It’s fascinating to see Hollywood’s latest obsession with fallen CEOs and con artists. There’s a barrage of hit shows, ranging from The Tinder Swindler to Inventing Anna, that are dominating the TV discourse. Do we really need docuseries on Elizabeth Holmes, Travis’ Super Pumped days at Uber, and Adam Nueman’s We Work rise and golden parachute fall?
Need ‘em or not, all of these shows are out this month on major streaming platforms with major marketing campaigns behind them. They’re being covered in abundance, rating well, and becoming more relevant than the original capers and crooks they portray.
Take the Fyre Fest movies. You could argue they made Billy McFarland more famous than infamous. And did you see the SNL skit on Anna Delvey this week? As someone that has met Anna Delvey IRL, I can’t help but say it was hilarious.
What’s making these “business” stories so hot right now? Is it our inate fascination with underdogs, disruptors, and villains? Do we need that narrative this badly?
In the case of big tech, the gold rush combined with internet fame to pour gasoline on the fire and accelerate many hero stories and companies too soon. This brought a slew of problems and opened the floodgates for voyeur moments in these worlds.
In culture marketing, we put everything through a lens of trends and phenomena, assess what people gravitate toward, and get our brand partners front and center during these moments of evolution. The frauds and cons aside, people love to see creation in all facets of life. We love to champion the creators and companies that support sea changes.
I understand the “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality and the mystic positivity needed to pave the roads of the future. But if we’re turning these anti-heros into stars, it opens the door for more and more fraudulent behavior. In the brave new world of Web3 and crypto – where everything is being built in real-time; adoption is the hope; and utility is the dream – there’s huge potential for rug-pulling villains. That will be problematic.
Put it this way: when Richard Brandson was in high school, his principal told him he wasn’t sure if he would end up in jail or as president. Heavy is the head, I guess.
Branson is goated, but that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t be gutted. Let’s hold the criminals accountable and focus our collective energy on empowering the good people leading the charge for change.
Also published on Medium.