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When Girlbossing Goes Too Far: A Review of Hulu’s “The Dropout”

Hulu’s new miniseries The Dropout stars Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, who was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy. The story itself is insane. At 19, Holmes dropped out of Stanford to pursue her idea of a blood testing device that only requires one drop of blood. She successfully created the biotech company Theranos, had an impressive team of scientists, millions in investments, and former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger on her board. But the whole time she never had a working device. Seyfried does an amazing job showing us the psyche of Holmes from when she was just a teenager all the way until Theranos was shut down.

The show centers around Holmes developing her company Theranos from beginning to end. Seyfried portrays Holmes in the first episode as a socially awkward but ambitious 18 year old. Despite being 38, Seyfried plays a very convincing teenager and person in their 20’s throughout the series. When Holmes meets Sunny Balwani, who was almost 20 years older, it feels just as disturbing as it was in real life when their relationship got romantic.

Seyfried knocks it out of the park in showing Holmes’ progression to girlboss form. In order to assert herself in situations where she was the only woman, Holmes purposefully deepened her voice. While the purpose was to seem more commanding and masculine, it came off very weird. Seyfried demonstrates this transformation by showing us Holmes’ thought process in practicing how she speaks. This clip was one of my favorite scenes in the series:

We really get into the mind of Holmes through Seyfried’s performance. We see how ambitious, paranoid, emotionally unavailable, and bizarre Holmes was. Holmes was Theranos. Her only priority was making her device successful, even when being fully aware that it didn’t work. When real patients were given inaccurate blood results, it was just another obstacle that any other company would have to deal with. She had no problem lying and ruining people’s lives. Seyfried shows us how selfish Holmes was and how she would stop at nothing to keep her company going.

The design team on the show also did an incredible job in transforming Seyfried into Holmes. They perfectly recreated Holmes’ infamous look: black power suit, unkempt frizzy blonde hair, and smudged awkward looking makeup. Holmes was very purposeful with her look. Her femininity appealed to her male investors and board members who thought she was pretty and charming, her power suit made her look tough and professional, and her bad hair and makeup made it look like she just threw her look together because she was more focused on working. The show did a great job recreating this.

One of my favorite parts of the show was the music. The songs chosen for specific scenes aligned with what year the episode was in and reminds the viewers that we are in the midst of the 2000’s. Dr. Jay Rosan of Walgreens jamming to Katy Perry’s “Firework” felt very on-brand for the time. It was also used to show the weird romantic side of Holmes and Balwani’s relationship. Holmes dancing on Balwani to “How To Love” by Lil Wayne as well as them dancing to the ‘new song’ “Jealous” by Nick Jonas made me lol. Those scenes were just so awkward and hilarious after watching a scene of them scream at each other over their company falling apart.

Even after watching an 8 episode series about how she did it, it is still insane to believe that Holmes was able to fool investors, politicians, Walgreens, the FDA, and patients. The corruption, terrible work environment, lab malpractice, NDAs, and the eventual whistleblower shutdown of the company were insane to watch. What I really appreciated about the show is how they emphasized the theme of what this means for women in power. Holmes was seen as an inspiration for women CEOs and entrepreneurs, but finding out she was a fraud put us so many steps back. We have been not taken seriously for years, so when a woman in this position of power does wrong, it “makes us all look bad.” Elizabeth Holmes could’ve been revolutionary, but instead she chose to lie.

Kayleigh is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, studying Political Science with a French and a History minor. She loves history, Gilmore Girls, fashion, and anything coffee-related.
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