©2021, by M. Keith Booker
At first glance, Sorry to Bother You might not appear to be a horror film. Indeed, it is such an unusual film that it is hard to place in any category at all. It is certainly a work of satire, and one that deals with extremely serious and complex issues, though (as satire always does) it exaggerates and simplifies those issues for rhetorical effectiveness. It includes what one might think of as science fictional elements, especially in the way it creates a world that has access to technologies that are not currently available in our world. But it provides essentially no details about the working of those technologies and seems to have little interest in the actual science behind them. There are moments, however, of almost classic horror, as when protagonist Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfeld) first discovers the suffering “horse people,” who seem to be the result of a macabre experiment straight out of something like The Island of Lost Souls (1932). The real horror of Sorry to Bother You, though, is the system of capitalist exploitation on which the film so doggedly focuses its satire—and one of the biggest advantages of reading the film within the context of horror is that it helps to clarify the horrors that are being revealed in the film, horrors to which we have become so accustomed that they are in danger of appearing natural and unavoidable.
It is tempting to read Sorry to Bother You as a sort of companion film to Get Out, another effective horror satire with a black writer-writer and black protagonist. Indeed, much of the satire of Sorry to Bother You is also aimed at racism—most obviously seen when Cassius gets a job as a telemarketer for a company called “Regalview,” then quickly discovers that he will have far greater success in this job if he adopts a “white” voice (supplied for the film by comedian David Cross), which presumably reassures customers and makes them more receptive to his sales pitch. The resultant implication is clear: racism is so deeply ingrained in American society that African Americans, in order to succeed, have to play by the rules of white-dominated society and to behave as if they are white, even if they are not literally “passing” as white people in their lives.
Extending this point, Cassius eventually becomes so accustomed to using his “white” voice on the job that he begins using it in his private life as well—without even being conscious that he is doing so. The film thus makes clear the extent to which this need to behave according to white standards can be internalized in African Americans to the point that it becomes an unconscious habit. That Cassius’s girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) reacts so negatively to this “white” voice helps to make clear just how problematic this phenomenon can be, representing what might be described as the colonization of the consciousnesses of African Americans by white modes of thinking, bringing with it an unconscious sense that white modes of thinking, acting, and talking are the “correct” and “normal” ways, superior to the “incorrect” and “aberrant” ways of black people.
However, in the case of Sorry to Bother You, this commentary on racism is secondary to the film’s central focus on the exploitation of both workers and consumers by the movers and shakers of the capitalist economic system. Regalview itself is an extremely exploitative employer, paying its telemarketers only in commissions, while keeping the majority of the fruits of their labors for itself. They also employ a ludicrous system of incentives in order to try to make workers think they are being rewarded more fairly than they really are. The only way, in fact, to make anything close to an adequate wage is to sell so many of the company’s largely useless products that one is promoted to the status of “power caller,” literally moved upstairs to the top floor of the Regalview building to sell elite, high-profit products among one’s fellow power callers.
Tellingly, the power callers are required to speak in white voices at all times while at work (not just when they are on sales calls), thus emphasizing the way in which these power callers, even if black, have been thoroughly incorporated within the white-dominated establishment. Indeed, virtually all of the practices on the top floor seem specifically designed to separate the power callers from the company’s ordinary workers, potentially depriving those workers of their best minds and of potential leaders who might help them to organize to get better treatment from their employer. That this is the case is made clear when Cassius is made a power caller just as the ordinary callers are beginning to attempt to organize into a union under the leadership of one Squeeze (Stephen Yeun). When Squeeze eventually leads the callers in a strike action, Cassius assures them that he sympathizes with their cause. Unfortunately, though, as a power caller he is considered management, rather than labor, so he feels compelled to cross the picket line and go to work, despite the strike, causing considerable friction between him and his former fellow workers—not to mention Detroit.
The central conceit of Sorry to Bother You involves a company called “WorryFree” that supplies labor to other corporations. WorryFree’s workers are contractually bound to the company for life; in return, the workers and their families are supplied with food and lodging right on their jobsites, thereby freeing them of the need to worry about such necessities (thus the name of the company). This arrangement, which essentially reduces the workers to the status of company property, is understandably controversial and meets with considerable opposition, both official and unofficial—though of course this opposition is never in danger of actually threatening the program. Indeed, despite concern that the company’s practices represent little more than a new form of slavery, WorryFree is highly successful and rapidly growing. The most effective resistance to their growth comes not from the government or the press but from an underground organization known as “Left Eye” (suggesting their leftist vision), which wages a campaign of graffiti and other forms of minor sabotage against WorryFree.
The key plot moment in Sorry to Bother You occurs when Cassius is promoted to power caller and finds that his main job in that capacity involves selling the problematic services of WorryFree to other corporations. These services provide cheap, dependable sources of labor that can be converted into huge profits by WorryFree’s customers. As a result, Cassius is able to reap large rewards as well, allowing him to move with Detroit out of his uncle’s garage and into a swanky new apartment. These rewards give new meaning to the fact that Cassius’ name is a near homonym for “Cash is green” and to the fact that most of his friends call him “Cash” most of the time. The rewards are also significant enough that he is able to overcome his concerns about the ethics of his job. At first, Detroit enjoys their new life as well, but in her case the ends do not justify the means. Ultimately, she leaves Cash because she cannot support his decision to cross the picket lines, especially as that decision involves work for WorryFree, an unscrupulous organization she is working to undermine as a Left Eye activist.
In general, Sorry to Bother You paints its satire in broad strokes, and it is quite clear that Detroit occupies the high ground here. However, this is a film that supplements its overt satirical points with more subtle ones as well. In addition to her secret political activism and her work as a sign twirler to generate income, Detroit is also an ambitious performance artist of considerable talent, who hopes to use her art as a means of political expression. In one scene, Squeeze explains to her that, as a union organizer, he travels around to various places where folks have trouble and helps them try to fix it. “That’s what I do with my art, too!” she enthusiastically responds. “You know? Expose the bullshit.” Squeeze expresses some skepticism, but backs off, avoiding a confrontation, and changes the topic to ask how her relationship with Cash is going. It works, she explains, because “he’s real. He’s not that fake-ass bougie gallery world.”
In the light of Cash’s subsequent sell-out as a power caller, just how real he might be will be called seriously into question. Meanwhile, if Detroit is to have true success as an artist, she needs the bourgeois world of art galleries, no matter how inauthentic that world might appear to be. So her disavowal of the establishment art scene is a bit questionable as well. Cassius himself calls her out on this after she derides him for crossing the picket line so he can pursue his work of “selling slave labor.” The strike at RegalView will do nothing about the practices of Worry Free, he responds, and neither will her work as an artist, which consists basically of “selling fucking art to rich people.” His remark clearly hits a nerve, but she nevertheless issues an ultimatum, warning him that their relationship is over if he crosses the picket line again.
He continues to cross the picket line anyway, temporarily ending their relationship. On one subsequent crossing, he is hit in the head by a soda can thrown by one of the strikers. The event is capture on video, then goes viral on-line (with added comic sound effects), reaching 500 million views on YouTube. This video makes Cassius an instant celebrity—though one who is mostly famous as the butt of derisive jokes. Cassius’s encounter with the soda can even becomes the stuff of a popular television commercial for the soda company, accompanied by the slogan “have a soda and smile, bitch.” “You’re like the Ariana Grande of disloyal niggas,” declares Salvador (Jermaine Fowler), one of his former associates among the regular callers at RegalView. This motif allows the film to take a satirical jab at the role of social media in the dumbing down of public discourse in twenty-first-century America.
The blow also causes Cassius to go through most of the second half of the film with a bloody bandage wrapped around his head—as a sort of symbol of his role as a sell-out. Later, when Cassius attends a party to celebrate the opening of Detroit’s new Africa-oriented art exhibit, we find that she speaks in a pretentious British accent at the party, both while mingling with potential upper-class buyers and in her main performance piece, during which she stands on stage, near-naked, reciting lines from a movie while the attendees throw items (including broken cell phones and balloons filled with sheep’s blood) at her. Shocked, Cassius (bloody bandage on his head) tries to interrupt the performance, but she (covered in sheep’s blood) sends him on his way, telling him that he of all people should understand. Indeed, the parallels between Cassius being hit by the soda can and Detroit being hit by the objects at her performance clearly help to reinforce one of the film’s more subtle points—that there are a number of different ways of selling out, and few ways to avoid it.
Spurned by Detroit and mocked on social media, Cassius remains a star within his company, so much so that he wins an invite to the exclusive (“even Jay and Bey can’t get this invite”) annual party thrown by WorryFree CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer, who often seems to be channeling Jon Hamm’s Donald Draper). At the party (which he attends immediately after leaving Detroit’s problematic performance), Cassius is coerced into a demeaning performance of his own when Lift assumes that Cassius, being black, must also be able to rap. Cassius protests that he really can’t, but Lift and the essentially all-white partygoers insist. His performance begins slowly and awkwardly, then he finally realizes that the only way to succeed is to give them what they want to hear. So he starts rhythmically chanting, “Nigga shit! Nigga shit! Nigga, nigga, nigga shit!” The audience erupts into cheers and applause and starts to chant along with him. The implication is clear: white audiences of rap music think they’re cool for listening to this “nigga shit” (no doubt involving drugs and sex and violence, as well as frequent repetitions of the word “nigga”); meanwhile rappers who comply might further their careers but are also in danger of propagating negative stereotypes about black people. The satire here is thus aimed both at white audiences and their appropriation of black music with little understanding and at black artists who cash in on that lack of understanding in order to further their careers.
Lift seems absolutely clueless about all this and sees no problem with Cash’s performance. Then he takes Cash to his private office to congratulate him on his success in selling the services of WorryFree. However, he also has a secret agenda: he wants to recruit Cassius to come to work for WorryFree directly and to help manage a major new initiative that the company is about to unveil. Before Cash has a chance to hear about this new initiative, he is overtaken by an overwhelming need to urinate, so he staggers off to the bathroom, inadvertently going through the wrong door and discovering some creatures who look like anthropomorphic horses (like a nightmare version of Bojack Horseman), but who seem to be in the throes of genuine agony as a result of this transformation, chained up in stalls and begging Cash to help them.
Cash has, in fact, stumbled into one of the few scenes in the film that seems unequivocally appropriate to a horror movie, essentially a reverse of the agonizing process through which Charles Laughton’s Dr. Moreau transforms animals into humans in Island of Lost Souls. Arguably, this transformation of humans into presumably lower animals is even more horrifying—and perhaps especially so when Cash staggers back to Lift’s office to learn that he has discovered WorryFree’s new initiative in its rawest form: human beings are being chemically transformed into horse-people (“Equisapiens”) with superhuman strength and stamina, so that they can be more productive workers, though sometimes undergoing great suffering in the process.
The full allegorical framework of Sorry to Bother You has now been revealed. WorryFree’s portrayal of indentured workers clearly comments on a number of specific abuses—ranging from slavery, to indentured servitude, to the modern phenomenon of for-profit prisons (where the inmates are used as a source of profit-generating labor power). Indeed, WorryFree’s workers wear prison-like uniforms, and one can clearly read WorryFree as a commentary on the U.S. prison system in general and on the nation’s notoriously high rates of incarceration, especially for black men, suggesting that one reason for this high rate is that life is so hard outside of prison that some people prefer to be imprisoned, just so they can be guaranteed three meals a day and a place to sleep. “Three hots and a cot,” as Cassius’s Uncle Sergio (Terry Crews) puts it, employing an expression often used to describe conditions in prison—or the army. But the portrayal of WorryFree is also an even more general commentary on the treatment of workers under capitalism, with the Equisapiens motif merely serving as an exclamation point showing just how far capitalism is willing to go to squeeze greater profits out of its workers. The film is in this sense a broad (and, actually, quite sophisticated) commentary on the general process through which workers are dehumanized under capitalism, reduced to the level of commodities, of profit-generating things.
One thinks here of Michel Foucault’s critique of modern capitalist society as a “carceral” society, in which institutions such as factories, hospitals, and schools operate very much according to the same principles as prisons. Meanwhile, a crucial part of Foucault’s argument is that society at large, outside these institutions, also operates according to these principles. Read through Foucault, one implication of Sorry to Bother You is that even individuals who are not employed by WorryFree suffer much of the same domination and that one of the functions of WorryFree (like the function of the modern prison in our world) is to give people who are not WorryFree employees the illusion that they are free in comparison.
A closer look shows that the film’s whimsical construction of an alternate reality in which capitalism is far more overt in its activities than in our own world is a device designed to create cognitive estrangement that causes us to step back and to re-evaluate the differences between the world of the film and our own world. Sorry to Bother You, in fact, is filled with a number of motifs that further this estrangement effect, some of them quite small, such as Detroit’s funky homemade earrings. In one scene, for example, Sergio begins complaining about his health and then dispenses some medication for himselffrom a figurine of Christ hanging on a cross. It’s an odd and unexpected image that one would not expect to see in the real world, and one might think it is merely intended to produce a laugh. However, within the strongly anti-capitalist matrix of this film, it is well-nigh impossible not see this moment as an echo of the well-known Marxist notion that religion is the opiate of the masses, a notion that has a special place in African American history given the way in which so many black Americans have so often turned to religion for comfort in the light of the difficulties they have faced in the material world.
For those who “get” these moments of cognitive dissonance it will be obvious that the world of the film is not so different from our own world, after all, a realization that makes a central contribution to the effectiveness of Sorry to Bother You as one of the few genuinely radical denunciations of the fundamental workings of the capitalist system to appear in recent American commercial film. Indeed, the film might have been a bit too radical for mainstream American filmgoing audiences. Little wonder, then, that such a visually striking, highly entertaining film, filled with wonderful performances by charismatic actors, only grossed approximately $17.5 million at the U.S. box office.
Perhaps the film hit a little bit too close to home for some Americans, especially as the film extends its critique of the exploitation of labor under capitalism to involve a critique of the manipulation of consumers in our media-based society as well. We see a number of television commercials for WorryFree, for example, and it is clear that these ads are aimed at a target audience whose intellectual level is low indeed. To any thinking viewer, in fact, the commercials simply make clear how truly horrifying WorryFree’s practices are, suggesting that WorryFree doesn’t expect to encounter a lot of thinking viewers—which might explain why Sorry to Bother You, though it got a great deal of media attention and was widely praised by critics, failed to find a genuinely large audience.
Similarly, when Lift finally explains WorryFree’s new initiative to Cash, he does so by showing him a Claymation promotional video, entitled “The New Miracle,” which has, he proudly proclaims, “a lot of production value.” The video begins with a scene reminiscent of the one depicting the discovery of tools (and weapons) by ape-men in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and then proceeds to argue that WorryFree’s Equisapiens program is merely an extension of the way humans have used tools (and other methods) to extend their basic capabilities throughout our subsequent evolution. This is just the next logical step. It’s a clever but specious argument that draws false parallels between things like exercising to get stronger and being given drugs that transform one’s entire body in unnatural ways. Indeed, the video even tips its hand when it announces that the transformation is designed to make humans “stronger, more obedient, more durable, and therefore more efficient and profitable” (my emphasis). It seems a rather damning self-characterization until one realizes that the video is intended not as a recruitment tool for workers but as information for the company’s shareholders—who will presumably now be encouraged to buy even more shares, given the video’s promise that the Equisapiens will make WorryFree “the most profitable corporation in human history.”
The narrator of the Equisapiens video, incidentally, speaks with a British accent, which presumably makes her sound smarter and more authoritative. In one of the many examples of repeated motifs in Sorry to Bother You, this strategy clearly mirrors Detroit’s attempt to impress her “sophisticated” audience by speaking in a similar accent. And both of these examples resemble the attempts of RegalView’s black telemarketers to speak in “white” voices. At the same time, all of these efforts to sound reassuringly white and sophisticated mirror in reverse Cash’s attempt to sound likea rapper from the hood by chanting “nigga shit,” just as they also mirror in reverse the attempts of Cash’s white audience to sound cool by responding so enthusiastically to his ludicrous rap performance.
Of course, such strategies assume that one’s audience is easily duped, which—in the world of Sorry to Bother You—seems to be a pretty good assumption.That the general population in the world of Sorry to Bother You has low critical standards can be seen from the fact that the top-rated television program in the world of the film is a reality show entitled I Got the S**@ Kicked Out of Me, which basically involves contestants undergoing a variety of humiliating experiences and generally getting the shit kicked out of them. The show bears obvious similarities to the program Ow, My Balls!, featured within Mike Judge’s 2006 satirical film Idiocracy, which is, in many ways, probably the single cinematic predecessor with which Sorry to Bother You has the most in common. Both of these mock television programs comment on the low state to which television programming has already sunk in our own world, in which audiences, accustomed to a variety of forms of abuse in their daily lives, enjoy seeing someone else be abused for a change. But this phenomenon also suggests that such programming subtly conditions television audiences to endure abuse without protest when it occurs to them in their own lives, making them pliable dupes of the capitalist system.
In any case, Lift wants Cash to become an Equisapien so that he can be WorryFree’s man on the inside, leading the horse-people in directions dictated by WorryFree. Lift wants Cash to become “the Equisapien Martin Luther King, Jr. But one that we create. One that we control.” Cash has been selected because of his unprecedented success at RegalView—and because he has already demonstrated a willingness to betray his own in order to get what he wants. Lift has a point here. However, in trying to sell the idea to Cash (at gunpoint, no less) he inadvertently causes Cash to see the error of his own ways. At the same time, this scene also makes it unequivocally clear (both to Cash and to viewers of the film) that Lift is an outright psychopath, willing to do anything and everything in the interest of generating greater profits, no matter who gets hurt or how badly. Little wonder, then, that Cash rejects Lift’s proposal, even though it comes with a cash offer of $100,000,000 for a mere five years of service—and the promise that, as an Equisapien, Cash will have a “horse cock.”
Horrified, Cash realizes that, even as a highly-paid member of “management,” he is viewed by RegalView and Worryfree as “another one of their fucking creatures to control and to manipulate.” He attempts to expose the project through the media, though the conventional media refuse to take his warnings seriously. So he resorts to the painful and demeaning process of going on I Got the S**@ Kicked Out of Me, which allows him to show a video he took of the horse people in return for allowing them to beat him up and dip him in shit. Detroit and Left Eye pitch in to help get the message out, while Cash also hits the talk-show circuit. The message does, indeed, get out there, but the news simply causes WorryFree’s stock price to increase at an unprecedented rate, bringing the whole stock market up with it. Fanatical religious groups even begin to celebrate Lift as the second coming of Christ.
Cash realizes that he must take action in the streets, and not merely through the media. He joins forces with the union at RegalView to stop the crossing of the picket lines, leading to a violent confrontation with the police and the hired soldiers of Stackwater. This time the strikers win, as a contingent of the superstrong horse people come to their aid. Cash has indeed become a sort of leader of the Equisapiens, though he has led them to use their superhuman abilities in the fight against capitalist exploitation instead of simply becoming profit-generating machines run by that system. The film thus echoes in a quite direct way the classic Marxist dictum that capitalism cannot be defeated from without, but only from within, only by the proletariat that capitalism itself has produced.
This, of course, is only a small, local victory in a much broader struggle, but it’s a start. If people see that the forces of official capitalist power can be defeated on a local level, perhaps they will begin to believe that something can be done on a larger scale. Cassius and Detroit even get back together. The film proper ends, though, on an ominous note, as Cash realizes that Lift has tricked him into snorting the “fusing catalyst” and begins to transform into an Equisapien. This is a film that knows that the struggle against capitalism will be a difficult one and that there will be no easy victories. At the same time, Cash’s transformation can be viewed in a positive light, as a sign that he is at last truly joining the workers in their struggle. In any case, a quick postscript returns to the mode of hope, as an enraged Equisapien (probably the transformed Cash) bursts into Lift’s mansion, seeking revenge.
A quick look at the background of writer/director Boots Riley explains why Sorry to Bother You is so unusually perceptive and sophisticated in its critique of capitalism. Writer-director Riley, after all, has a long history of pursuing such critiques. Born into a family of social justice organizers, Riley became interested in leftist political causes at a young age and had joined the Progressive Labor Party by the age of fifteen. By that time he was living in Oakland (an alternate reality version of which provides the setting for Sorry to Bother You). While working at a variety of jobs there (including a stint as a telemarketer), Riley became a founding member (and the lead vocalist) of the hip hop group The Coup, which has released a number of successful albums, including 1998’s Steal This Album (whose title refers to radical youth leader Abbie Hoffman’s 1971 book Steal This Book) and the controversial Party Music (2001), which contains tracks such as “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO.” Their 2006 album Pick a Bigger Weapon received considerable acclaim, and their 2012 album Sorry to Bother You provides much of the soundtrack for the film of the same title. Nothing, meanwhile, captures the ending of that film better than the song “Guillotine” from the album, which contains a perfect caption, addressed to abusive capitalists, for the film’s last moment: “We got the guillotine—you better run.”
In 2009 Riley teamed with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello to release the self-titled debut album of their new group Street Sweeper Social Club. Both of Riley’s bands remain active, though he has always made it clear that his musical work was merely a part of his larger political project, which concentrates on exposing the abuses perpetrated by the capitalist system in America. Sorry to Bother You, his first film, is thus simply a logical progression in his project to use popular culture (conventionally thought of as an important tool of capitalist domination) as a weapon in the struggle against capitalism. His career thus parallels that of Cash in the sense that Cash turns the Equisapiens program, intended as an unprecedented tool of capitalist domination, into an important resource for resistance to that domination.
In the same manner, Sorry to Bother You exhibits a number of the typical characteristics of postmodernism (the artistic mode that Fredric Jameson has described as “the cultural logic of late capitalism”), but at least attempts to turn its postmodernist aesthetic strategies against capitalism. The film is highly fragmented, with its main narrative frequently interrupted by inserted television commercials, television programs, musical and other performances, and so on. It borrows imagery and styles from a variety of predecessors, lacing them together with an editing style that is reminiscent of music videos. It employs a number of visual effects that eschew realistic representation and break down the barrier between fantasy and reality—as when Cash makes calls for RegalView and then is shown as if he is being physically projected into the homes of those whom he is calling. Yet all of these postmodernist motifs are deployed in a relentless critique of the capitalist system and its exploitation of both its workers and its consumers. Just how effective this critique might be remains to be seen, and one might argue that it is merely a case of preaching to the choir. Perhaps, though, the entertainment value of this particular sermon might just win some new members for the choir, encouraged by the extreme, defamiliarizing images of the film at last to see capitalism for what it really is. And perhaps galvanizing that enlarged choir into action just might be the start of something much, much bigger.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage-Random House, 1979.
 Strikebreakers who cross the picket line are able to do so because paramilitary security forces hired by the company brutally clear the way for them. The forces are supplied by a company called “Stackwater,” in an obvious reference to the Blackwater organization (now, oddly enough, renamed “Academi,” in an apparent attempt to distance itself from its negative reputation). Blackwater has supplied mercenaries to the CIA since its founding in 2003. In 2007, the company received considerable negative publicity when several of its employees were convicted of killing fourteen Iraqi civilians without justification.
 This remark presumably refers to the publicity gained by pop singer Grande after an Islamic terrorist detonated a shrapnel-laden suicide bomb, killing twenty-three people at England’s Manchester arena as they were leaving a concert she had just performed.
 The film here critiques certain negative aspects of hip hop culture from within, as it were. Both Stanfield and (especially) Riley are accomplished rap artists in their own rights, and both perform on the album’s soundtrack. Riley’s hip hop work with the group The Coup, in particular, serves as a politically responsible antithesis to the kind of degraded rap music satirized in this scene.
 This strategy has generally been associated, by critics such as Darko Suvin, with science fiction. Indeed, Sorry to Bother You has been more widely characterized as science fiction than as horror. However, see the previous section in this volume (on It Follows) for a discussion of this concept in relation to horror film.
 This video is attributed to “Michel Dongry,” in an obvious reference to French director Michel Gondry. Indeed, the video was initially intended to be attributed to Gondry himself, as a sort of tribute—which seems appropriate given that much of Sorry to Bother You seems to have been influenced by Gondry’s somewhat surrealistic style. This video, in particular, seeks to capture Gondry’s trademark combination of whimsy and surrealism. Lift could presumably have afforded any director he wanted, so the choice of Gondry is something of a compliment, even if a problematic one, given the purpose of the video. Given that purpose, perhaps it was no surprise that Gondry and his representatives objected to the use of his name, whereupon Riley opted to change the name as a parodic retort.
 Riley presumably has Lift mention of King, not to criticize King himself, but to highlight the way in which mainstream America has subsequently heroized King for his nonviolent message, while at the same time ignoring (or even demonizing) more radical black leaders, such as Malcolm X,
 The depiction of Lift here echoes the conclusions of the 2003 documentary film The Corporation. Here, the filmmakers examine corporate behavior in light of the legal tradition of regarding corporations essentially as people, with the same rights as actual people. They conclude that, were an actual human to behave the way corporations typically do, he or she would be clinically diagnosed as a psychopath.