A fictional sexist app on HBO’s show ‘Silicon Valley’ turned out to be a real thing

Silicon Valley HBO

Some of the most outrageous bits of satire in HBO’s hit comedy “Silicon Valley” is the waterfall of sexist and misogynist comments that fall from the character’s mouths.

But it turns out, when it comes to sexism, the Valley is so out there, that the satire and the truth are pretty close to the same thing, as a story told onstage by show creator Mike Judge illustrated Monday at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference.

Disrupt is a tech conference famous for a contest featuring startups. The best startup ideas get a bit of funding and a lot of exposure, and many of have gone on to become big companies. So Disrupt was featured prominently in the first season of “Silicon Valley,” which is a satirical show about a startup.

Judge was inspired by an undercover visit to Disrupt in 2013. That was the year that featured on stage an awful app with a name this family friendly publication won’t repeat. The indecently-named app took photos of men’s faces as they stared at certain parts of women’s bodies. ‘Nuf said. The appearance of the app onstage caused a huge outcry in the industry.

So it was generally assumed the HBO show’s “Nip Alert” app was based on that awful real-life app. The show’s fictional app was also about men looking at women’s bodies.

But it turns out, the show’s creators came up with their app first. “We actually did that obnoxious app before the real obnoxious app,” Judge said on stage.

They had already filmed the scene before the Disrupt 2013 show. They thought their app was an over-the-top gag.

HBO Silicon Valley creator Mike Judge
HBO Silicon Valley creator Mike Judge Business Insider/screen capture

When the show first aired, it was criticised for not showing enough women in the Valley, particularly at the Disrupt conference.

But he had used “actual footage” of the Disrupt audience, he said on stage. He had also “visited a pretty big room at Google and counted two women out of I don’t know how many,” he said.

The silver lining is that the tech industry’s recent focus on diversity and inclusion of women seem to be having an impact, Judge said.

During this year’s visit, he’s seen lot more women, he said. And he may be right. Here’s a tweet of the audience from Sunday’s hackathon.

Judge and crew are currently in the process of writing Season 4 of “Silicon Valley.” 

He says the creators might try to do a bit on “one of the stupidest apps ever invented,” he says. We predict he’ll have a hard time inventing that one, too.

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