The Big Bang Theory.
Photograph by Sonja Flemming — CBS via Getty Images
By Erik Sherman
June 1, 2015

You may have heard about the new Aaron Sorkin film about Steve Jobs, based on the Walter Isaacson biography, that’s due out October 9. If you’re in Silicon Valley (or an Apple fan boy), you’ve probably already watched the trailer, below.

Several times.

The comments are already piling up.

Tech culture, particularly with a Silicon Valley spin — whether hacking, Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or San Francisco startups — has been for years a topic of fascination for Hollywood. And the Valley has a love/hate attraction to entertainment that in their eyes can be brilliant … or a pile-up. Many enjoy the focus on the lives and pursuits they eat, breathe, and sleep. But there are some things that get annoying.

One line of criticism is that the result is far from reality. Now, many techies understand that a true representation of what they do isn’t something that would play well. “A lot of Hollywood falls into the trap that the hacker does something magical and breaks into something [immediately],” Rick Howard, chief security officer for Palo Alto Networks, told Fortune. In reality, a break-in “takes planning and weeks or months.” An audience could fall asleep waiting for action.

So, some types of distortion are necessary. Other types drive dramatic conflict but aren’t anything close to what life is actually like, say some. “[There are no] crazy parties with tons of spending of frivolous money by 20-year-old engineers,” Julia Onken, growth and UA lead at event calendaring software company, told Fortune. “There are parties, but it’s mostly bootstrapped engineers passing out together after 4 beers, with like one girl in the room.”

A number of people told Fortune that Hollywood doesn’t get across how hard it is to raise money and put in the long hours necessary to develop a product. “When you actually get into it, no one tells you about the real stresses of the job and how lonely it is,” said Ranvir Gujral, CEO of marketing software company Chute. “Those are the true issues that we grapple with.”

Tyler Reguly, manager of security research for Tripwire, says people in Silicon Valley shouldn’t take it so seriously. “For some reasons, our industry has deemed that all fictional representations must be realistic and accurate, which completely eliminates the purpose of Hollywood,” he said. “The top box office hit this year is [Avengers: Age of Ultron]. A movie with an alien race of Norse gods, a green Hulk that was modified by gamma radiation, a man who built a reactor in his chest, and a super soldier is somehow more acceptable [to the tech community] than a movie that features extremely fake hacking.”

Here are some examples of Hollywood’s product with views, good and bad, from the real techies of Silicon Valley.


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