‘WeCrashed,’ ‘Super Pumped’ mark ‘death of millennial dream’

From “Citizen Kane” to “Dallas” to “Succession” and “Billions,” audiences have long been fascinated by watching the super-rich indulge, scheme, and abuse their power.

Now, as if in response to the economic fears currently in the air, a new breed of big bad boss shows is emerging. Sure, it’s partly a coincidence of timing that the docudrama series, which chronicles the rise and recent fall of three startup unicorns — Hulu’s The Dropout, Apple TV+’s WeCrashed, and Showtime’s Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber” – launched this year. Still, they feel well worth watching at a time when there are more billionaires than ever (while everyone else wonders how they’ll pay for gas) and wealthy figures like Elon Musk, Rick Caruso and the latest from a former tyrant are rattling power games many.

It’s a grim coincidence that we also got Apple TV+’s “Severance” — an existential sci-fi thriller about a family business that bullies its employees into confiscating half their memories — at a time when millions of Americans reassess their work. life balance.

“We’re fascinated by people in power right now, CEOs, billionaires and entrepreneurs,” Severance creator Dan Erickson told The Envelope. “I think we have that moment where we think about what it means to be a person of extreme power because we see the impact — people get hurt because those in power don’t think about their well-being and care more about that.” ground care line.”

And we kind of love it. It’s a vicarious satisfaction to watch WeCrashed’s Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway play WeWork shared office founder Adam Neumann and his wife Rebekah spending boatloads of investor dollars on commercial and residential real estate. In “The Dropout,” we feel Elizabeth Holmes’ (Amanda Seyfried) need to succeed as a young woman in Silicon Valley’s boys’ club, even as she defrauds anyone interested in her company’s fake blood testing technology in Theranos. Uber founder Travis Kalanick might be a total jerk when Joseph Gordon-Levitt portrayed him in Super Pumped and it’s catching up with him, but he’s still worth billions and everyone knows his brand.

Viewers can join these enterprising Icaruses in their luxurious private jets. They feel accused of acting out ugly but undeniable fantasies of power, like firing people at will and intimidating those subordinates who stay. And when each founder is ousted by more powerful government or venture capital forces — often with the help of very brave and angry whistleblowers — any identification the audience has felt is replaced with an acquitted sense that sinners are getting their just money.

“The combination of wish-fulfillment, envy and glee is part of human nature, and these stories give that to you in spades,” says WeCrashed co-creator Drew Crevello.

While “Succession” remains the solid golden escalade of this particular genre, the newer shows make their power struggles in a Murdochian empire look old media. For example, messiah complexes abound in all three unicorn docudramas; The protagonists of each show emphatically repeat that their business will save the world. Meanwhile, the middle managers at Severance practically worship Lumon Industries’ Eagan dynasty, justifying the brutalization of their brain-splitting drones.

“It’s kind of new, isn’t it?” notes Dropout creator Elizabeth Meriwether. “I was pretty young in the 80’s but back then greed was good for me, being rich for the rich and enjoying the loot. What was different about the early 2000s and some of these tech startups was this need not just to be rich. It was about a lot of quasi-spiritual things, changing the world for the better, that’s a power of good, almost sectarian companies. They pretended to be the good guys, but what we found was that they often just masked good old-fashioned greed. In other American booms, there wasn’t as much need to put on that kind of spiritual mask.”

Another 21st century thing: exploited workers are buying into this line of utopian capitalism.

“All the language, the yoga babble that Rebekah brought into the company that Adam kind of leveraged, it really became something for those employees,” says Lee Eisenberg, the other WeCrashed showrunner. “They felt so cheated because they were being sold this list of goods. They joined this cause, which was kind of iconic, and they were really proud to be a part of something bigger than themselves. That’s how Adam ended up becoming a billionaire, and a lot of people ended up with nothing.”

“One of our writers, Eleanor Burgess, said something in an early conversation about the death of the Thousand Year Dream,” adds Crevello. “That really struck Lee and I as how much is connected in that sentence. For her generation, there really was this belief that you could do good for the world and make a lot of money doing it. Adam Neumann said it literally at Summer Camp [a kind of employee doctrination-party event], and that became his ethos. Not to say that these two goals are mutually exclusive, but sometimes they are very difficult to reconcile.”

Hollywood will try to reconcile with the new business model for the foreseeable future. The anthology series Super Pumped is now in its second season targeting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and soon-to-be outgoing COO Sheryl Sandberg. Succession and Winning Time producer Adam McKay, whose filmography is rich in studies of financial wrongdoing and abuse of power, is working on a film about Holmes, Bad Blood, starring Jennifer Lawrence.

With any luck, however, this latest iteration of money-and-power programming will show some sympathy for those who don’t get much of either.

“In no way are we trying to be the anti-‘successor,'” says Erickson of Severance. “It’s a complementary story. We want to examine this notion of what power means and what it does to people, but from a different perspective, that of the worker. We know that James Eagan character exists [in “Severance”] Who is this extremely powerful, weird, fascinating, maybe reclusive billionaire — and he’s on the show for what, two scenes? Because we tell a story about it, but it’s from the perspective of the people who are affected.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-06-15/power-series-dropout-wecrashed-super-pumped ‘WeCrashed,’ ‘Super Pumped’ mark ‘death of millennial dream’

Sarah Ridley

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