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A Journalism Major’s Review of Netflix’s ‘Inventing Anna’

Shonda Rhimes, you have done it again. The executive producer of Bridgerton, Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and other popular shows, Rhimes has created a production company called Shondaland, specializing in television shows that prompt thoughtful and controversial reactions from their viewers. 

Airing on February 11, 2022, Inventing Anna follows a journalist who works at Manhattan Magazine, whereupon further research I learned was the fictional version of the New York Magazine. The journalist, Vivian Kent’s (Anna Chlumsky) attention is caught by the mysterious and chic Anna Delvey, formerly known as Anna Sorokin, who is convicted under charges of grand larceny, theft, and money laundering. Vivian, determined to find the truth, begins researching the enigma that is Anna, going to great lengths interviewing her and her acquaintances, trying to find the truth behind Anna Delvey. 

Inventing Anna provides an insight into the tricky world of journalism and gives viewers an inside view into the mind of a successful journalist. The show explores the ethics of journalism and sheds light on the notorious question within journalism: in the relationship between a journalist and their subject, how close is too close?

Coincidentally, one of the classes that I am taking this quarter is focused on exactly that. Taught by Pulitzer Prize winner and journalist, Barry Siegel, History and Ethics of Literary Journalism, as titled in the course handbook, explores the thin line between fiction and nonfiction, questions the morals and ethics surrounding journalism, and aims to dissect the idea that there is no formula for good journalism. Many of the discussions in class are focused on the reader’s response to specific pieces, the different opinions and interpretations of the lengths gone to in order to write those pieces. 

As if divine intervention, Inventing Anna came out while we were in the midst of discussing how close a journalist should get to their subject before it becomes too close. 

My favorite aspect about Rhimes’ shows is that they are so impressionable. As we saw in Bridgerton, Rhimes always creates scenarios within her shows that provoke questions and individual interpretations from viewers. Inventing Anna posed interpretation in a different way. Rather than historical fiction, it gave readers an insight into the business world. 

At the beginning of each episode, right after the beginning credits, Rhimes found a way to include the phrase, “This whole story is completely true, except for all the parts that are totally made up.” Inventing Anna is meant to be loosely based on an actual fake German heiress that infiltrated the upper echelons of New York society, but I would imagine that a lot of the minute details are a bit fabricated. This is such an interesting choice: a show about journalism being a journalism piece itself. 

Another way to say “literary journalism” is “up close journalism.” It explores the close relationships that a journalist could have with their subject, and it examines the lines and boundaries within this relationship that cannot be crossed. I think that the relationship between a journalist and a subject matter is a fine line to navigate. Morals are a very tricky thing to consider because not everyone’s the same, and someone’s morals really depend on the person. It’s really up to the audience to determine what lines should not be crossed. Inventing Anna left me questioning these lines more than I had ever before. 

I’ve heard a lot of mixed opinions about this show. I’ve heard people thinking the acting is terrible and not realistic, others going on about how terrible Anna’s (Jullia Garner) accent was, and some five star reviews. As I said earlier, the impressionability of Rhimes shows are my favorite part about them. Say what you want about Shonda Rhimes, but she knows how to spark a conversation.

This show did not disappoint me. The story was compelling, the journalism was realistic, and as far as the acting, I would say they did a pretty good job. Some lines and eccentricities I could’ve done without, but I overall really enjoyed this show and how it related to the complications and trials within journalism.

Molly Summers

UC Irvine '25

Molly is a first year Literary Journalism major. When she is not in class, Molly enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and drinking copious amounts of iced oat milk lattes. Born and raised in Steamboat, Colorado, Molly has skied and spent the better portion of her life outside. She is very excited to be in southern California for a change and be a part of Her Campus!
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