When I worked for WeWork between 2014 and 2015, my job was to document the company’s meteoric success as staff writer for Creator, a newly founded in-house publication. Buzzy, millennial-friendly start-ups funding their own content platforms were trendy at the time, but WeWork didn’t want any regular website. The hypo around the office was that Creator was going to be like Wired in the ’90s—a publication heralded, both then and now, as a high point of modern tech journalism buttressed with utopianism. This seemed like a particularly ambitious bar to clear, but nonetheless I was assigned to interview WeWork’s members and read celebrity memoirs in hopes of gleaning business tips, which would then translate into original content for a website loosely focused around highlighting the details of work.
Creator benefitted from the same lavish spending as the rest of the company, and often this spending seemed unrelated to our broader creative mandate. In our case, we threw a party focused commission around a play we called The Sunflower Boys about Vincent van Gogh and pulled together a table read starring the late Luke Perry. Attendees received paint cans, actual sunflowers, and giant novelty ears to remind everyone of the play’s climax when Van Gogh chops his own off. Speeches were given, absinthe was poured. The entire point of this theatrical endeavor, to hypothetically drum up interest in our website, got lost somewhere in the shuffle. While Perry did a fine job portraying Van Gogh’s madness, The Sunflower Boys was one of many things at WeWork which struck me as bizarre and kind of pointless. But I needed this job, so I nodded along and applauded. Besides, this was the future of work.
WeCrashedthe excellent new Apple TV+ show based on a Wondery podcast of the same name, doesn’t touch directly on Creator. But it brought back flashbacks nonetheless, cursed memories of bean bag chairs and empty shot glasses. WeCrashed shows how a company sold millennials a revolution as empty as a spent beer tap. It’s all about founder Adam Neumann (Jared Leto) and his wife Rebekah (Anne Hathaway), whose relationship WeCrashed frames as the meeting of two crucial 2010s ideologies: hustling and wellness. He’s an entrepreneur from Israel trying to sell clothing with knee pads for babies; she’s a yoga instructor living in the shadow of her famous cousin Gwyneth Paltrow. Together, along with the grunt work of a shy architect named Miguel (Kyle Marvin), the millions of VC firm Benchmark Capital, and the billions of SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son (Eui-sung Kim), they promise to elevate the world’s consciousness by… leasing unused office space. It sounds ridiculous until it’s a success, drawing clients like Microsoft and IBM and eventually getting a stunning $47 billion valuation.
WeWork billed itself to employees as a “fun” environment, and the ultimate WeWork party was undoubtedly Summer Camp, an infamous yearly festival/rave/networking event. WeCrashed‘s third episode takes viewers through the event with Hathaway’s Rebekah as their guide. It’s not fun for everyone: Adam gets to fire a water gun at adoring fans and employees and hop in the bounce house, while Rebekah is forced to meet with lawyers and ponder over blank screens. We learn about Rebekah and Adam’s difficulties with her father Bob (Peter Jacobson), who in a flashback is pressured by a judge to admit he was a fraud when Rebekah was younger (a reference to Bob Paltrow’s real-life involvement with a faux charity) . Rebekah must also navigate outrage over a statement she makes on stage about how “a big part of being a woman is to help men manifest their calling,” which risks her getting canceled by the company’s female employees, as well as crafting a letter of support for her father before his character is prison to prison for a more recent crime of tax fraud. During a listening session with the angry female employees on the show, she learns how WeWork was apparently a horrible company to work for, where employees sleep with their bosses in the office “fuck closet” after late-night rages and barely make any money.
I was not the most enthusiastic partygoer at WeWork, so when I would get feedback from higher ups it was suggested that it would be in my best interest to attend the technically-optional Summer Camp. As expected, Rebekah’s perspective on WeCrashed differs vastly from my own experience in 2015: While most employees stayed in tents in a muddy field, worsened by late night rain, Rebekah, Adam, and the rest of the C-Suite stayed in cabins. In my experience, WeCrashed Accurately depicts the amounts of alcohol consumed at WeWork events like Summer Camp, although I saw what looked like more than a few folks enjoying cocaine and hallucinogens. (I spent most of the weekend out of my mind on vials of psilocybin given to me by a co-worker who had gotten them from his shaman.) While the Neumanns’ fascination with celebrities is seen throughout the show, these interactions were not always Seamless, like when I watched TJ Miller get booed off a Summer Camp stage after making a series of poorly received jokes. After his mic was cut off and he stormed off stage, he came back and apologized to the crowd like a sad, punished child.