In WeCrashed, Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway play Adam and Rebekah Neumann, whose often nonsensical vision helped to create WeWork a household name before it all came tumbling down. The show’s new teaser, which will air on Apple TV Plus on March 18, depicts the mania of the company’s meteoric rise.
Full disclosure: I worked at WeWork in a low-level job from 2014 to 2015, when I met both Adam and Rebekah. In 2021, I exchanged a few emails with a WeCrashed writer and producer who wanted to know whether I could validate a tale from 2017. I wasn’t able to, and that was the end of the conversation. But, speaking from personal experience, Leto and Hathaway are quite convincing. Leto has a good Israeli accent and his hair is the appropriate length. (Neumann’s hair was important to his mythology, as he claimed to have a likeness to Jesus as a long-haired Israeli.) The early cartoons demonstrate Neumann’s primary ability: to persuade people to believe in his vision long enough for them to sign a check.
WeCrashed will certainly delve into Adam’s dubious economics, as well as the debauchery of WeWork’s Summer Camp getaways (“debauchery,” in my personal experience, meaning endless mimosas, a terrible Chainsmokers concert, a really excellent Weeknd concert, and more cocaine than I’d ever seen”). WeCrashed, on the other hand, brings the storey of Adam and Rebekah to a close. The play was adapted from a podcast, and their narrative has been told in a number of podcasts, documentaries, and books, including Eliot Brown’s The Cult of We and Reeves Wiedeman’s Billion Dollar Loser. The plot is now apparently in its final shape as a TV show.
What’s behind the recent spate of CEOs behaving badly on camera? A few things, the most important of which is that CEOs have been behaving badly. After a jury found Holmes guilty, The Washington Post noted that America has a “history of building up its business leaders and tearing them down just as quickly when they’re accused of wrongdoing,” dating back to Enron and the 2008 financial crisis, which has been depicted in films such as Margin Call and The Big Short.
The plot is constrained by the fact that real-life characters are transformed into fictionalised versions. When looking at music biopics, YouTuber Patrick Willems explained how putting a real person in a movie pushes a narrative on their life. A podcast or book can do the same thing, but they both give you a bit more freedom to explore into intricate or contradicting details.
A podcast can have bonus episodes, and a book can have footnotes, but visual tales don’t have sidebars. The issue is to get all of the information on the screen while still keeping the viewer’s attention. In The Big Short, Adam McKay accomplished so, and it will be up to these series to do the same.
Folks who have heard about these stories but never bothered to read them, with a side helping of people who have read thoroughly into these stories and want more of them, are most likely the target demographic for these upcoming performances. Of course, individuals who were previously uninterested may remain so, and those who have learnt about the turmoil of technology may have already had their fill.
There’s also the possibility that series like WeCrashed and Super Pumped will become identical, with all of these charming CEOs merging into one grift-filled stew. And, as Steve Jobs famously stated, “for someone who wanted to make a dent in the cosmos, that might be the worst fate of all.”