Criticism, feminism, Fiction, social commentary, TV Review

Inventing Anna: Episode 1: Life of a VIP Review (2022)

Summary: A journalist investigates the case of Anna Delvey, the Instagram-legendary heiress who stole the hearts and money of New York elites.

You can watch the trailer here.

Warning: The following contains spoilers for the first episode of Inventing Anna. Reader discretion is advised.

In the first episode of Inventing Anna, ADA Catherine McCaw says “she [Anna] is everything wrong with America right now.”

What a serendipitous statement, considering that’s exactly how I feel about this show.

I understand first episodes can be a bit rough and it normally takes around the third go for the story to find its footing, but I honestly think if I tried to stick with it that long I would put my head in a blender.

They cram as much social commentary into it as they can, somehow trying to make this faux heiress a feminist icon (why, seriously, why?). But that isn’t what made this series unwatchable for me. What makes this show so mind-numbingly dumb is Vivian Kent, the fictionalized version of the real-life journo Jessica Pressler, who wrote about Anna Delvey. How much of her actual personality is shared with her fiction counterpart?

Don’t know.

Don’t care.

Regardless of whether or not it’s an accurate portrayal, Vivian Kent is the most irritating character I have ever watched on screen. I can normally suffer a tedious protagonist if it means a good story, but Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ was she unbearable.

When she isn’t being emotionally abusive to her well-meaning and supportive husband, she’s being a whiney child that throws a temper tantrum at the smallest provocation.

I might have given her some grace if they had chosen to cast someone 5 or 10 younger (keyword: might), but witnessing a woman who is clearly in her 40s kicking her heels and lashing out like a teenager after being told they can’t go to a Taylor Swift concert is grating to watch. While some of the blame is on Anna Chlumsky and her embarrassingly hammy performance, most of it is the terrible writing.

After her husband dared to tell her if she’s so upset with her job, she should find another one.

Watching her constantly complain about not wanting to write the stories she is assigned made me want to put a bullet in my head. Fool, you’re in the Legacy Media. Your industry has been hemorrhaging employees and readership for years. The fact that you haven’t been replaced by a 19 year-old intern making minimum wage in between coffee runs is a miracle.

Vivian, basically

I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s like the writers are trying to make us hate her.

Hell, Anna Delvey is a manipulative, sociopathic bitch that cons people into doing whatever she wants to the tune of several million dollars, and even she is more likable than Vivian.

It doesn’t even really hit you how terrible of a person this witch actually is until you get to the infamous ultrasound scene.

Buckle in, this is going to be a doozy.

Anna is pregnant with her first child and so she and her husband go in for an ultrasound. She ditched the first appointment because she lost track of time trying to get the deets on Anna, and— because phones apparently don’t exist in this world—her husband was stuck there by himself, looking like a pervert when she no-showed.

This time, however, she bothers to go and it is revealed she is carrying is a girl.

This prompts her to burst into bitter tears.

I could forgive her for being upset because she is hoping to have her career stabilized in preparation for her daughter’s coming, but as she goes on, it becomes pretty damn clear she doesn’t want things to be better for her child. She wants them to be better for her.

“I thought I was going to have it fixed-my reputation-before there was a tiny person I’m required to to keep alive and pay attention to.”

-Vivian Kent

To describe your child, your baby, as something you’re “required to keep alive” and “pay attention to”, sorry but that’s gross. I know it’s technically true, but she delivered this line with such vehemence it took away any sympathy I could possibly have for her.

That, however, isn’t the line that killed me.

This is—

“And if you tell me my joy at having a daughter is supposed to make up for the loss of my career, the loss of the thing that lights up my brain, I swear to God I will smother you in your sleep.”

-Vivian Kent

Wow.

This woman literally cares more about her career than her child. A child she chose to have. A child she allegedly wants to have.

Vivian Kent—no—you know what? She isn’t Vivian anymore. For the rest of this review, she will be known as Karen.

Karen is a terrible person.

And what makes this so bad is we are clearly supposed to feel bad for her. Well, newsflash, I don’t.

Boo-hoo Karen.

When you decide to have children, you have to put them first. If you are too selfish to do that, then you don’t deserve to pro-create.

I know a lot of people will try to defend this line because some women feel conflicted about balancing a career they are passionate about with child-rearing, but you know what? I don’t care. To me it’s all there in black and white: Being a mother doesn’t make up for the loss of her career. She said it herself. No ambiguity there.

Maybe if she ever had any journalistic talent there would be something to pity, but the show goes out of its way (involuntarily though it may be) to show us what a crap journalist she is. Pretty much every move she makes is done at the behest of the members of “Scriberia,” the elderly writers at the newspaper who spoon-feed her guidance and more or less have to tell her what she needs to do nearly every step of the way.

If her lack of journalistic intuition doesn’t sell you on what a hack she is, consider this: The reason she has been relegated to writing #MeToo stories is because she printed a story that was totally false and she was justifiably raked over the coals for it. That’s her “tragic background” story.

She’s incompetent.

Here’s the TL;DR: I don’t care about Karen’s career. I don’t care if she gets the scoop on Anna and what makes her tick. If I took over as writer, I would have her husband leave her after she delivers the baby and force her to live in a cardboard box in Central Park.

It’s a shame because the concept (and it’s real-life tie-ins) were intriguing to me. I wanted to know how someone could successfully con so many blue-bloods and convince them she was of their kind. I wanted to know all the capers she got away with, the mind behind such ambitious plans.

But these characters are so unlikeable that they do away with any good-faith I might have had for this show.

I’m sure there are other problems with the narrative. The fact that they are flagrantly flaunting their ambiguous adherence to the truth when telling this story (sidenote: If you’re going to be that unfaithful to IRL events, why not just make it entirely fiction?), but I’m not knowledgeable enough about the real incident so I’m not qualified to comment on it.

All I know is what I saw and what I saw was a bunch of stuck-up white women with delusions of grandeur and a skewed sense of morality. Stealing from rich people doesn’t make you a good person when you forget the whole “give to the poor” thing. And, no, spotting your friend a couple hundreds every now and then doesn’t count. And it certainly doesn’t make you a “feminist icon” or a female Robin Hood.

I don’t even know what the writers were thinking trying to crowbar in a female empowerment message by using the most reprehensible examples of our gender imaginable.

I should know better than to try new Netflix shows at this point. I should stick to comfort-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender for the 12th millionth time.

Why do I keep gambling with these shows?

Go home, everyone.

There is nothing to see here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s