With the development of television in recent decades, sitcom, short for situation comedy, has gained particular popularity. Despite the increased demand from viewers for technically complex, dramatic series, sitcoms continue to find a response in the minds of the audience. Typically, a sitcom presents a comedy series, based on the playback of everyday problems and situations. In this case, these stories have two similar characteristics: short duration and unrelated series. Silicon Valley, a modern series, is one sitcom created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky. The key figure in the story is the programmer Richard, who has the talent to become the head of a multi-billion-dollar technology company. Still, he continually gets into different situations, that develop his character. This report is aimed at discussing the cultural side of Richard.
The Valley is located in California and it is the leading world center of attraction for developers of high-tech projects and innovations. The global industry giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and others are successfully growing here. The series dedicated to the history of a programmer living and working in the Valley allows the audience to fully appreciate the culture of life of local people.
It is common knowledge for all fans of the series that the character and appearance of the main character, Richard Hendricks, was written off the founder of the social network Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Richard is a typical prodigy who makes his way to wealth and greatness with the help of program code. He has dropped out of college, does not sleep much, continually wears the same clothes, and is lowly socialized and panicking about public speaking. As an employee of a large multinational company, Richard creates a unique file compression algorithm that has the potential to become one of the most successful technologies of the 21st century. Each detail presented in the sitcom recreates a complete portrait picture of the character and allows to make a hypothesis about his cultural background.
The creators took a rather stereotypical approach to the question of creating the central figure of the narrative. For a person who is not familiar with the world of computer programs, Richard is an allusion to a subculture called “geeks”. He is single, like most of his colleagues, because all his free time is spent working. From a cultural point of view, this detail is essential because it outlines the unhealthy obsession that characterizes most passionate programmers. As expected, the personality of the character is not inclined to open confrontations. Most often, Richard prefers to solve issues remotely or indirectly because it is confusing to him to interact with people. Even though leaders and HR departments of local companies create the most favorable conditions for career growth, Richard does not answer with gratitude. By the middle of the series, it becomes clear that the primary goal of his life is to create a completely free and uncontrolled Internet. This idea repeatedly becomes a stumbling block between the character and his colleagues.
People far from the IT industry have an idea about programmers that they are often introverts and have a low social index. It is difficult to answer the question of whether Richard has friends. The authors of the project demonstratively forced the main character to go through the path of loneliness and emotional turmoil. Indeed, Richard has colleagues with whom he lives and works together, but hardly any friends. With each episode, the degree of conflict increases, and, as a result, colleagues think about leaving Richard alone. The idea of emotional loneliness manifests itself throughout the series. As a consequence, in the minds of viewers, there is an opinion about the hard-social life of programmers: they lack support and long-term relationships. In addition, it may often seem that people are attracted to Richard only when he has money and success. With all the above, it seems interesting to analyze a character through the Hofstede paradigm.
In his theory of cultural dimensions, the Dutch sociologist Hofstede proposed a set of indicators that determine the characteristics of different peoples. He formulated five indicators on which a particular culture could be assessed. The first criterion was the distance from power: this was one of the most challenging parameters concerning Richard, as the character had gone from a subordinate to the CEO. It is essential to understand that he does not respect the title or rank, but for him, the mind of the manager matters. In particular, if his boss has no developed critical thinking or special knowledge, Richard does not see them as powerful. The second criterion of Hofstede is isolation: from this position, the character is independent of the collective, showing absolute individualism. It is worth noting that by the middle of the story, immediately after Richard left his own company, he created the successful project alone. The character certainly does not have perseverance, the third criterion: he does not know how to stand firmly on his opinion. This is confirmed by scenes when the character’s speech was interrupted, and his ideas were modified, but there was nothing he could do about it. From the fourth criterion, Richard was not ready for situations that he had not planned. In one episode, he was spontaneously asked to talk to his employees, but he could not because he suddenly felt a panic attack. Finally, the strategic thinking of the character meets all the requirements: he continually worked for the sole long-term goal, the creation of a new Internet.
In conclusion, it should be noted that taking into account all the above, the character of Richard from Silicon Valley incredibly accurately conveys the cultural code of the world of technology. The authors of the project aimed at introducing the viewer to the environment of startups and risks, investments, and bankruptcy. It was done in full through a programmer who has all the characteristics of a stereotypical industry worker. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that Richard is only an exaggerated allegory, though undoubtedly incredibly authentic.