August 9, 2022

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Expensive Hollywood, Can We Cease Glorifying Con Artists?

Even when you have not seen Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” or Hulu’s “The Dropout,” likelihood is you have stumbled onto a podcast dedicated to breaking down Anna Delvey (actual title Anna Sorokin)’s notorious cons or scrolled previous a TikTok or Twitter thread recounting disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes’s fraud case.

For about 4 years, from 2013 to 2017, Sorokin scammed nearly everybody she encountered to keep up the fake lavish life-style of a German heiress, from banks and inns to the buddies she met alongside the best way. In the meantime, Holmes, the founding father of biotech firm Theranos, deceived buyers and sufferers for over a decade concerning the viability of her blood-testing machine, the Edison, claiming it might run dozens of exams on a single drop of blood. She raked in thousands and thousands in funding understanding all alongside the expertise merely did not work.

Sorokin and Holmes had been convicted of fraud in 2019 and 2022, respectively, and their TV dramatizations adopted quickly after. Someplace between the discharge of Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” in February 2022 and Hulu’s “The Dropout” in March 2022, the best way we view high-profile convicted con artists has seemingly been redefined. There’s been a rush to humanize these real-life scammers, and so they’ve by some means been rebranded as gutsy and impressive underdogs.

With every passing episode of “Inventing Anna” and “The Dropout,” we as viewers grow to be increasingly more obsessive about Sorokin and Holmes’s schemes, and much more so with seeing simply how far they might go earlier than getting caught. However the actual fascinating facet for me was how confidently the ladies believed they might get away with all of it. It is a confidence unfamiliar to me.

THE DROPOUT, Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes, Old White Men', (Season 1, ep. 104, aired Mar. 10, 2022). photo: Beth Dubber / Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection

As a Black girl, I grew up being informed I would want to work twice as arduous as anybody else simply to get my foot within the door professionally. Whereas girls like Sorokin and Holmes are welcomed into areas based mostly on unrealized large concepts and hole charisma, 49 p.c of Black girls really feel their race or ethnicity makes it more durable for them to get a increase, promotion, or likelihood to get forward in comparison with simply three p.c of white girls and 11 p.c of girls general, in accordance with McKinsey & Firm’s 2020 report “The State of Black Girls in Company America.” The report additionally discovered that in comparison with white girls, Black girls are much less more likely to have managers showcase their work, advocate for brand new alternatives for them, or give them alternatives to handle individuals and tasks. In “The Dropout,” Holmes’s rival, Richard Fuisz (William H. Macy), sheds gentle on this disparity, explicitly providing a easy rationalization for why Holmes was in a position to get thus far regardless of lack of expertise or precise outcomes: “As a result of she’s fairly and blond.”

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For Sorokin, social media and “woman boss” tradition performs an integral position in her schemes, and it is apparent how we as viewers and followers grow to be minor characters in her elaborate tales. From the very starting, Sorokin makes use of Instagram to assist craft her false persona, posting pictures of extravagant weekends and journeys abroad with pals. An Instagram account devoted to Sorokin’s lavish courtroom apparel was created even after her indictment. You may discover posts like “Queen” and “Iconic” between hearth emojis within the feedback part. At this time, the influencer-turned-convict has collected a million followers along with the earnings she acquired from the Netflix collection. And though not each remark affords reward, even the crucial feedback equate to engagement that contributes to her continued relevancy. The extra we hold on to her each put up, the extra we feed into the scheme.

INVENTING ANNA, from left: Julia Garner as Anna Delvey, James Cusati-Moyer, (Season 1, ep. 102, aired Feb. 11, 2022). photo: David Giesbrecht / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Fake feminism was an integral a part of Holmes’s schemes. Ana Arriola (Nicky Endres) leaves her position at Apple to hitch Theranos after seeing a little bit of herself in Holmes, however when Arriola discovers Holmes’s lies concerning the Edison and confronts her, Holmes chooses to double down as an alternative of addressing Arriola’s considerations. The choice would not coincide with the women-helping-other-women narrative Holmes peddled earlier within the collection, when as a sophomore at Stanford school, she pitches one in all her concepts to Dr. Phyllis Gardner and pleads together with her to get on board within the title of feminism. Dr. Gardner responds, “As a girl, let me clarify one thing to you: you do not get to skip any steps. It’s important to do the work.”

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It is a highly effective sentiment that finally ends up getting misplaced, nevertheless. Because the present progresses and Holmes makes an attempt to launch Theranos, she is portrayed as an underdog making an attempt to make it in a cutthroat, male-dominated business. We virtually imagine Holmes is simply doing what she must do — faking it till she makes it — as a result of how else would the sexist males on the prime take her, a girl, significantly? How else might she revolutionize the healthcare business? However in actuality, whereas that is actually many ladies’s expertise, it wasn’t Holmes’s. It wasn’t her gender that was scaring away buyers, however her empty guarantees and grossly underdeveloped and unrealistic tech. When Dr. Gardner says, “As a girl, I can’t work with you,” it isn’t as a result of she’s antifeminist. It is as a result of she is aware of Holmes’s overconfidence and privilege has led her to imagine her personal delusions of grandeur and that Holmes would finally find yourself doing girls in biotech a disservice. By the tip of the collection, we study that ladies who come after Holmes have an much more tough time rising within the medical business on account of her fraudulent enterprise practices. They’re even inspired to dye their hair a distinct shade in the event that they resemble her.

All of those components contribute to why audiences empathize with Sorokin and Holmes and why we discover ourselves believing we’re rooting for the underdog. But it surely’s necessary to recollect Sorokin and Holmes weren’t underdogs. Past their tantalizing scammer tales are the actual victims of their crimes and the sincere professionals they trampled to get forward. We should think about why Hollywood is so fast to glamorize these scammers, even rewarding them for his or her crimes with tons of of 1000’s of {dollars}.

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Because the February 2022 launch of “The Tinder Swindler,” Netflix has introduced plans to adapt the documentary into yet one more dramatization of a scammer’s story. Solely time will inform if Hollywood will spend as a lot time humanizing con man Shimon Hayut as they did Sorokin and Holmes, or if the very fact he is an Israeli man who conned white girls will change the tone. As a result of possibly sympathy just isn’t assured for all scammers, however only for those who’re fairly, white, and blond.

Regardless of the case could also be, once we do not adequately condemn the hurt scammers trigger, we proceed to help within the immortalization and glamorization of their wrongdoings and welcome others in comparable positions of privilege to do the identical.