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HBO Green Lights Men & Capitalism

The new masculinity is all about the small business tech geek.

Susan L.M. Goldberg


April 29, 2014 - 10:00 am

Warning: Not Safe for Work (profanity)

In his new HBO series Silicon Valley, Mike Judge turns his cutting sarcasm on the wunderkind of Silicon Valley, issuing awesome commentary on 21st century masculinity.

Thomas Middleditch portrays Richard Hendricks, a developer who creates a miracle algorithm with revolutionary file compression capabilities. He is the anti-Don Draper: a skinny, nervous twenty-something dressed in cargo pants and a hoodie; Hendricks is the lost member of the Big Bang Theory click. He lives with two other computer geeks in “the incubator,” a house owned by the overtly obnoxious yet humorous Erlich Bachmann (hysterically portrayed by T.J. Miller), whose app, Aviato, has turned him into one of the many tech venture capitalists in Palo Alto. 

Hendricks turns down a 10 million dollar offer from his tech guru boss Gavin Belson, owner of the fictional Google-ripoff “Hooli,” who is anxious to purchase the miracle algorithm. Instead, Hendricks elects to accept eccentric investor Peter Gregory’s offer of $200,000 for 5% of his start-up company, Pied Piper. It’s the best argument for capitalism and small business being made on television today. In electing to start his own business instead of running with the cash, Hendricks inspires his fellow nerds and is forced into maturity. Within the first three episodes he transitions from panic attacks to developing a business plan and entering his first series of negotiations.

With his 1999 hit Office Space, Judge issued a powerful statement about the death of masculinity in the corporate world. With Silicon Valley, his declaration is refined into a statement about how the free market can be used to empower men — primarily nerdy white guys and the Asians who hang with them. In the first episode, Hendricks declares:

Look guys, for thousands of years, guys like us have gotten the sh*t kicked out of us. But now, for the first time, we are living in an era where we can be in charge and build empires. We could be the Vikings of our day.

Judge also takes sharp jabs at the men who propagate corporate culture. Hooli’s Gavin Belson is a “global”-minded laughable yuppie with a Messiah complex who is “committed to social justice” and keeps a “guru” around to remind him how wonderful and unique he is. “If we can make your audio and video files smaller, we can make cancer smaller,” he proclaims as he races to compete with Pied Piper’s formidable nerds.

It will be interesting to see how women are treated within the show. In episode 3, Bachmann (who wears a shirt that reads “I know H.T.M.L.: How To Meet Ladies”) orders up an exotic dancer as a “gift” to reward the Pied Piper crew. The guys retreat to the kitchen, anxious to avoid an awkward scene. The one guy who she manages to trap declares his love for her, and is later found hanging out at the dancer’s home… playing video games with her children.

The series is peppered with Judge’s raunchy humor, but unlike Family Guy it is relatively sparse and works to advance instead of interrupt the story. The Big Bang Theory may have ushered in the era of the nerd, but Silicon Valley is taking America’s love affair with geeky guys and masculinity to a newer, deeper, and much-needed level of respect.

Susan L.M. Goldberg is a writer with a Master's in Radio, Television & Film. Preferred bar mates include Ann Coulter, Camille Paglia and Dorothy Parker. Her writing tends towards the intersection of culture, politics and faith with the interest in starting, not stopping the discussion. Follow her on Twitter @SLMGoldberg.

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" The Big Bang Theory may have ushered in the era of the nerd, but Silicon Valley is taking America’s love affair with geeky guys and masculinity to a newer, deeper, and much-needed level of respect."

Masculinity? I think not. Masculinity is NOT about big muscles either of course. It is about an insistence upon doing the right thing... when it will cost you to do so. Character is masculinity's foundation just as it is femininity's. Absent character, masculinity and femininity merely refer to gender. Being a real man or woman rests upon character. All else is at best, secondary.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
FINALLY...a show that would make me WANT to trade my free broadcast only (rabbit ears) TV for cable!! I married a wonderful capitalist nerd, so I totally "get this".
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Hendricks is the lost member of the Big Bang Theory click."

Clique. Come on now. Unless this was supposed to be an attempt at some sort of technology pun.

But yes, the show is well worth watching.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The show has already set some sort of record for HBO -- four episodes in, we haven't seen any nudity that I can recall. It's almost like you CAN do a TV show without gratuitous (is there any other kind?) nude scenes.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't remember a whole lot of nudity in The Wire. Lots and lots of profanity but little if any nudity. For my money, that's the best TV series ever made and it was on HBO to boot.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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