Capitalists are Cast as the Villains in Films Mean Things Happening and The Devil and Miss Jones

Disney-Villains-cruella-devil-2508592-1280-1024Mean Things Happening, an episode from a PBS documentary, allowed both the capitalists and workers narrate their point of view throughout the episode. The son of John L. Lewis, owner of J.L. Steel, spoke on behalf of his father and put in perspective what it was like to see the friction between the capitalists and workers from an executive stand point. This stand point patronized John L. Lewis and gave him humanistic qualities that searched for a way to meet the needs of his workers while maintaining a successful company. In The Devil and Miss Jones, early forties screwball comedy, the capitalists were undeniably undesirable, temperamental, and stuck up. No sympathy was given to the capitalists until Merrick, owner of the department store, descended to the level of his workers, assimilated among them, and saw the mistreatment of his workers first-hand. Merrick’s character transformed from easily angered and quick to fire any worker that disagreed with him to calm, collected, and ready to hear out the workers in conferences debating wages and hours.

In every history book, the capitalists are written as the villains during this time. And it is the workers that are depicted as the overworked, underpaid underdogs while the capitalists are the power hungry, greedy Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 3.27.24 PMdictators. In both films, Mean Things
and The Devil and Miss Jones, the problems of the workers are of no concern to the capitalists who only give their ear to the workers when they are tired of being pestered. The requests of the workers are categorized as “minor complaints” in Mean Things Happening.

The solution at the end of The Devil and Miss Jones was reached when Merrick was willing to hold conferences with his workers. For Mean Things Happening, a solution was reached when Steel Workers Organized Committee took over little steel and the workers began electing their friends to hold public office. In both films, the workers gained the control that they desired and felt that was rightfully theirs. This control did not create a utopia in the work place. But it was another step towards improvement and progress for the American market because the workers were able to get back to work.


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