Biopic of Apple founder veers into corporate hagiography
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If there’s one thing the new biopic Jobs proves it’s that the world God designed is bursting with creative potential for those with the talent, drive, and vision to tap into it. From his early days as a college dropout who nonetheless attends classes for fun to his evolution into an entrepreneurial mastermind, Steve Jobs was clearly one of those people with that rare combination of qualities.
Those who want to know more about the influences that shaped the tech wiz’s mind and heart aren’t going to find the answers here. We only see Jobs’ adoptive parents in two brief scenes, and other than the fact that they are clearly kind and supportive people, we are given no clue as to how they might have contributed to their son’s accomplishments. Likewise, the film treats one of the most controversial elements of Jobs’ life—his awful denial of his daughter’s paternity—with only the barest interest. Could a man so smart really believe a DNA test was wrong? What finally convinced him to become part of her life? Was the reconciliation difficult for either of them? The movie never endeavors to tell us.
Jobs is instead a tale of the free market and the immense power it has to create new products, new professions, and new realities. In exploring this power, the film doesn’t shy away from the more perilous elements of capitalism in which Jobs is both a perpetrator (when he scams his trusting friend Steve Wozniak out of his half of the payment for an Atari game design) and a victim (when the board of Apple pushes Jobs out of the company he founded).
It’s also realistic about the kind of personality it takes to revolutionize an industry. To say Jobs gets impatient with those who can’t see the possibilities he imagines would be an understatement. And as gifted as he is, his emotional intelligence often ranks below average. In a nongraphic scene that—along with a smattering of profanity and an incident of drug use—earns the film a PG-13 rating, he thoughtlessly asks a classmate he’s just spent the night with if he can borrow some of her acid for his girlfriend.
Though Ashton Kutcher may have seemed an unlikely choice to play the iconic CEO, he turns in, if not an Oscar-worthy performance, at least a satisfactory one. He has Jobs’ mannerisms down perfectly, and in the film’s few intimate moments offers glimpses of what he could have accomplished with a more personally focused screenplay.
But while Jobs presents a fascinating story of how Jobs overcomes corporate backbiting and channels his own tendency toward obsession to build arguably the most innovative company of the last decade, it veers into corporate hagiography, suggesting that Jobs’ ruthlessness is somehow an asset. As if he couldn’t have accomplished what he did without burning loyal friends and shirking family responsibilities. This is particularly true during two speeches that devote way too much time to idolizing the kind of man Jobs was—a visionary, a leader, a (to borrow a metaphor from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians) head person.
By paying so much honor to this particular personality type, Jobs comes close (as Apple’s ad, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones,” did) to dismissing those who weren’t fashioned to think outside the box and are perfectly content to be round pegs in round holes. As another film, Lee Daniel’s The Butler that hit theaters the same weekend, attests, the visionaries wouldn’t get far without humble “hands” to support them. No one may ever call such men and women rebels or geniuses, but their quiet, faithful service can also change the world.
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