In SuperPumped, Kalanick, like the dramatised Holmes, displays a childish insistence on succeeding no matter how much he has to bend the rules, including hiding some privacy-invading code from Apple executives so Uber will be accepted on the App Store. In the fictionalised version, an employee asks “Is that legal?” about one of their many ploys, to a round of laughter from the room of execs. Kyle Chandler plays venture capitalist Bill Gurley, a mentor to Kalanick and, unlike him, a genuine grown-up, and Uma Thurman gives a sly, near-caricature of Arianna Huffington, who advises Kalanick and joins Uber’s board. In the series, neither can overcome Kalanick’s unbounded and often unfounded confidence. In reality, he did change the world, though. The word Uber is now a verb, the company’s app an essential part of life for many.
Sometimes the fakes and hubris-filled hustlers get their comeuppance and observers get some satisfaction. As Gibney points out, our fascination with these figures is complicated. “People invest in that idea [of them], but then of course they also want them to be punished, which is a way of reckoning with that kind of vicarious thrill. You want to see them pull off the heist, and then you want to see them get caught by the cops.”
Holmes, convicted on four charges of fraud, is set to be sentenced in September. Leviev (real name Shimon Hayut) spent 15 months in prison in Israel. Anna Sorokin, the real person behind the sham Anna Delvey, served nearly four years in a New York prison, and is currently in detention fighting deportation to Germany. She recently told the New York Times what she is reading: Super Pumped, the non-fiction book on which the Uber series is based. That too-perfect answer leaves us wondering if she’s duping us even now.
Holmes arrives in a long line of fakes. When she named her Theranos machine the Edison, after one of her inventor-idols, it was more revealing than she might have intended. Gibney says of Thomas Edison himself “there was a long time where he faked the success of his light bulb, because he felt: well, I’m going to get there sooner or later”. However he also points out one crucial difference: “Edison ultimately came up with the goods”.
The Dropout is on Hulu in the US and on Disney + in the UK; Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber is on Showtime, with a UK release date to be announced. WeCrashed premieres on Apple+ on 18 March.
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