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ESPOSITO: New shows bring much needed attention to pressing social issues

Column: Unapologetically

Streaming services produce content that informs the public about important issues while also providing entertainment.  – Photo by Tech Daily / Unsplash

“This is an inspiring step forward,” Amanda Seyfried, portraying convicted fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, tells her subordinate, while all but forcing him to perform defective blood tests on terminally ill patients.

In the new Hulu series “The Dropout,” the audience gets a deeper look into the rise and fall of Holmes, former CEO of Theranos (a combination of "therapy" and "diagnosis") who was found guilty on three counts of fraud and one of conspiring to defraud investors earlier this year.

She spent years swindling huge investors like Walgreens out of millions. We see her confess to not feeling emotions like a "normal" person should. We also see her go through sexual assault and, when she goes to the police, them advising her to drop the charges and move on. And then, we see her fixation on becoming the next Steve Jobs and the way she is willing to let her blood run cold to get there.

Throughout the miniseries, we see many people — investors, scientists, family members — believe in Holmes. They look to her as an innovator, the future of Silicon Valley, only to be let down.

Earlier this year, Hulu produced a different miniseries based on real events titled “Dopesick.” The series features Michael Keaton as a small-town doctor who has just been approached by a Purdue Pharma sales representative, pressuring him to start giving his patients the new drug Oxycontin.

The drug claimed to minimize and end pain those who take it. The show flashes between the doctor and small-town residents who unknowingly become addicted to the drug and the Sackler family who spearheaded the Oxycontin epidemic that has taken millions of innocent lives.

Like Holmes, we see the way Richard Sackler, former President of Purdue Pharma, expresses a total disregard for human life in order to profit from it. 

Only this month, decades after this crisis began, did the court order the Sacklers to formally be confronted by families of victims of the opioid crisis. Richard Sackler’s camera remained off in the Zoom court meeting, and no criminal charges have ever been pressed against any of the Sacklers.

As Hulu, Netflix and the dozens of other streaming services continue to churn out many different genres of programming, something remarkable is happening within these miniseries being produced.

Many members of Generation Z would not have been able to understand how preventable the Oxycontin crisis was without watching "Dopesick." When the series was produced, new interest began to circulate around the Sacklers, and a push to press more charges and sue grew to levels that have lulled over the years.

Additionally, “The Dropout” has spotlighted the cold hearts in Silicon Valley. When Ian Gibbons, Holmes' head scientist, took his own life to avoid testifying in court about her falsified information, we witness what little remorse she and others in power display. That is what excess money does. That is the cost of fame.

Some people may say these criminal miniseries can serve the purpose of humanizing the villains, of seeing them from all sides. But I argue that these shows serve a different, more important purpose.

As we snag a glimpse into the lives of the rich, the famous, the innovators, what we do not feel as an audience is jealousy. We feel repulsion — repulsion to the way they view others as expendable. Repulsion to the way that they never feel legitimate content but always greed, anger and jealousy.

It is easy to convince oneself that these criminals are evil, inhuman — that if they were in their shoes with their resources, you would never act the same way. I hope that is true. But for me, the lesson is: Greed and riches go hand in hand.

Laura Esposito is in the School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and political science. Her column, "Unapologetically," runs on alternate Tuesdays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 500 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 850 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to oped@dailytargum.com by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day’s publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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