The more things change, the more they stay the same… or get worse…
In their latest documentary, The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel, filmmakes Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott return to explore the underlying issues of corporate greed and how it is currently affecting our lives. The sequel to 2003’s compelling doc The Corporation, Bakan and Abbott have yet again created an enthralling expose regarding the hypocrisy of the modern business mindset. Whereas the first film explores the legal decisions that allowed business to define themselves as people, the sequel instead sheds light on new social piety embedded within corporate greed and how that is shaping our world. Since their last venture, much has changed in the corporate world with the rise to power of social networks and continuing de-regulations on domestic businesses that have allowed an unprecedented amount of money to be handed to the wealthy. As a result, the gap between rich and poor continuing to widen and civil unrest continues to rise.
Perhaps the most significant revelation in New Corporation is the evolution of the perception of big business as motivator of social change. Since 2003, corporations such as Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and many more have publicly stated their intent to support and even spearhead reforms on social justice, globalization and the environment. In doing so, their public image continues to improve while they emphasize the financial bottom line behind the scenes. (In one particularly revealing example, Abbott and Bakan point out that, although efforts to improve education in 3rd world countries appear to be benevolent, the work actually brings more money in for the stockholders back home.) With this in mind, New Corporation proves that the underlying message of big business has not changed in the last two decades: profit. Despite their superficial public benevolence, this ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality continues to drive their decision-making with little care for those who stand in their way, including influencing government policies.
However, in the midst of this, New Corporation also offers a glimmer of hope. Coming at a time when global culture demands genuine social action, the film is also a call for people to become actively involved in affecting change together. This is not a film merely interested in pulling back the cover on corporate greed but rather one that insists that something must be done to prevent it. Though the statistics and financial influence of these companies can seem deafening, Abbott and Bakan remind their audience that their voice still matters. As more and more people enter the political arena and speak out through social movements such as Occupy, there have been ripple effects that have managed to slow or even overturn the power of major businesses. As such, the film serves as a wake-up call to not only increase awareness for the viewer but also invite them to actively participate in the resistance. In this way, there is a pulsating heartbeat of justice that lies at the core of The New Corporation that makes the film essential viewing.
As The New Corporation comes to a close, one cannot help but feel frustrated by the ever-evolving relationship of manipulation between business and consumer. By returning to the world of high-stakes finance, Bakan and Abbott have once again uncovered a story that is as fascinating as much as it is upsetting. As corporations continue to tighten their grip on our lives, the filmmakers understand the importance of their message and prove that, as the title suggests, the film is ‘unfortunately necessary’.
The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel is available in select theatres on November 13th, 2020.