Irish Film Silicon Docks Skewers The Tech Bro Ego
While watching Silicon Docks, I pondered how the whole notion that “rich = smart” got started. My best guess is that it originated in the 90s when companies that dealt in technology and computers started becoming the most profitable. These companies at the time were founded by literal nerds. Bill Gates, the head of Microsoft, was the very Steve Urkel stereotype everyone expected back then — large glasses, gawky appearance, timid speaker. The belief in the media was that Gates became rich and powerful because he was smarter than everyone else.
And he might’ve been. But even though the tech industry was built from the minds of guys like this, they started getting pushed out in favor of figureheads. Steve Jobs of Apple was the most influential one. Jobs did not actually invent or engineer any of the products he introduced. He was just good at selling them. Everyone else took notice and found their own monoliths for the press to worship. The Tech NERD started getting replaced by the Tech BRO — more confident, gives a more powerful image, but has little to do with anything. The nerds were still there, they were just now working for the bros while the bros took all the credit. There was this brief period in history where we thought nerds could win and high school culture could actually end after high school, but then the bullies wedgied us and took it all back.
Thus, we have the situation we’re currently stuck in. We have Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and others who only grow more irritating by the day thanks to their egos, brashness, cruelty, and willingness to blow gazillions of dollars on weird vanity projects while the world burns. But they must be smart, or they wouldn’t be rich, right? The new independent animated film Silicon Docks was built to skewer that perception, and it does so hard.
Silicon Docks was made in Ireland by a handful of people as they sat around in solitary quarantine during the pandemic. Film director Graham Jones, his wife, Kasia Wiśniewska, and a few others decided to use the downtime to amuse themselves by concocting a movie that could be done as cheaply as possible. Jones wrote and directed, while Wiśniewska did ALL the animation on Procreate by rigging simple drawings. They ended up creating a feature-length story about ten American tech giants who meet up in Dublin around September of 2020 and go for a pub crawl that turns rather pathetic.
The gang includes Zuck, Musk, Bezos, then-current Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Sergei Brin and some others I’m less familiar with. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is also here, but spends all his time trying to contact Bono to join them (who ignores all Reed’s texts). Technically, the reason they’re all together is to discuss signing a treaty with the European Union to abide by pandemic rules at each of their respective companies, but they spend very little time focusing on that and mostly wander around looking for an open pub while bickering with each other. The pub crawl proves very difficult as it’s the height of the lockdown and zero pubs are open. Nothing about their meeting was planned well.
The public figures in this movie all have the personalities you might expect. Bezos is boastful and arrogant, while Zuck is creepy and weird. When everyone wore a mask, it became easy to determine what a person was like with one glance, and it’s doubly so here. While some abide by the rules, Dorsey has a hole in his mask which he pushes food and drinks through, indoors and out. Cocky Bezos does not even bother with one. Musk has the latest biotech installed in his neck that allows him to change accents at the push of a button for whatever region he’s in, but it just makes him sound like a robot. He doesn’t notice.
The thing about the tech industry, though, is that it moves fast. There are targets in this film you want to see hit and incidents you want to see addressed that DON’T get addressed, simply because they hadn’t happened yet at the time the script was written. At multiple points in Silicon Docks, Dorsey is recognized on the street as the Twitter CEO and the reactions are never pleasant — passers-by will swear at him, or if they have time to stop their jogs, will give him a verbal thrashing over the level of hatred and racism that Twitter allows. These people would be directing the same complaints at Musk today, but his appearances are all about his robot voice and his space obsession.
This film was released last October and you get the sense it would have been vastly rewritten had there been a delay into 2023. Since taking and tanking Twitter, Musk has turned himself into THE ultimate modern-day example of a spoiled brat, a delusional man-child, a paranoid conspiracy theorist, and a sadistic, nightmare boss from hell. It’s quite a satirical package and would have provided at least 50% of the material for a movie like this, if it had been made just a few months later. But this takes place in 2020, was written not long after, and Musk’s presence is bare.
As one might expect from a staff of one person, the animation in Silicon Docks is very simple, limited to mouth movements. Static drawings of the characters are set on rigs and make movements through puppetry of their limbs, and when they turn, it’s at stark 90-degree angles. It’s very reminiscent of something you might’ve seen on Adult Swim in its early years (or possibly now at 2 AM). The backgrounds are actual footage of Dublin streets, set through an artistic filter, and often do the heavy lifting when the limited animation cannot.
If this all sounds good, checking out Silicon Decks is a pretty easy task…it’s right below this sentence. Jones and Wiśniewska are not charging anything to view the film and have made it free for everyone on YouTube.
March 11, 2023 @ 7:50 pm
One of the ‘tech bros’ in this ensemble is no longer leading a company he lead when the film is set, because it’s now being run by another individual in the very same ensemble – and although this pair rarely meet in reality, they’re portrayed here onscreen bickering about the future of said company! You find that dated? It’s obviously extremely prescient…
By the way, you’re factually incorrect in stating that Wiśniewska animated in Procreate. I read an article about this project in Animation Magazine a few months back and am sure she mentioned doing all her animation in a proper animation suite. Perhaps you’re thinking of where she drew the templates or something, but people don’t tend to do feature-length animation in Procreate.
Finally (and I am not totally sure about this last one, maybe someone from the film can weigh in?) but I don’t think the agreement the tech bros spend the entire day debating whether or not to sign actually relates to the pandemic at all, like you wrote above. Based on their various arguments, it sounded more to me like it had to do with EU tech regulations.