Often when the protagonist of a speculative narrative must struggle against an unfeeling world, that world is represented by a faceless conglomerate, a near-governmental corporation which seems to control facets of society wherever the character looks.
So in Stock and Trade, our latest genre fiction feature series, we’re looking at fictional corporations. Today, we’re featuring Omni Consumer Products.
OCP is the corporation which, in the RoboCop franchise, is the creator of the RoboCop program.
After the failure of the ED-209 project, which resulted in the untimely death of one of their executives, it was decided that a police robot needed to have a human intellect, and so they put a man inside the machine.
There isn’t much in the RoboCop stories about the begining of OCP, but by the time of the first RoboCop movie, they have holdings in almost every industry possible, very much like LexCorp.
They have diversified into retail, transportation, incarceration, religion, tourism, and even military. Their next step throughout the films is to attempt to create a commercial utopia called Delta City. They have a vision of an entire city, owned and run by the corporation.
This actually doesn’t seem so bad when it comes right down to it. A whole city in which everyone always has a job because they all work for the city, and every aspect of city services are essentially comercialized. It really does sound like a fine place to reside. There are a couple of issues with the plan, however:
First, OCP doesn’t actually seem to have very good management skills. Their ineptitude is first displayed with the ED-209, but there are numerous other incidents across the films and other franchise entries which make one wonder how the company stayed afloat as long as it did.
Second, they decide to place this capitalist utopia on top of Detroit. Rather than build their city out in some currently unoccupied land, or even on a tropical island somewhere (which is what I would have suggested, had I been on the OCP board), they think it would be best to buy up crime-ridden, Mad-Maxesque Detroit, tear it down, and build on top of the ruins. I guess it’s just another example of bad management.
Of course, today’s Detroit is a wasteland, as the film predicted, but it’s not the type of wasteland they thought it would be. The Detroit we have today maybe could do with a bit of tearing down.
The first step in OCP’s plan is take-over of the police force, in an effort to control the massive crime-spree.
Murphy, the first RoboCop is forced into a confrontation with the executive who had originally headed up the failed ED-209 program, ands who wants to destroy the RoboCop program, having already ordered the death of the executive in charge of it.
It is only this one executive in the corporation who turns out to be truly evil, and when Murphy dispatches him, the company seems to get onto a better track, though the Delta City project still seems to be on course, and doesn’t fall apart until the end of the third movie, when OCP goes bankrupt trying to force Detroit to default on its loans, and fall to private ownership.
Omni Consumer Products is clearly a symbol for the horrors of over-privatization. The franchise focuses mostly on the police, but OCP is failing at all of their attempts to privatize government services.
A corporation which had been wildly successful in every other industry across the world is somehow incapable of running city services. They also serve the larger RoboCop theme of humanity and the role of memory and emotion in identity.
Also interesting to note: There is now a real company out there calling itself Omni Consumer Products, which specializes in licensing fictional products from movies and television, and creating real versions of them for sale.
Come back tomorrow, when we’ll be taking a look at the DHARMA Initiative. If you have an idea for a corporation we could feature in this series, let us know in the comments.