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With "hot" actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt as its star, Super Pumped is glorifying former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

  • "Gordon-Levitt is the latest acclaimed actor to portray an infamous businessperson in a Hollywood drama," says Alison Griswold. "He’ll soon be joined by Amanda Seyfried as disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes in Hulu’s miniseries The Dropout, and Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway as WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann and his partner, Rebekah, in Apple’s limited series WeCrashed. Before this recent spate of real-life tech dramas, there was Damian Lewis as billionaire hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod in Billions, a character partly modeled on SAC Capital founder Steve Cohen; Ryan Gosling in The Big Short as Deutsche Bank salesman Jared Vennett, based on Deutsche trader Greg Lippmann, who profited on the collapse of the housing market; Justin Timberlake as serial entrepreneur Sean Parker in The Social Network; and, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio as profane and corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated biopic The Wolf of Wall Street. There is a broader debate to be had about whether these productions irresponsibly glamorize white-collar crime, but I have a narrower objection: The actors who play the chief bad actors in these stories are always hot, even when their real-life counterparts are not. This sends exactly the wrong message on a level even more fundamental than turning corporate scheming into zippy entertainment. When we rechristen Kalanick as Gordon-Levitt, Belfort as DiCaprio, and Lewis as Cohen, we prove that bad behavior pays in more ways than one. The subtext is clear: if your actions are extreme and absurd enough, they are also great material. You can sell life rights! Write a book! Go on the conference circuit telling your tale! As long as you don’t end up in prison—or, actually, even if you do—a good script and a hot actor can not only help to launder your reputation, but manifest a cooler, sexier you. Becoming famous by way of an attractive Hollywood face is a special kind of reward."

    TOPICS: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Showtime, Billions, The Dropout, Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, WeCrashed, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway, Damian Lewis, Jared Leto