Leader characters in science-fiction films? Most times awful, not awesome.
There is a difference between Eastern and Western narratives.
Mainstream Western science-fiction celebrates the evil business leader.
The film plots meet the expectation that in a dystopic future only a few world-wide operating companies will rule the economy with an iron fist and by that destroying all fun-loving expressions and aspirations of the human society.
The dystopian Western science-fiction stereotype tries to hammer into our minds:
„A good boss is an unemotional, reckless war-lord“.
Here two typical fictional leader characters from Western science fiction movies:
Evil business leader fictional character "Dr. Bernard Merrick", head of Merrick Biotech, a company that sells human clones to wealthy clients. His behavior is cold and calculating.
The film: „The Island“ (2005).
Evil business leader fictional character
"Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg", head of Zorg Industries, a powerful multinational with business interests ranging from taxi service to weapons manufacturing. The CEO is selling out humanity to aliens. His behavior is unforgiving, envious, paranoidal.
The film „The Fifth Element“ (1997).
Eastern science-fiction so far worships another leadership idol - the sacrificing leader.
The "Wandering Earth" (2017) a sci-fi movie, based on a novel by Chinese writer Cixin Liu, tells a different approach to leadership:
- Business is a not visible issue;
- Chinese leaders are cool cats in a crisis - because they have a sense of home and a strategy of what is good for the collective of mankind;
- Only Chinese engineers know how to effectively juggle with the complex systems of the future.
Watch the movie trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lsOwtKNsAA
The fictional leader characters in Eastern and Western science-fiction illustrate a social, ideo-logical and emotional divide.
Western sci-fi describes the single leader absolutism as the future of leadership culture to stay. Lonely tyrants rule like slave drivers over teams of subordinates consisting of reckless gangsters, efficiency-driven bureaucrats and cowardly scientists. Messed up personalities head business molechs and follow a cramped ambition: relentless control over all areas of life on earth and other planets.
If we like realize or not, the internal reasoning salutes. "Yes, business longs for ridiculous leaders!". "Yes, if you want to dominate markets in ahead of the curve business segments the success is not created by the “good-doers!”. The story line is about: Who cares whether you are a criminal or a psychopath as long as the money is rolling in?
The idol of the business leader, who brushes aside all resistance, is in harmony with business theory and practical advice in the West, even if some folksy term such as change management or emotional intelligence feed leadership "goo".
Western dystopian imagination of the future leader has no suggestions and blue prints of how a sophisticated business leader may act and think.
Join in for a liberating mind game: Imagine we rewrite the plot for Mr Merrick for making him a lader who is caring for sustainability and mindful health.
Mind strategy A “Making things hum !” Imagine Merrick gets introduced to real life gardening of plants by a lover and diversifies the business into a producer of agricultural products that need less plowing and no herbicides. Playful! Playful.
Mind strategy B “Enjoying a secret !” Imagine Merrick brings out a kit that enables to grow clones at home, at a reasonable price which more people than only wealthy persons can pay. But he installs a decay sequence of the clones as well. Wise! Wise!
Mind strategy C “Sidestepping a barrier!” Imagine Merrick bets on another business, too - health care prevention. The purpose: keeping individuals and groups away from emotional and physical devastation. The clones are only willing to die if the owner can convincingly show how mindful she/he is about her health. Rebellious! Rebellious!
Let´s go East again.
Eastern sci-fi, with China currently having the greatest say, celebrates the illusion of the high-talented leader circle, where individual self-satisfaction and public recognition don´t matter. China has a rich cultural heritage of ancient hero stories called Wuxia. The hero is never a selfish person, is willing to undergo several tests of refining his/her integrity and uses his/her superpowers for the greater good.
Being on the take, defrauding and snitching on other people are the dark side of business behavior at daily use all over the globe. I must admit that clinging to the idol of the kind of "self-liquidating" leader is today a too static approach to power for the next generations of Eastern leaders who will put on their mark to global economy.
I am a Westerner by birth and cultural upbringing. So, it´s a challenge for me to think about liberating the Eastern futuristic view of leadership from its self-deceiving straight-jacket.
Allow me a trial.
What I learned during my stays in China is that Chinese people can handle the "fuzzyness", of a situation much better than us Westerners. The creative clash between individuals, tribes and crowds and whatever formations of human social connectedness or distance that is induced by super sensitive leaders waits to be told. I presume this kind of literature will be of Eastern, not Western, origin due to our Western supersaturation.
Opening a fresh chapter of future loving leadership stories
I would love to read and watch science-fiction that gets away from describing foreseeable challenges for mankind such as the aliens are coming or after the nuclear crash.
The future is attractive to deal with if we allow us to slip into immeasurable and untold existences of leadership. Imagine we refuse to obey to the robot boss that will obliterate human failure which is fed with machine learning biases.
Leaders who can juggle with the crazyness of opposing realities, have a fortune (luck), in the East, the North, the West and The South.
Patricia von Papstein
In another blog entry I will refer to the contribution of Russian science-fiction to futuristic leadership narratives.