Also known as: the allure of the slow-motion trainwreck and the hope for justice. When COVID-19 turned the entire world upside a lot of people went from working in offices to working from home. There isn't really a wrong way to work from home but a lot of people are learning that dead silence doesn't really work. There are plenty of people who need some background noise to work from home and even though this writer has been working from home for a couple of years now I need that background noise too. So, for most of 2020, I've had movies and youtube videos going on in the background when I'm writing for Bleeding Cool. However, there are four things that I keep starting up in the background while I work and those are; Netflix's Fyre, Hulu's Fyre Fraud, the 2020 episode The Dropout, and the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley. Also known as four documentaries and news pieces about two of the biggest con artists and two of the biggest cons, Fyre Fest and Theranos, in the last decade and I cannot stop watching them over and over again.
There is something about watching a slow-motion trainwreck where we more or less know the outcome compared to the slow-motion trainwreck that is our current reality. The massive business failures of people like Billy McFarland or Elizabeth Holmes seem almost adorable compared to our current reality. That is not to downplay how bad both of the things that they did were, Holmes in particular more so than McFarland, but there is something to be said to seeing grifters marked with failure. We live in a time where a president is another Billy McFarland and Elizabeth Holmes and while only one of them is in jail [so far, fingers crossed for you Elizabeth] they both lost everything. There is the chance that maybe when all things come to an end justice will be served for the people who are grifting an entire country at the moment.
In terms of all the documentaries and shows, much like most things, they are all flaws and fascinating in different ways. Let's take a look at the four documentaries I constantly have running in the background as I'm working on articles.
ABC 2020: The Dropout
Out of the four, this segment on Hulu is probably the least problematic. It's a nice hour and twenty minutes that goes through the entire story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. The thing that makes this one hit a little harder than the HBO doc is the focus on the people that used Theranos blood testing and got bad results. We hear about a grandmother who spent a week thinking that her breast cancer had returned because of Theranos' blood results only to find out that she was fine. It's a fascinating series of interviews based on the popular podcast of the same name. Absolutely worth a watch if you want to see how ridiculous silicon valley really is. The entire episode is on youtube to watch for free in several parts and the entire thing is on Hulu as well under "the dropout."
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
There is a moment while you watching The Inventor and they are talking about the law that Elizabeth got changed in Arizona so people can order their own blood tests. A doctor is talking and all of a sudden you realize that there isn't a MD at the end of her name but ND which means she is a naturopathic physician. It's a profoundly weird moment for a documentary that was doing such a good job and you have to wonder why the directors and producers didn't talk to an actual doctor instead of a naturopathic one. This is also not a documentary to watch if you have any fear of blood or needles because it leans in hard on the needles and blood. It's a good doc that looks a bit more into the psychology of the Theranos con and asks the question of whether or not Elizabeth's deceptions were deliberate. It's streaming on HBO.
The first of two documentaries to come out about the infamous Fyre Fest and both of said documentaries were problematic in their own ways. The truth is that they complement each other very well and Fyre Fraud is probably the one that you should watch first since they do address the Netflix doc in the Hulu doc. This is the doc that got an interview with Fyre Fest founder Billy McFarland and watching him awkwardly try and blink his way through his lies is fascinating. He also got paid a substantial amount of money for said interview which is just unfortunate. This doc talks to a lot of journalists and spends some time explaining social media influencing and social media marketing and how it played a role in making the Fyre Festival the disaster that it was.
While the Hulu doc was problematic for paying McFarland for that interview the Netflix documentary was made in part with Jerry Media the people who promoted the festival right up until everything fell apart. This doc features a lot more interviews with former employees of Fyre Media before the entire thing went under and, unsurprisingly considering who was producing it, shifts the blame entirely on McFarland and not the people that were pushing the false marketing. However, the Netflix doc also does a much better job of explaining the NYC VIP Access con that McFarland tried to pull while he was out on bail post-Fyre Fest which is just spectacular.