Everyone knows that movies and TV shows fail miserably in their attempts to capture the workplace (Cracked sums some common tropes up nicely). While watching the CW’s Arrow TV show, I knew business would have to come up every now and then, thanks to the title character’s family owning one of the biggest conglomerates in the DC Comic world. I wasn’t expecting them to get the business part right, but I was hoping the writers wouldn’t fail as badly as they did in Season 2, Episode 19.
(Some spoilers ahead)
For those of you unfamiliar with the Green Arrow story, the protagonist is basically a twist on Batman: billionaire Oliver Queen by day, a guy with a crazy bow and martial arts skills by night (and apparently wears the same magic bullet shield common to these superhero stories). The Arrow TV Show is a spin-off from Smallville, and, like that show, keeps many of the comic’s characters, but changes the story in some key ways.
Fortunately, the Arrow TV Show has mostly kept to the struggles of Oliver Queen trying to clean up a corrupt city by shooting pointy things through people. Every now and then the writers have tried to make Queen Consolidated into more than just a piggy bank to fund our heroes’ vigilante lifestyle, and each time they’ve failed.
For example, in Season 1, a group of wealthy elites are gathered at the Queen’s home. And I swear every single word out of their mouths (before the killing started again) was like a caricature of a Republican written by someone camped out in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Because apparently everyone in Hollywood believes Democrats can’t run businesses.
It was really too much in the latest episode, though. Not to give too much away, but in the Arrow TV Show episode 18, Oliver was tricked out of running his business. He temporarily appointed someone as CEO, and this temp was able to call an emergency meeting of the Board of Directors and have her placed as permanent CEO.
Okay, so far it’s plausible. But then Oliver tries to get it back. He’s told that, yes, his family still owns the majority of the company, but this evil CEO has diluted the value of the shares so much that he has no power.
So let me get this straight. A family owns the majority of a huge company. Since there’s a Board of Directors, it’s safe to assume that Queen Consolidated in the Arrow TV Show is supposed to be publicly traded, which would give us a situation like Dish Network, where Charlie Ergan owns something like 52% of the company. Since the shareholders choose the people on the board, you think that AT LEAST ONE would be a really close friend to the Queens. Or at least close enough to give them a heads up phone call that someone is trying to remove Oliver from his CEO position.
Next, how could the evil CEO dilute the power of the shareholders in the company? She could issue way more shares to outside investors, but then the Queen family would no longer own the majority of the company, which we were told they still did. And that doesn’t even get into the fact that a CEO can’t just issue shares willy nilly.
Alternatively, maybe the character just meant that the shares weren’t worth much anymore. If that’s the case, a new CEO somehow destroyed the value of a multibillion dollar corporation in a matter of weeks (exact timeframe isn’t given, but it’s only between two episodes). I can guarantee if that were to happen the Board of Directors wouldn’t sit around to kick this new CEO to the curb.
In other words, it sounds like the writers of the Arrow TV Show pulled up the index of Investopedia without bothering to figure out what any of the words meant.
And if all that weren’t enough, a lawyer (I assume) shows up after the takeover to consult the Queens to put their assets in a trust, which would save the assets from the evil CEO. While this one has a very vague possibility of being a real thing (very, very vague), I can almost completely guarantee there’s not a single multibillion dollar family in the United States that’s savvy enough in business to be part of the richest elites but too ignorant to not have already moved their vast fortunes into a complicated series of trusts that only the most dedicated accountant can understand.
I know, it’s a TV show about a super hero. I should suspend my disbelief. But would it really be that hard to figure out if the business rules that you needlessly incorporate have at least the slightest bit of fact behind them? Or just leave them out altogether?
Suddenly I understand when astrophysicists criticize movies like Gravity. But at least the Gravity creators were trying to get the science mostly right. And it was a metaphor for grief, anyway.
I guess the real moral of the post, Hollywood, is not to throw in random business terms to make you sound smart. As long as you stick to that simple rule, I’ll suspend my disbelief for everything else.