This article explores how television dramas function as a cultural forum on the workplace power dynamics of US tech startups. Focusing on the limited series, Super Pumped and WeCrashed, which are about Uber and WeWork, the authors analyze how relations of race, class, and gender/sexuality emerge in these narrativized techworlds via several “figures,” including white male founders/CEOs or “millennial messiahs,” “female fixers” that range from executives to silent service providers, and the “corporate board.” These figures are important because they circulate across fictional and non-fictional contexts and become a means by which publics make sense of the power relations of tech startups. Even as these shows center on the trials and tribulations of egomaniacal, power-hungry CEOs, they raise crucial questions about corporate corruption, gender/racial discrimination, and labor exploitation in the tech workplace and challenge viewers to reckon with the unchecked power of the big US technology companies.
Millennial Messiahs, Female Fixers, and Corporate Boards: Workplace Power Dynamics in Tech TV Dramas
Lisa Parks is Distinguished Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was formerly Professor at MIT. She studies the material relations and uses of media and information technologies, and is the author or co-editor of eight books, including, most recently, Media Backends: Digital Infrastructures and Sociotechnical Relations, forthcoming 2023. Parks is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow and is Director of the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab.
France Winddance Twine is a professor of sociology at University of California at Santa Barbara. An ethnographer and critical race feminist, her research areas include digital inequality, labor studies, feminist technology studies, gender & sexuality studies and queer reproductive justice. She is the author and editor of eleven books, including Geek Girls: Inequality and Opportunity in Silicon Valley. In 2022, Twine founded the Technologies for Justice Lab at UC Santa Barbara.
Lisa Parks, France Winddance Twine; Millennial Messiahs, Female Fixers, and Corporate Boards: Workplace Power Dynamics in Tech TV Dramas. Film Quarterly 1 March 2023; 76 (3): 25–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2023.76.3.25
Download citation file: