Last night’s Silicon Valley, “The Lady,” gets its title from two places: First, there’s a new programmer on the Pied Piper team, and it’s a womaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnn (Oprah voice).
Then there’s a scene, set in billionaire fratking Ross Hanneman’s mansion, where Pied Piper’s swag-obsessed investor reveals that he parents his child with an app he’s funding called “The Lady.” His child is named Aspen. Hanneman uses the cool voice of a woman to convey all of the banal commands that bad dads want to avoid, insisting to his son that he doesn’t make the rules, it’s the mean disembodied computer lady! (“It’s disrupted fatherhood!” Hanneman growls.)
It’s a little moment, almost a throw-away line. Yet it’s mint as a sly send-up of how tech types try to make a neat app-based solution to every life problem, plus it works as a comment on how voice assistants tend to be women. (And, of course, how women are generally cast as the nags and drags of the world.)
By outsourcing the shittiest part of being a parent to a robotic lady voice, the fake app highlights how messed up the assumptions that drive voice assistant creators to make their product voices female, ideas of woman as the nurturing, bland task-master or an assistant for carrying out drudgery. And it underlines how cold and tone-deaf Hanneman is, reinforcing his character development. What I’m saying is, it’s a good-ass joke, one that underlines how Silicon Valley can be brutal, honest, and funny in its small moments.
This episode had more big moments than the show usually does, so let’s talk about that. Things happen! Big Head is now Bag Head, and has his own office at Hooli, and a new, fancy job: Head Dreamer, a made-up title that is also a very accurate joke on meaningless, grand-sounding job titles. Never forget that Shingy still gets paid more than most of us to be AOL’s “Digital Prophet,” or that Microsoft employs an “Innovation Sherpa.” Big Head/Bag Head/Head Dreamer is still mostly concerned with not doing work, suggesting that it’ll be an uphill battle for Gavin Belson.
meritocracy at work
Meanwhile, to prep for the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, Richard starts hunting for the newest employees of Pied Piper. The top contenders: A dour self-styled cyborg and the woman who eventually gets the gig, Carla (Alice Wetterlund).
The cyborg is also named Jared, prompting everyone to start calling Zach Woods’ trembling baby fawn elbow of a character “OJ,” which is short for “Other Jared.”
“I know a name is just a sound somebody makes when they need you,” Jared mews, giving us the new most pathetic definition of the word “name” before protesting that perhaps the new Jared should be the “OJ.” He ends up convincing himself that “OJ” stands for “Original Jared” to feel better.
One of the recurring criticisms of the show is that its mostly-male cast replicates the skewed, insular gender dynamics of the groups it mocks. Silicon Valley confronts that criticism tonight by introducing a new programmer to the Pied Piper crew who is both a woman and a recognizably human character. Carla is Gilfoyle and Dinesh’s old friend, so you already know she’s awesome. Hiring her means Jared and Richard feel obliged to finally give everyone a harassment speech, where she freaks Jared out by asking if her friend Cunty can come over.
to me you are perfect
Carla, like most of these characters, is a recognizable type: The edgy-haircut badass female coder, a hackergrrl who can hang with the dudes. But she’s established as a character with history and an easy rapport with the team. Unlike Monica’s boss/loose collection of Asperger’s jokes Laurie, who was mercifully absent this episode, Carla is almost immediately more than what she’s referencing, and I like that the writers directly joked about Lisbeth Salander.
Jared’s bumbling explanation of why they want to hire Carla is basically a vision statement for the tech community’s often fucked-up approach to diversity:
“We want to hire the best people. Who happen to be women. Regardless of whether or not they are women, that part is irrelevant.”
Carla’s response suggests that she’ll fit in with the rest of the gang just fine: “Are you doing that interviewing thing where you try to rattle somebody to see if they’ll freak out or not?”
- I loved the opening scene’s hiring scenes, where Richard and Jared learn the importance of being a “dog-friendly” company.
- I know Erlich’s shirts are mostly supposed to be visual jokes about the kind of dorky shit startup dudes wear, but I kind of like them.
- Time to play “What Else Has This New Character Been in?” Big Head’s Co-Head Dreamer Professor Bannercheck is character actor Patrick Fischler, otherwise known as Jimmy Barrett from Mad Men and Phil from Lost.