Bravo’s Depiction of Silicon Valley has the Internet Up in Arms

Posted by · November 2, 2012 3:04 pm


Tech princess Randi Zuckerberg is stirring up controversy with the new show on Bravo she is executive producing, Start-Ups: Silicon Valley. It is quickly gaining steam as an illegitimate portrayal of the tech mecca, replacing real people with standard vapid personalities Bravo is known for.The series features six young, beautiful founders of start up companies trying to “make it”, but finding it difficult to stay focused when there is so much partying to do.

“Silicon Valley is high school, but it’s only the smart kids, and everyone has a lot of money,” one cast member touts.

Zuckerberg is the big sis of the one and only Mark Zuckerberg. She worked as Facebook’s marketing director early on, but left to pursue entertainment and formed Zuckerberg Media. Zuckerberg was invited to be a part of the show’s team for her experience as an insider, but has sort of become the unofficial spokesperson of the project.

The Naysayers
Tech bloggers doth protest the show, heralding it as the “Jersey Shore” of Silicon Valley, and that it inaccurately depicts the lifestyle of the start-up game in the Northern California region.

The thought of aligning the stars of the tech world with common reality show characters (self-involved, clubbing, partying, money-hungry drama queens) is causing pearl-clutching all over the internet. Pando Daily’s Sarah Lacy wrote an open letter regarding the show to the blooming media mogul, a personal acquaintance of hers.

“Anyone who has spent a day here knows just how bastardized that is. It’s ridiculous really,” Lacy opines.

She chastises Zuckerberg for committing the same betrayal against Silicon Valley as Aaron Sorkin did with the Oscar-winning, ”The Social Network,” a film about her very own little brother.

It’s another cog in the vicious cycle of art imitating life imitating art when it comes to the behavior of reality show stars influencing young people seeking fame and fortune.

“The problem with Start-Ups is that there’s absolutely nothing that’s reflective of the place and culture that is Silicon Valley. And that’s the final shame of it,” said Businessweek’s Sam Grobart. “There’s a nod to the idea that ‘tech’ is the central theme, and venture capitalists and angel investors are the means to a lucrative end, but those terms are heard so rarely that they could just as easily have been ‘record producer,’ ‘Donald Trump,’ or ‘Alaskan crab boat.’”

Like restaurants, a startlingly large percentage of start-ups fail. Start-Ups takes the risk of making entrepreneurship look like a walk in the park. Zuckerberg revealed to Fast Company that one of the founders appearing on the show has already been scooped up by Facebook.  Clearly their chances were increased exponentially by being vetted by the social network’s godmother.

The lack of multi-cultural representation has elicited eye-rolling as well. The show’s main characters are all white, which completely disregards the tech industry’s status as a hub of diversity and maintains the entertainment industry’s status quo of keeping Caucasians at the forefront.

“Another TV show that ignores the hard work of minorities in the United States? I’m not surprised,” ranted Rocky Agrawal for Venturebeat. “It’s understandable that a show set on a farm in North Dakota might not have South Asian people; it’s inexplicable when the show is set at startups in Silicon Valley.”

Why We Need to Stop Worrying About It
We’re dabbling in the slippery slope of demanding proof that individuals have earned their geek status. This tactic is akin to the men who have traditionally dominated the comic/gaming con scene who are offended by the surge of female enthusiasts in recent years. They respond with sexist remarks that attractive females couldn’t possibly be real geek culture fans. We can’t automatically discredit this show because it features attractive people. It’s TV. Casting directors cast good looking people. That IS reality.

Additionally, let’s not hold too tightly to our own self-righteousness. We think we’re better than the party crowd because we’re smart, educated and we worked hard to get where we stand. If the tech industry is exposed as being just as shallow as, say, the entertainment industry, we lose the right to be smug.

Randi Zuckerberg may be putting her reputation as a tech insider on the line by producing and promoting Start-Ups. But if there’s one thing we know about reality TV, the most popular characters aren’t in it to make friends, so she shouldn’t be either.