All business people are greedy and mean. They’re often overweight and sweaty, too. They wear pinstriped suits and they rub their hands together at the thought of money. They trick innocent customers with their words and they are purely focused on sales, profit and power.
You will hopefully have met some brilliant, intelligent and compassionate businesspeople who simply don’t fit the above description. You may know that all business people aren’t greedy and mean, but you couldn’t blame a child for thinking they were. Want proof? Ask a child what they think of businesspeople. Go on, do it now. Chances are the response will be negative.
Businesspeople as role models
From a very young age, we learn about the world from the people around us. We learn from the television and from books, from our parents and teachers. The following characters are businesspeople from books, films and television shows. Decide for yourself what impression they give to children.
Lord Business, The Lego Movie
He normally wears a grey business suit. He has a yellow head with a large brown unibrow and an evil smirk. One of his personas wears a square brown hairpiece, and his other wears an elaborate headdress decorated with red coffee cups, a chest plate with a metal business tie as well as a long cape that also resembles a business tie and exaggeratedly large boots with sections that light up. The boots can also change their height to however Lord Business wants.
Lord Business is the alter ego of President Business, an uptight company president who wants to organize everything around him. As Lord Business, he commands a robot militia with plans to take over the world by gluing it together with a substance called Kragle which is actually a tube of Krazy Glue.
Mr Burns, The Simpsons
Burns is the evil owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and is also Homer Simpson’s boss. He is a stereotype of corporate America in his unquenchable desire to increase his own wealth and power, inability to remember his employees’ names (including Homer’s) and lack of concern for their safety and well-being.
Burns’ trademark expression is the word “excellent”, muttered slowly in a low, sinister voice while steepling his fingertips. He Springfield’s richest and most powerful citizen. He uses his power and wealth to do whatever he wants, usually without regard for consequences and without interference from the authorities.
Harry Wormwood, Matilda
Mr. Wormwood is depicted as being a loudmouthed, brash, and insulting man, but a wealthy automotive salesman whose manipulative business practices have earned great profits. Self-important but ignorant, Mr. Wormwood regards himself as sly, clever, and intelligent.
Surly and intensely offensive, when agitated or provoked in the slightest bit he possesses a tendency to lash out fiercely at the cause of his infuriation, resorting to extremely hurtful name-calling in times of irritation, even towards his little daughter Matilda. Despite his high opinion of himself, as mentioned previously, he is quite simple-minded and moronic, expressing a low opinion of the literary world and disapproving of Matilda’s passion for books, believing that television presents far more benefits than books, so therefore he, his wife, and son are constantly seen seated before their television. Despite his riches, Mr. Wormwood is also noted for his deception in the automotive industry, illegally selling repainted, disguised stolen cars to look new to unsuspecting customers.
There are a number of other examples you might have come across including Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol), Disney’s Scrooge McDuck and Cyril Sneer (The Racoons) amongst others. If we continue to portray business people so negatively, we are in danger of almost creating an expectation of people going into business; that they must be ruthless and profiteering. Changing this pattern is crucial to inspiring honest, innovative and hard-working people to start honest and innovative businesses.
So the question now is how do we put confidence back into children that business people aren’t all bad? How to we encourage them to want to grow up to own or run companies, to hire people and to develop new and innovate ways of solving problems? Where are the resourceful, hard-working and personable businesspeople in children’s storybooks and media?
For more business people portrayed negatively in popular culture, check out this Facebook album.