A new episode of HBO’s hit series “Silicon Valley” ruthlessly mocks the double standard on discrimination held by liberal elites, no shortage of whom can be found in the Bay Area’s cradle of innovation.
In the episode, Richard Hendricks, the CEO of a small tech company building a “new internet,” is trying to pitch a big vendor on putting exclusive content on his internet. In his effort to talk up the vendors already signed on with him, he accidentally “outs” DD, the CEO of a gay dating site, by mentioning he and his boyfriend regularly go to church.
The mood in the room instantly changes. The expressions shift from excitement and interest to a wide-eyed look of shock and subtle dread, as if they’d been told the deal would require them to eat a box of spiders. The moment was characteristic of the subtle situational humor the show does so well.
“I’m not openly Christian,” a spurned DD whispers after the meeting. “Thanks a lot, you just outed me.”
A puzzled Hendricks tells the rest of his team what happened. Mild-mannered Jared, the COO, gently tries to explain the extent to which the tech hub is biased against Christians. “Here, you can be openly polyamorous and people will call you brave. You can put micro doses of LSD in your cereal and people will call you a pioneer. But the one thing you cannot be is a Christian.”
Even Gilfoyle, a self-professed Satanist on the show, comments, “I find their theology illegitimate and it’s clear that they’re the source of the majority of the world’s problems. But f-ck Richard, even I wouldn’t just out a Christian like that.”
When Hendricks meets with DD to apologize for outing him, DD explains not even his parents are supportive of his faith. “I’m from Palo Alto. My dad says my lifestyle makes him sick. He just wants his gay son back.”
According to 2015 polling by Barna Research Group, residents of the Bay Area are the most “de-churched” in the country. “De-churched” residents have been to church in the past, but decided to stop attending.
Apparently the writers weren’t exaggerating by much, but the over-the-top disdain for Christians was just a launch point for turning the progressive paradigm of discrimination on its head. The episode opens on Hendrick’s pep talk to the eight developers who had already agreed to launch their sites on Pied Piper’s new internet. The camera slowly pans across the ethnically diverse array of faces as Hendricks expounds on how the new internet will be “free” and “truly decentralized,” unlike our current internet.
As Hendricks and DD, the CEO of the gay dating site, walk back to their cars, DD asks, “You don’t have any issue with us being an exclusively gay site, do you?”
“What? No, no it’s totally cool.”
“No, I don’t mean you being anti-gay, I mean the opposite. Excluding straight people. I just mean, you said you want your ‘new internet’ to be open for everybody, and I just want to make sure we’re jiving with your vision.”
“DD, we are psyched to have you on board. Exclude all the straight people you want.”
“You sure? Because we’re not snobs about it … ”
DD’s character might be a subtle dig at eHarmony, which had to launch Compatible Partners nine years ago in order to settle a lawsuit alleging the site discriminated against homosexuals. Unlike Dr. Neil Clark Warren, DD is willing to open his site to straight people right out of the gate. But it turns out no matter how tolerant he himself is, some beliefs just can’t be tolerated by valley techies.
Back at the office, Monica, a partner in the investment firm backing Pied Piper, says the gay dating site “plays great,” but since Christianity “freaks people out in the valley,” she and Jared prompt Richard to drop DD and his site once word got out he was a Christian.
“Cutting all ties will definitely send a strong message,” Jared offers, “like killing somebody to prove you’re not a narc.”
“Let’s put it this way,” says Monica, “Would you want to go from being a rock band,” she leans forward and whispers, “to being a Christian rock band?”
“Oh, sh-t,” mumbles Richard, realizing the gravity of his mistake.
While decision makers in the industry would consider it unthinkable to cut ties with someone because he is gay, they didn’t think twice about blatantly discriminating against another CEO because he was a Christian. And even though DD offered to open his site to straight people, Hendricks didn’t stop for a second think an exclusively gay site might run contrary to his ideals.
“Just bake the cake,” has practically become a mantra of the left when it comes to religious freedom. They’re only too happy to force Christians to use their artistic expression in support of gay weddings, but when they themselves are presented with the choice between keeping their word to someone whose beliefs they find distasteful, and dropping him as too inconvenient for business despite how great his site would “play,” they wouldn’t hesitate to give him the boot.
Going against his advisors, an uncharismatic Hendricks summons what little inspiration he can muster to try to get everyone on board with DD’s involvement. His internet is supposed to be “truly free and truly open,” he says. “‘Truly open’ means open to everyone no matter how repulsive their views are. No matter how ignorant or stupid or, to be honest, totally f-cking wrong.” Before his speech is over, though, he learns DD has backed out of the deal voluntarily.
Now spurned himself, he says, “F-ck that guy. Christians suck.”
Merging the categories of “gay” and “Christian” into one character and then flipping the traditional trope upside down was a fresh take on a well-worn discourse on religious freedom. That’s why, despite the contentious topic, the humor really worked.
It’s true conservatives offer similar “what ifs” all the time in an attempt to get progressives to buy in to freedom of association, such as “What if it were a gay atheist baker asked by a Christian to make a cake celebrating traditional marriage?” But the writers of Silicon Valley exposed far more than the hypocrisy such questions are meant to uncover. Though they may not have even meant to, they laid bare the real reason those hypotheticals don’t get buy-in from the left: some lifestyles are just unacceptable, and being a Christian is one of them.