Showtime’s Battle For Uber is a tech bro nightmare worth getting Super Pumped about
It’s been six years since the Manus X Machina-themed Met Gala, where a new kind of star walked the red carpet alongside artists and Kardashians: Apple’s Tim Cook, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Google’s Sergey Brin, Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, and Uber’s Travis Kalanick. The most important tech bros of the 21st century were now trading in a celebrity status that extended beyond Silicon Valley.
Since then, the tech bro’s cultural currency has fallen as the number of exposés on the nefarious practices of Facebook and Uber has risen, and with virtually every lame thing that comes out of Elon Musk’s mouth turning them into villains and objects of ridicule. Movies like Venom, Free Guy, and The Matrix Resurrections have cast tech bros as nihilistic monsters seeking total control over the unwilling masses. And it is in that spirit that Showtime’s Super Pumped tells the story of Kalanick, the Uber CEO who revolutionized the transportation system, made billions of dollars, disrupted the tech world, and is, to put it mildly, a very bad man.
Brian Koppelman and David Levien are behind this adaptation of Mike Isaac’s book of the same name. The Billions duo cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Travis, tamping down his natural charisma to create a man of shallow charm and unrelenting ambition. We start with the straw that breaks the camel’s back in 2017. When faced with a litany of sexual assaults by Uber drivers on female passengers, Travis comes up with a “safe rides fee” where, obscenely, Uber would charge riders extra for drivers who had watched a safety video, profiting from passengers’ fears and lulling them into a false sense of security. We then travel back in time to when Uber was just a pipe dream and see how we got here.