Hollywood meets Silicon Valley, with hilarious results
Popular culture is embracing techies. Google-like companies are central to shows such as HBO’s Silicon Valley and books like The Circle by acclaimed author David Eggers. Here are five recent Googley portrayals–and one classic Apple parody (or maybe its an homage?)–that stand out.
Hooli (from HBO's "Silicon Valley")
Silicon Valley creator Mike Judge has earned tons of press for how dead-on the show’s big, bad tech giant Hooli looks. Part Facebook, part Google, the company has all the necessary elements: sprawling campus with ridiculous tunnels and videos playing all over the building; quite a few employees doing nothing; napping pods; “bro-grammers” galore; and an egotistical CEO, Gavin Belson, who has a long-standing rivalry with awkward venture capitalist Peter Gregory. And Hooli, for all its bluster about happiness and helping the world, of course has the personality of Belson himself: the company is kind of a jerk. When Belson becomes interested in his employee Richard Hendriks’s startup Pied Piper, he offers $10 million, and when Richard turns him down, he promptly assigns a Hooli team to create a Pied Piper copy. “Hooli isn’t just another high-tech company,” says Belson in a promotional video that plays on its own employee buses. “Hooli isn’t just about software. Hooli is about people. Hooli is about innovative technology that makes a difference, transforming the world as we know it, making the world a better place. Through minimal message-oriented transport layers.”
The Circle (from "The Circle" by Dave Eggers)
Eggers’s alarmist novel from last fall is something of a warning about the dangers of big, powerful tech companies. The organization he imagines, The Circle, is pretty Googley (the mysterious cofounders are Tom, Eamon, and Ty; hard not to think of Larry, Eric and Sergey). The book’s narrator tells us it is “the only company that really mattered at all.” In press materials that went out with the book, Eggers directly responded to the question of whether the book is “about Google or Facebook or any particular company?” with a simple: “No, no.” Regardless, The Circle becomes quite scary indeed when its employees begin wearing cameras that deliver a live video feed to their “followers” showing every activity they do, all day. (They’re only allowed to take it off in the bathroom.) Gee, that sounds a little like Google Glass.
Clovis (from HBO's “Veep”)
In the already classic “Clovis” episode from season three of Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’s Selina Meyer and her team visit the Silicon Valley HQ of billion-dollar tech company Clovis. It isn’t clear what the corporation does, but all the obnoxious trappings are there: young people in hoodies, young people on Segway scooters, and an Asperger-ish CEO, Craig, who tells Selina, “I shouldn’t say this, because I majored in math, but you have my 1,000% attention” before turning away from her mid-conversation. The episode features terrific big-stupid-tech-company sound bites, such as: “We have a saying here at Clovis: dare to fail,” and, “Craig is bookmarking this chat for later.” Selina, angered with the self-important techisms and coddling Clovis culture, wins the episode with her question, “Do they have a bathroom here or do they put their turds up in the cloud?”
Gryzzl (from NBC's “Parks and Recreation”)
In the season finale of NBC’s lovable sitcom about Pawnee, Ind., Ben and Andy visit the offices of Gryzzl, a buzzy tech company that, admittedly, skews more Uber than Google. What does the company do? “It’s the cloud for your cloud,” pronounces its young, tech-bro cofounder. Hoping to earn a spot as one of the towns Gryzzl selects to bestow with free outdoor wi-fi, Ben and Andy get rejected at first (“We don’t like to say ‘no’ here, so I’ll just say, ‘nah, brah,’” the entrepreneur says) until Ben challenges the egotistical kid in a round of the board game he created: the Cones of Dunshire. (Actor Chase Edmonson put a photo of the pre-shooting setup on Instagram.)
Google (from "The Internship")
Yes, Google itself was the setting for last year’s latest Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson buddy comedy joint. And you know what? The movie got it pretty much right. Vaughn’s and Wilson’s characters, watch salesmen whose jobs are axed because of the changing economy, land in Google’s internship program. Only some of the film’s scenes were actually shot at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, but the entirety of it still looks like it was. Through the movie, the HQ resembles a college campus, with Frisbee games and volleyball, indoor slides and relaxation pods. In an early scene, the protagonists sit through a session in which interns hold up red or green ping-pong paddles to signal their responses to questions about appropriate workplace behavior. “I recognize that Google is not a conventional workplace,” says their stern, comically humorless intern supervisor Mr. Chetty. “Having said that, we have rules.” One of the questions, about whether interns can date fellow interns, prompts Chetty to explain, “This is Google, not Match.com… We say no to love.”
Mapple (from Fox's "The Simpsons")
In a 2008 episode of the classic animated series, the Springfield Mall finally gets a “Mapple Store” (ahem) and Lisa is very excited to hurry in. “It’s so sterile!” she raves, as she longingly eyes the “MyPods,” “MyPhones” and the “Brainiac Bar.” The store even sells fake earbuds for $40 that it calls MyPhonies (Lisa wants them so that people will think she could afford Mapple products.) Luckily, she gets a free MyPod from Krusty the Clown, who isn’t happy with his. Homer, meanwhile, checks out the glowing MyCube computer, which a Mapple employee tells him is “fueled by dreams and powered by imagination.”