of a couple cabins that the town rents out to vacationing college kids and that she could cover the town's losses out of her own pocket.

    Real Life 
  • The Parable of the Broken Window was created by the French classical liberal economist Frédéric Bastiat, to explain why destroying things (be it through war, planned obsolescence, or otherwise) was not a productive way of boosting the economy.
  • In more recent years, a similar concept known as disaster capitalism was coined by alter-globalist writer Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine.

Alternative Title(s): Businessman With Vested Interests