The best tech representations in popular culture in 2021 and their real-world parallels
These movies and TV programs showcased tech in thought-provoking ways.
In most cases, in order for a TV show or movie to be effective, it has to be believable. Even in satire, the situations, characterizations and stakes need to be at least somewhat fathomable.
That goes double for the world of tech, where the line between reality and potential has never been thinner. As tech companies become bigger and bigger players in the world economy, there will be a proliferation of content created about them, either directly or indirectly. It’s already happening, of course, with shows like Silicon Valley proving successful for networks.
With awards season around the corner, here were some of our favourite representations of tech executives in movies and TV this year.
Alexander Skarsgård as Lukas Matsson in Succession
Anyone who has seen Succession knew this was coming. Skarsgård has excelled at playing villains in the past and while his Matsson — a Swedish tech entrepreneur who has eyes on the Roy empire — isn’t a vampire (True Blood) or a violent husband (Big Little Lies), he is a worthy adversary to the show’s protagonists. Honestly, we found ourselves rooting for him and his desire for the three Ps. (You’ll have to look those up on your own.)
Real-world parallel: Swedish, whip-smart, innovative and ruthless? Sounds like Spotify’s Daniel Elk.
Connie Britton as Nicole Mossbacher in White Lotus
The brilliant and intriguing White Lotus was packed to the brim with talented actors and well-developed characters. But the show truly displayed its brilliance in the quieter moments of smart detail, like when Britton’s Mossbacher (CFO of the fictional tech company Poof) grills Alexandra Daddario’s Rachel on a “hit piece” the latter wrote.
At first, Mossbacher is shown to be a run-of-the-mill workaholic executive. As the show’s plot unravels, however, her character reaches interesting and intriguing depths and Britton nails the different notes.
Real-world parallel: Poof is almost definitely playing off Goop. And gallivanting around a world-class resort doesn’t sound exactly out of character for Gwyneth Paltrow. But there are also some very clear parallels with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Mark Rylance as Peter Isherwell in Don’t Look Up
By far the scariest tech adjacent performance in 2021 came from what’s ostensibly a comedy. Don’t Look Up has an absolutely star-studded cast, with strong performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and many others. But it’s Rylance’s Isherwell (CEO of fictional mobile company Bash) that steals the show, with the veteran actor giving a hefty dose of creepiness to Isherwell, right on down to a shiver-inducing giggle.
Real-world parallel: It’s obviously an amalgamation of the world’s more famous tech execs — think Zuckerberg, Musk and Bezos. But Rylance’s Isherwell is scary not because of his laugh or his temperament — he goes from 0 to 100 in a second — it’s because you can’t help but think the character isn’t that far-fetched.