A recent rerun of Sex and the City made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t because of the Sex or the City — although seeing an Oscar de la Renta inside of a McDonald’s near The Metropolitan Opera was cringe-worthy — but rather because of the state of consumer tech.
Carrie was ducking from her computer screen whenever an instant message appeared, thinking the person sending the message could see her, and Charlotte had just discovered that Amazon delivers books. The iPhone debuts in the first movie, well after the series ended. (Carrie looks at it quizzically, then returns it to Samantha.)
There have been many tech pieces written since about what a Sex and the City would be like today — how many Twitter followers Carrie would have, social media marketing advice from Samantha, Charlotte killing it on Pinterest.
But that was more than a decade ago. The show can be forgiven. What’s more uncomfortably amusing are recent shows that gamble on a tech trend — and, in the near term, still lose.
A rerun of another HBO show most recently reminded me of this discomfort.
Almost two years ago Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character in VEEP, Selina Meyer, went to Silicon Valley to fundraise for her presidential campaign. She would make stops at a hot start-up called Clovis and at — ready? — Yahoo. Yes, the struggling Internet company on which some are counting down the clock. To be fair to VEEP, shares of Yahoo were up almost 124% in the two year prior to the episode airing, which means the stock may have looked promising to show writers. During those same two years, Google (now Alphabet) had half of Yahoo’s gains, and Apple was actually negative. There was probably some appeal, too, in Yahoo being led by Marissa Mayer (kind of like Meyer).
Fortunately, the moment is mostly saved by Meyer’s scheduler, who reminds the vice president to not use Google as verb at Yahoo. “They yahoo there.”
Clovis, the made-up tech company, also presents a distracting moment as a rerun. While it’s presented as a Google-like unicorn (but clearly not Google, since Google is referenced in the episode), its valuation is practically an inadvertent joke. The vice president is told with great wonder that Clovis is worth about $3 billion — which today mean about 2x Lyft, 5x Snapchat, 8x Airbnb, or 20x Uber.
The intentional jokes, however, live on well today. The smartwatch is still struggling to prove its smartness through a very vigorous hand-shake, and Meyer perhaps aptly wonders whether those “cyber brats” use bathrooms or “put their turds up in the cloud.”
This is far less a critique of modern content than an observation of the pace of consumer technology and pop culture’s efforts to keep up with the trends.
Perhaps one day the inadvertent joke will be that none of this is happening in virtual reality.
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