Anne Hathaway is not stupid.
Even a few seconds into an interview for We crashed, she knows what we’re thinking. It’s the same thing everyone thinks: The miniseries about Adam (Jared Leto) and Rebekah (Hathaway) Neumann’s $47 billion US company WeWork and its precipitous decline is eerily similar to all the other miniseries to come out, what is essentially exactly the same.
invent AnnaNetflix’ version of a fake German heiress and attempted founder of the so-called Anna Delvey Foundation was released in early February. Super pumpedabout Uber’s embattled CEO, premiered just a few weeks later. The Dropoutwhich told the true story of Elizabeth Holmes’ fake blood test venture, was released March 3 on Disney+.
And Hathaway’s, another series about a mad entrepreneur who rants about his ability to change the world, followed in their footsteps on Friday.
“You crush my soul,” she said when pointed out. “But thanks.”
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With so many major studios banking on these stories, It’s a tough trend to miss. Something about the charismatic manipulator who talks his way into – and unsuspecting con artists – out of unimaginable wealth before spectacularly crashing to earth got us hooked.
And while the idea isn’t exactly new, it’s worth asking: why are we drowning in these stories now? What about them makes creators (and arguably viewers) so obsessed? And are they even doing any of it right?
Entrepreneurs make great TV
When it comes to getting it right, they’re pretty close in many ways. The idea of a multi-billion dollar company built almost entirely around a single person’s personality before – or even instead of – basing an idea on reality.
Penelope Trunk — a businesswoman, author of numerous books on entrepreneurship, and five-time startup founder — said that what investors typically look for in a founder is what makes great TV: someone so focused on a goal that they not only are willing but compelled to focus on the success of their idea versus anything else in their life.
Trunk explained all of this over the phone while yelling at someone nearby who appeared to be yelling directly at her.
“Do you hear my life? This is my life,” she said. “I can’t make life. All I can do is startups.
“But that’s what investors are investing in. They don’t invest in me being able to function one minute of my life because I can’t. They do not fit together. How natural, if you can function in your life, you wouldn’t destroy your life to make a startup.”
This makes for inherently good television and interesting characters for actors to brush up on their roles. with Method acting on the ropes and representations of real people an apparently surefire way to success on the awards circuitEcho of the neurotic actions and apparently Necessary failed accents from one of those characters is an appetizing opportunity.
And the fact that this is all sort of true is just a bonus.
The generally odd behavior of the characters is also well established. Adam Neuman did often go barefoot; bad blood Author John Carreyrou argued that Elizabeth Holmes had “absolutely sociopathic tendencies” in one Vanity Fair interview; and Anna Delvey actually refused to appear at her trial (several times, in fact) because she Wardrobe did not meet her preferences.
Trunk said oddities and self-destructive tendencies are common in this group in real life as well. Trunk, who has autism herself, said neurodivergence is overrepresented among entrepreneurs. And while none of the founders mentioned have been diagnosed with similar disorders (or shared their diagnoses), similar associations were observed – and recently even Tesla founder Elon Musk divided, he is in the spectrum.
Trunk said that’s because traits like ADHD and autism attract single-minded, particularly ambitious people who have trouble adjusting to traditional jobs.
“If you look at all the founders who fail,” she said, “those founders have failed at everything except great ideas and [have been] super-focused her entire life.”
TV shows ‘often amplify the extremes’
Then there is the other side. Where these shows feature entrepreneurs building something from scratch, they do so at the expense of duped investors.
Andre Charoo, a Canadian venture capitalist (VC) and founding partner of Maple VC, said that apart from the fact that writers and creators have clearly chosen extreme cases for their shows, the events themselves are emphasized in specific ways for specific effect.
While investors often start investing in ideas and a company can fly by the bottom of its pants, things level out quickly as VCs demand more oversight. When companies grow naturally, they move quickly from the ideation and sales stages, and rooted directly in the manic but effective personality of the founder, it quickly becomes more about the company than what the leader can sell.
While audiences get a thrill from watching unsuspecting fatcats go from rags-to-riches to millionaires for their money, Charoo said these shows often tune out those highs and lows, “amplifying the extremes of both spectrums” and the whole thing Make journey look like a deck of cards that can tip over at any moment, and not just the initial stages.
For example, Charoo was one of the first 25 employees at Uber and helped eventually bring the company to Canada. While watching the course of events Super pumped clearly rigged, what caught his eye the most was Uber’s office.
At first, he said, nothing looked as clean or professional as the show portrays — a picture of efficiency that portrays CEO Travis Kalanick as a Steve Jobs-esque hero of the tech movement before they even got started .
“So much has been written about the story and the journey and both ups and downs,” Charoo said. “And so those ups and downs are packaged into a story that was made for television, throwing the timeline off balance, throwing the characters off balance. As if it weren’t a full account.”
An old archetype
This framing is nothing new. While Charoo said we’re likely to get more stories like this because business “unicorns” (private companies valued at more than $1 billion) are more common in the digital age — while the companies that hit those huge prizes are also more likely to be a We are part of everyday life for the same reason – the archetype is already well established.
When The Wolf of Wall Street First performed (as critic Esther Zuckerman wrote then), the more Leonardo DiCaprio acted out the extravagant acts of his imposter lead, the more audiences seemed to support him. And while he was loved in it Catch Me If You Can for portraying the real-life Frank Abagnale Jr., who brilliantly eludes the FBI for years, a current investigative book argued that almost all of Abagnale’s claims were inflated to earn fame and admiration.
Why do we love the startup story?
dr Michael Freeman is an entrepreneur, author, and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine who conducts research on entrepreneurial mental health. He said that while their mindsets are often “systematically different” than incumbents, that’s not why we’re drawn to the startup story.
We’re attracted because the way it’s shown isn’t true to life.
“What’s true about entrepreneurship is that it tends to be an emotional rollercoaster ride,” Freeman said. “These shows are really about characters that are a lot more spectacular … messianic or sociopathic or something, which isn’t true of most entrepreneurs.”
Instead, the startup shows are just riding a wave of high-profile stories available for customization — and our unique but odd tendency to cheer on a hustler, as long as they’re confident, doesn’t matter how many Life they destroy.
Why do we like this? This is something to consider for larger heads.