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Virginia Postrel

In 'Joy,' Hollywood Lets Entrepreneurship Smile

Hollywood likes business antiheroes, but "Joy" makes ambition seem nice.
Joy Mangano.

Joy Mangano.

Photographer: Monica Schipper/Getty Images

In the movies, an entrepreneur is more likely to be a super-villain, or at the very least a mobster, than someone who builds a significant enterprise without getting anyone killed. Even the non-murderers are miserable jerks. Take Aaron Sorkin’s angry, status-obsessed Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network or his Steve Jobs in the abysmal recent movie by that name.

So it might be a surprise to discover a big-budget, award-friendly new film telling a tale of entrepreneurial ingenuity where the protagonist is heroic and the ending is happy. Except that in this case the entrepreneur is a woman. Her gender makes self-assertion, ambition, and even a touch of ruthlessness unconventional and therefore culturally acceptable.