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“Investing Anna”: Netflix Promotes a Con and It's Not Comic

The world has always adored eccentric individuals. At times it may appear as the definition of our generation but it's applicable throughout history. In spite of all the progress we have made as humanity some things just won't evolve. The binge era and streaming wars inevitably created a pathogenic environment for those individuals to spread and multiply. They get televised and we get sleep deprived. While Hulu is releasing "Pam and Tommy" and "Dropout", Netflix made a fatal mistake of letting "Tiger King" escape on Peacock. To make up for it they have reached into the darkest deepest corner of Pandora's box. In fact, you might even find Pandora products featuring their hot TV show "Inventing Anna".


Fool me, fool me. Go on and fool me.

The TV show is based on the New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler about Anna Sorokin, a German citizen of Russian origin, a convicted felon who manipulated her way into the New York elites. Netflix has done a very dangerous thing by romanticizing these life choices and inspiring future con generations. I don't want to advocate for all that is good or to police anyone. Ripping off Wall Street boys, bankers, and New Work's beau monde is always merry but let's not delude ourselves into naming Sorokin the modern Robin Hood taking from the rich and giving to the poor – herself.

Shonda Rhimes, the show's creator, is best known for “Grey's Anatomy” but don't underestimate her! She is the industry's shark with lethal teeth and her soap operas are made of steel. And I mean that as a compliment, praising her success as an example to all females in film and TV biz.

Her production company "Shondaland" made such screen busters as “Scandal” and “How To Get Away With Murder”, and later signed a deal with Netflix where they are currently working on a number of original projects including “Bridgerton” and “Inventing Anna”.

Electric city

Surely a city often acts as a character in the show. And New York is the A-list star with a stunning performance palette. Cozy, comforting, mysterious, scary, funny, classy. It was our favorite hangout in "Friends" and an upbeat hotspot in "Sex and The City". I have my own relationship with New York. We had a bad first date a few years ago; it was my first visit to the US and my expectations did not match the reality. But I am recovering now, I have lived in the US and learned to understand it better, I think I am ready for another bite of that apple.

New York has many faces, weathers, and avenues. But the city's energy remains as the land of infinite opportunities on brutal speed. Pressler's article says Anna saw the soul of the city, but it's the other way around: the city sees the soul of you. As the show unfolds, New York of “Inventing Anna” transforms from the beating heart of the party to a morning headache. It's also two different cities for each character: it shows the glamour of “Gossip Girl” to Anna while for Valery it's something between "Ugly Betty" and "Inside Man".

All is vanity, nothing is fair.

Anna is played by Julian Garner. I know her by her brilliant performance on “The Americans”, and here she keeps demonstrating incredible growth as an actress. There is a lot to celebrate this show for: the acting, the compelling writing, the director's work. It's the ethical aspect I find questionable, the attempt to glorify a fraud. Garner's Anna came out maybe a little too good, too attractive, and too intelligent while real Anna is more of a girl who made a leap from the front of the bars to behind them.

The character of Vivian Kent is inspired by a journalist Jessica Presseler who broke Anna's story in the New York magazine. She is also famous for writing a piece about strip-huslters that was adapted into a movie “Hustlers” with Keke Palmer, Constance Wu, and Jennifer Lopez. Julia Stiles portrayed Pressler in that movie, and here Anna Chlumsky is playing a Pressler-based character. I never found why they didn't write in Pressler as herself considering all the other characters appear as their real identities, but unless it was Pressler's specific request the answer might be hiding in a simple dramatization effect. Kent is the one who tells us the story, if she were to be a real-life Pressler it would make her yet another character in her own story. And second, this is Shonda Rhimes, the queen of drama (not to be confused with drama queen), perhaps she wanted one character she could perform a soap operation on without any liability.

Vivian Kent and Todd Spodek played by Arian Moayed are the two characters with the oddest excessive level of fascination upon one ill-mannered selfish girl. Many people were fascinated by Anna throughout the show, which is how we know where the creator's sympathies lie, but for Vivian and Todd it became unhealthy and nearly abusive. Those are not the warm rays of glory to bathe in, it's the deadly acid burning through the skin.

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Life in Plastic. It's fantastic.

The spice of the story is Anna's tech boyfriend, a young entrepreneur with an idea to monetize the dreams. Played by Saamer Usmani the boyfriend is named Chase in the TV show but in Pressler's article he is only ever referred to as the Futurist so, naturally, it turned a lot of people into online PIs on the quest to uncover his identity. Anna even tried to make another buck by selling the name of the Futurist to the highest-bidding media for nothing less than $10,000 but thanks to the Internet's common effort it was revealed to be Hunter Lee Soik.

Soik was a “founder” of Shadow, a company that was inclined to develop an app for dream's database. But this isn't “Devs” or Season 3 of “Westworld”, therefore the app never saw life, Soik has vanished, the mystery's busted. The family that conned together didn't stay together.

At some point, Anna's social circle thinned out to a “Mean Girls” group. Neff played by Alexis Floyd is one of the show's most pleasant characters. Although she was also admiring Anna but in an oddly sincere way. It wasn't awe or daze, but rather an admiration by a friend. And that is why Anna was feeding on that emotion like a leech. She already knew she could fascinate anyone by her splurging but that was the first time someone truly wanted to be friends with her. What could be a better ego stimulation?

Yet, the regular dose of good old flattery became an addiction. That is why Rachel Williams (played by Katie Lowes) was required to be around. Real-life Williams is a reason there is going to be another show about this debacle. Originally a victim and a plaintiff in Anna's case, she discovered a better way to get her debt paid off, much more efficient than the American justice system – the American media. Books, articles, interviews, copyrights, trademarks, and coming very soon NFT (information is from a trusted unreliable source).

The TV Williams is a rather average character who doesn't strike as someone that sharp with capitalizing. If they went over the top with Anna, then Rachel was somewhat understated. Possibly the purpose of that was to highlight Anna and not to focus much on Rachel. My suspicion is that the HBO show will be centered entirely on Rachel telling the story from her perspective.

The last resident of this rattlesnake den is the Trainer, or Kacy Duke, the celebrity fitness expert. She didn't want to be named in the article but after seeing the mind-boggling success of her friend Williams, she gave in to a crunchy Netlfix banknote. Magnificent Laverne Cox is smashing it. I first saw her on “Orange Is The New Black” and ever since it is always a pleasure to see her perform.

The king is naked. I took a selfie.

When the silver of the screen fades out and the tired face is reflected in my TV, the thought of much less exciting reality hits. Anna Sorokin is a simple thief with a little bit of wit and a little bit of luck. Rachel Williams is successfully monetizing her victim status. Todd Spodek won't see the end of that criminal defense cash. And Pressler revived her journalist career.

The buzz around Fake German Heiress doesn't die out and turns out enough of it can overpower the law. The Son of Sam couldn't beat The Daughter of Netflix. This would be a good place for the “Shut up and take my money” meme. Anna has already received a portion of her wages from Netflix which she has used to pay off her debts and legal fees. And she will be getting more while those who are found guilty of crimes less posh and not that screen adaptable would be having their debts and fees looming over them forever. Is that what a non-zero-sum game means?

There are many con stories out there but this one causes embarrassment, almost nausea. I am not entertained as I was with the Fyre Festival. I am not angry as with the Tinder Swindler. I am not astonished as with Elizabeth Holmes. The latter is frequently brought up alongside Delvey. Both are visibly bright women with massive ambition who are either misunderstood prodigies or brazen frauds. But only one of them was actually ready to draw blood. The green blood of the American dollar. They've been fooled and tricked and still charmed by her. Society chooses its heroes and all of us have committed the greatest crime by feeding this fame monster pages, covers, words, views, and likes.

I am complicit.
And I plea guilty.

© 2022 Curiosarium

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