The Fun and Fear of Fictional Corporations

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Weyland-Yutani (Alien). Cyberdyne Systems (Terminator). Encom (Tron). Silver Shamrock (Halloween 3).

What do they have in common? They are the fictional corporations in the background of many iconic film franchises, TV series and universes – oftentimes playing a major or the major role in moving plotlines along through typical big-business greed and manipulation.

I LOVE the fictional big bad business trope in films/TV because of how ‘real’ it can make the setting become. Theoretically we already deal with giant, corrupt corporations in our real, every day lives today. We don’t often think that these companies could very well be setting the demise of humanity into motion as we sit and consume our lives away. I think if you reflect on how we are constantly reminded in so many different ways of how unchecked ‘bad’ businesses can be, it can serve as one powerful wake-up call to the dangers of ignorance and apathy in our day-to-day lives and society as a whole.

They sell us the promise of a perfect future realized, but instead there’s often disaster lurking right around the corner – unscrupulous R&D budgets lead to insanely dangerous ‘innovations’ that create huge messes for protagonists to clean up. Sounds a lot like modern oil and resource extraction companies today. Or the pharmaceutical industry. Or our ‘factory food’ systems. Yikes!

Some notable examples include:

  • Cyberdyne Systems developed what would become Skynet in the Terminator franchise.
  • Silver Shamrock Novelties passed off innocent Halloween masks that were imbued with dark energy from Stonehenge.
  • Weyland-Yutani is a cybernetic technologies and planet colonization corporation that indirectly created and wants to weaponize the xenomorphs in the Alien universe.
  • Encom is the Microsoft allegory in Tron, wanting to own its software as well as its users in perpetuity.
  • The Umbrella Corporation developed and lost containment of the t-virus, spawning the mutated horrors that persist in the Resident Evil universe.
  • Stark Industries plays a role in defense contracting and weapons development that plays both sides of conflicts in the Iron Man/Marvel universe (until Tony Stark shutters that side of the business, reflecting personal guilt.)
  • Baktoid Armor Workshop (Star Wars) was a subsidiary company that developed ground assault vehicles for the separatist armies during the Clone Wars.

As a fan of logo design, I also appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into creating what is essentially a ‘fake’ company with legitimate logos and branding that could easily be seen and believed in the real world. Many of the companies on the screen emulate existing or past corporations and modify popular, iconic, or successful logo designs, which can make things seem eerily similar when you least expect it.

At the end of the day, a movie franchise/universe can be made all the more ‘real’ and immersive when something as common and mundane as a company is developed and revealed to have a much larger role than just being stuck in the background. We would all do well to heed the warnings given in these fictional settings so that we can be better prepared for the very real threats we face in life today.

What’s your favorite fictional company or logo? There are so many that I didn’t even mention, notables include US Robotics (I, Robot), Wayne Enterprises (Batman), Lexcorp (Superman), The Dharma Initiative (LOST), Buy N Large (Wall-E), etc.

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