Federal Government Depicted Negatively

Table Of Contents

Conservative Trope Examples

  • FBI is corrupt doing deal with drug kingpin
  • FBI Agent Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner) has multiple illicit sexual encounters with Russ (Marc Menchaca) and gains his trust by convincing Russ that the two of them should open up a bait and tackle shop only to betray him and threaten to send him off to prison unless he becomes an FBI informant.
  • FBI Agent Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner) is a rogue FBI agent who will do whatever it takes to bring down Marty (Jason Bateman) and his family regardless of the law.
  • The FBI cut a deal with drug lord Omar Navarro, but then went back on their word and changed the deal at the last second, telling Navarro the FBI now insists he remain as head of the cartel and be an FBI informant where he would coordinate with the FBI on "monetary seizures" from the cartel.
    Staff Aside
    Not only did the FBI renege on their deal, they are depicted as caring more about "monetary seizures" than actually getting drugs off the streets.
  • The movie portrays the CIA and American government as a bunch of inept and patronizing elites who prevent the hero private contractors from doing their job. It also gives credence to a number of conspiracy theories that have been debunked, most importantly the allegation that the CIA station chief in Benghazi issued a stand-down order to the soldiers at the compound.
    Historical Context
    A movie falsely critical of Hillary Clinton was released as the 2016 Presidential campaign was ramping up.
  • Isles talks about the NSA surveilling average Americans' phones which is not a thing.
  • The FBI is depicted as lacking morals and uses an innocent woman connected to Russian mob resulting in Beckett leaking information to save her which gets her fired.
  • Live Free or Die Hard (2007) | Federal Agencies Depicted Negatively
    Matt Farrell says "It took FEMA *five days* to get water to the Superdome" when John McClane wonders aloud if the government has a department that can handle a problem they encounter.
  • Live Free or Die Hard (2007) | Federal Agencies Depicted Negatively
    Cyber security consultant to the Department of Defense, Thomas Gabriel, hacks into NORAD and shuts down the entire defense network with just a laptop to show that it's vulnerable after his bosses refuses to listen to his concerns.
    Staff Aside
    This is making the department of defense and the federal government look incompetent if one person with a laptop can shut down their defenses. Also, they would have systems in place so that genuine concerns like Thomas Gabriel's wouldn't be ignored.
  • Live Free or Die Hard (2007) | FBI Depicted as Incompetent
    The FBI cyber division has trouble handling a massive cyber attack on the country, but a lone hacker Matthew Farrell is able to figure things out and help save the day instead.
  • ATF agent Jack Valentine is foiled multiple times by arms trafficker Yuri Orlov despite the extensive resources of Interpol backing him up. When they finally do catch him, higher ups in the US federal government orchestrate his release so he can facilitate under the table weapons deals to further America's interests.
    Historical Context
    The real life weapons smuggler Viktor Bout that the movie was largely based on was caught in Thailand in 2008 with help from the DEA. The USA successfully got him extradited and subsequently found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 2012. The movie version doesn't go to prison though because the federal government is corrupt.
  • After the Sunset (2004) | FBI Depicted as Incompetent
    FBI Agent Lloyd is constantly outwitted by jewel thief Max.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) | FBI Depicted as Incompetent
    Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) concocts an elaborate scheme where he convinces a group of aspiring female flight attendants that he's an airline pilot and that they will be accompanying him on a two-month tour of Europe, but what he's really using them for is to avoid being captured by FBI agents waiting for him at the airport. He confidently walks in to the airport with the ladies surrounding him, breezing past the countless FBI agents and police officers there to nab him, with all of them instead freezing and gawking at the beautiful women as they walk through the airport, allowing Frank to walk right past them onto his flight.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) | FBI Depicted as Incompetent
    Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) convinces Carl (Tom Hanks) to let him go to the bathroom alone on the airplane because he's "going to be sick" after finding out that his father has passed away. He still hasn't come out of the bathroom as the plane begins its descent, so the agents break in to the toilet only to find Frank has vanished. They quickly realize Frank crawled through the space below the toilet and into the cargo hold below. As the plane lands the FBI agents feverishly run through the cabin telling people to stay in their seats, but it's too late and Carl hopelessly watches as Frank jumps out of the plane and escapes from the FBI yet again.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) | FBI Depicted as Incompetent
    Carl (Tom Hanks) catches Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) red handed in his hotel room, but Frank talks his way out of getting arrested by convincing Carl that he's a member of the Secret Service. He even gives Carl his wallet to prove he's a Secret Service agent, but instead of opening up the wallet and verifying Frank's story, he inexplicably keeps it closed and chooses to believe him. Frank then tells Carl that he needs to take some evidence down to his car and asks him to stay in the room to make sure nothing is tampered with. By the time Carl opens up the wallet to find it full of random clippings Frank is stepping into his car and driving away.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) | IRS Depicted Negatively
    Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) complains that he "had a deal with" the IRS but "they ate the cake, now they want the crumbs." As he continues to express his frustration with the agency he threatens to "make them chase me for the rest of their lives."
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) | IRS Depicted Negatively
    Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) asks his son "do you know what would happen if the IRS found out I was driving around in a new coupe?" after Frank Jr. tried to gift him a new Cadillac. Later Frank Sr. says he had to close his store and blamed the "godd*mn government," saying that "they hit you when you're down. I wasn't going to let them take it from me, so I just shut the doors myself, called their bluff."
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) | FBI Depicted Negatively
    Frank tells Carl (Tom Hanks) that there must be better hotel rooms to stay in, but Carl matter-of-factly says "it's the best room the FBI can afford." Frank responds "it's OK, I've stayed in worse."
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) | FBI Depicted as Incompetent
    Frank outsmarts FBI agent Carl Hanratty in multiple embarrassing episodes until he is caught much later with the help of French authorities.
  • The Bourne Identity (2002) | CIA Depicted with Conservative Biases
    The entire movie follows a team of CIA assassins trying to hunt down and kill Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) after he failed at an assassination attempt on an exiled Nigerian dictator.
  • Rules of Engagement (2000)
    Ambassador Mourain (Ben Kingsley) is shown as scared, weak, clueless & unpatriotic during an evacuation of the US embassy in Yemen. He yells in a panic, "Colonel, we can’t wait here! Let’s go! Why are we still here?" just before he is given the embassy's USA flag brave marines took down while under fire. He is later convicted of lying in a plot to frame Samuel Jackson's Colonel Childers.
    Staff Aside
    In real-life, ambassadors know the risks of regions they serve and act nobly along with all the men and women they serve with.
  • Enemy of the State (1998) | NSA Depicted with Conservative Biases
    Thomas Brian Reynolds (Jon Voight) is a corrupt top NSA official who kills a sitting Congressman in order to help push through a bill that will unleash a virtual surveillance state in the country after the Congressman refuses to help him.
  • Armageddon (1998) | IRS Depicted Negatively
    One of the demands of the oil rig astronauts is that they never want to pay taxes ever again.
  • Oil rig drillers are depicted as more competent than NASA engineers and astronauts and save the world after only two weeks training because their “practical” private sector experience means they know better than the government scientists whose solutions are portrayed as overly complex and bureaucratic.
  • Happy Gilmore (1996) | IRS Depicted Negatively
    The IRS is seizing Happy Gilmore's grandmother's house because she owes $270k in back taxes. The IRS agent on site is not very sympathetic and eventually gets thrown out a glass door and down the stairs by Happy.
    Additional Tropes: Assault Played for Laughs
  • The Firm (1993) | IRS Depicted Negatively
    Mitch says what scares him is "what the government can do... to anybody" after the pizza parlor who he worked for when he was young went out of business because the owner did not pay his taxes to the IRS.
  • The Firm (1993) | FBI Depicted Negatively
    FBI agent Wayne Terrance says, "I'm a federal agent! You know what that means, you lowlife motherfucker? It means you've got no rights -- your life is mine! I could kick your teeth down your throat and yank them out your asshole, and I'm not even violating your civil rights!"
  • John McClane argues with very unlikable Carmine Lorenzo in the air traffic control tower because John is upset at mistakes he feels they are making dealing with terrorists. Lorenzo cites "FAA regulations regarding unauthorized personnel in the control tower" and has John removed.
  • John McClane (Bruce Willis) calls for help using a radio transmitter he got from terrorists. Instead of responding with concern, a woman in an official government office cites FCC regulations against civilians using that frequency and advises him to get off as it is for emergencies only. John replies with, "no sh#t lady, do I sound like I'm ordering a pizza!?" before getting cutoff by gunfire which is so loud they remove their headsets. Despite all that, they merely send a single squad car to investigate.
  • The FBI takes over the local police handling of the hostage situation in Nakatomi tower and one agent says, "when we commandeer your men, we'll try to let you know". Later while in a helicopter one agent estimates that 20-25% of the hostages may die during their raid and the other agent flippantly replies, "I can live with that." They engage in some cocky banter as their helicopters swoop in to land on the roof to start a hostage rescue. But it is a trap and the terrorist set off an explosion that blows up the helicopters. John McClane on his own saves the hostages instead by leading them away from the roof so they can run downstairs and escape the building.
    Additional Tropes: FBI Depicted as Incompetent
  • Walter Peck is an overly rude and condescending caricature of an Environmental Protection Agency inspector who arrives at Ghostbusters HQ with a warrant to turn off their machines. Egon warns Walter that turning off their machines would be extremely dangerous. Walter replies, "I'll tell *you* what's hazardous. You're facing Federal prosecution for about a half dozen environmental violations. Now either you shut off these machines, or we'll shut them off for you." When they refuse to comply, he tells an officer "If he does that again, you can shoot him." They shut it down, havoc ensues and all the caught ghosts escape and terrorize the city.
    Staff Aside
    Of course, if the real EPA is going to make decisions like that it will be done responsibly and in a professional manner taking into account science. They don't just shut down dangerous facilities on a whim and make sure there is a safe process.