A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Definitely provides a cautionary example of a person who went too far, too fast, despite wishing to make a positive impact on the world.
Positive Role Models
As befits a drama focused on an infamous swindle, main characters are all complex, with good aspects (e.g., Elizabeth is smart, works extremely hard) as well as bad ones (she commits serious financial and moral misdeeds believing that her ends will justify the means). Professor Gardner emerges as a no-nonsense, brilliant professor who was never afraid to puncture Elizabeth's grand plans. Ultimately, Holmes was brought down by whistleblowers in her company with much to lose.
Elizabeth's co-workers and fellow Stanford students are a diverse lot, with many Asian and South Asian students and tech workers. Sunny Balwani, a man from Pakistan, is the show's second lead; we understand how his background and Holmes' privileged upbringing contribute to the choices both make.
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Violence & Scariness
A sexual assault is a plot point in at least one episode; we don't see an assault happen on-screen but do see Holmes walking in a confused way down a hallway at a party with mussed hair. Later, she testifies to a college group about the assault, but we only see her distressed reaction afterward, not the testimony.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters have sex with rhythmic movements and moaning; bodies are covered by clothing or a sheet. Balwani and Holmes have a romance; expect scenes of them kissing and going on dates.
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Language is infrequent: "hell," "damn," "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
One of Holmes' abiding ambitions is to be a billionaire, a fact she announces frequently. Expect visual and other references to conspicuous consumption: fancy cars and houses, expensive clothing and luxury goods.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink at parties and gatherings; no one acts drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Dropout is based on the true story of fraudster Elizabeth Holmes. She founded a company called Theranos, a California medical technology company that claimed to have invented a new way to test blood, claims that were ultimately revealed to be fraudulent. As viewers might expect, Holmes' misdeeds take center stage here. In this dramatic telling of the story (based in part on its namesake podcast), she's revealed to be a complex character whose hard work and good intentions are overwhelmed by ambition, and she ultimately defrauds investors of billions. A sexual assault is an important plot point; the drama makes the circumstances of the assault hazy by showing nothing on-screen except Holmes looking dazed at a party. Characters do have sex with rhythmic moans and movements as well as kissing in bed and other places; bodies are covered with clothing and sheets. Holmes does have a romance with Sunny Balwani, who became her business partner. In real life, Holmes accused him of physical and sexual abuse. Balwani is portrayed by Naveen Andrews, an actor of Indian background, one of the many Asian and South Asian actors in this drama. Language is infrequent: "hell," "damn," "f--k." Alcohol appears at parties, but we don't see anyone acting drunk.
Is It Any Good?
With both empathy for its main subject and an unsentimental view of the drive that led her to a bad end, this series is a fascinating look at a real-life villain with all-too-human motivations. Viewers likely have watched one of the YouTube clips featuring her holding forth about Theranos in her unsettlingly deep voice, and vaguely know she was involved in some type of financial scandal involving fakery. The Dropout starts with a taped deposition of Seyfried/Holmes testifying about her company's financial misdeeds, but it soon zips back to show us Holmes in her nascent stage as a former school outcast turned unnervingly serious Stanford student. By the end of the first episode, she's formulated her big idea (and heard from Laurie Metcalf's deliciously tart professor Gardner that it'll never work), and she's off to the races, business-wise.
Arriving as it does on a wave of bio-series that take a fresh look at female figures at the center of notorious scandals (see: Pam & Tommy, Inventing Anna), The Dropout is briskly plotted and paced, thanks to solid writing from a strong bench of writers, including some very notable female ones: The Americans' Hilary Bettis and New Girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether among them. The cast is full of heavy hitters too; besides Seyfried, Andrews, and Metcalf, watch for William H. Macy, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Anne Archer, among other luminaries, making a meal out of relatively small roles. It's all pretty wonderful, particularly for anyone who saw the headlines and wondered just what was up with this weird lady and her big fake company, another Ponzi scheme for the ages that worked. For a while.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.