Con artist content is booming, but not for long
Future. Scammers are dominating TV and film right now. From The Tinder Swindler to Inventing Anna, it seems like every other documentary, podcast, or show is about some con artist or another. But the media docket is getting saturated with these stories, and as we watch the same tale over and over again — just dressed up in different clothing… audiences might be losing interest.
Across media, there’s no shortage of con artist content. Streamers, podcasters, and writers have found a successful formula (covering the grifters of the modern era) and they’ve stuck with it.
- Netflix’s Inventing Anna, all about the scamming ways of fake German heiress Anna Delvey, clocked a staggering 196 million hours in just one week.
- The story of Elizabeth Holmes, the infamous founder of healthcare startup Theranos, has been told by Hulu’s The Dropout and HBO’s The Inventor… not to mention the bestselling book Bad Blood by John Carreyrou and a podcast also titled The Dropout.
- Others include The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman, Worst Roommate Ever, and LulaRich. The chaos that was the Fyre Festival has not one but two documentaries produced to tell the story of Billy McFarland.
Up next, Jared Leto is set to play WeWork’s ex-CEO in WeCrashed, and the $4.5 billion Bitcoin scam from couple Heather Morgan and Ilya Lichtenstein has already inspired three different Hollywood projects.
Snake oil media
Audiences seem obsessed with scammers. It makes sense — there’s a sense of schadenfreude in watching con artists get taken down. Plus, if we’re watching the wool get pulled over other people’s eyes, that means we’re not the ones getting tricked.
But as the genre reaches a fever pitch, watchers are getting fatigued. There’s a sense of staleness around content like The Dropout. As Kate Knibbs of Wired points out, the “dazzle” has been dampened by overfamiliarity.