The Bro Bubble: 'Silicon Valley' and the Drama of Desperate Youth

'Silicon Valley' may not get all the geeky tech details exactly right, but it perfectly nails twentysomething angst

Valley of the Bros: Zach Woods, T.J. Miller, Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr in 'Silicon Valley.' Credit: Frank Masi/HBO

There's a great moment in the new Silicon Valley season where one of the local tech gurus rants about the coming data-storage crisis. "Ninety-two percent of the world's data has been created in the last two years alone!" he thunders. We're looking at "Data-geddon." Somebody has to come up with the solution, and it doesn't matter who, as long as it's somebody he owns. He gives a superb summary of the Silicon Valley mentality: "I don't know about you people, but I don't want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do!"

Silicon Valley is about a bunch of young geeks who think they have the solution to Data-geddon, with their compression app Pied Piper. Their goal: Hit the jackpot by selling it to a venture-capital firm, while avoiding the clutches of Hooli, a thinly veiled parody of Google. But Silicon Valley hits home because it isn't really about the tech business. On a sadder and deeper level, it's a satire of something more universal: delusional youth, in all its ambition and desperation. These bros feel trapped in their startup project, but they're really trapped in their twenties, the decade when you smell loser dust all over yourself. They don't know if they'll grow up to be cynical fat cats or bitter flops. All these young geeks really want is to be good at something. Is that too much to ask? Yes, actually.

The all-too-brief Season One got stronger as it went on, mostly because it kept aiming higher satirically. It's an open debate whether Silicon Valley really gets the details of tech culture right; there's an abundance of conversations that involve eye contact and a minimum of phone-checking, which is very suspicious. But it definitely nails the details of the young man's blues, that toxic cocktail of eager-beaver energy with a nagging sense of futility and doom. This is an all-bro world, a place where business negotiations involve terms of endearment like "shit-riddled anal wasteland" and "choad-gargling fuck toilet." You get the sense that even in a town with a more humane male-to-female ratio, the guys of Silicon Valley would still exist in a bro bubble. "I'm an independent businessman," one geek proclaims. "Emphasis on independent and business. And man, too, now that I think about it." That's why it made perfect sense for Season One to climax, so to speak, with an elaborate ballet of a dick joke, involving the terminology "tip to tip."

The token grown-up last season was the late Christopher Evan Welch, who brilliantly played corporate overlord Peter Gregory as a spacey man-child, a mix of Brian Wilson and Bill Gates. Welch died unexpectedly while filming last year, but Silicon Valley wisely didn't try to recast the role. Instead, Gregory in death looms over the story — putting all the twentysomething angst in perspective. (Too much fucking perspective, as Spinal Tap would say.)

Silicon Valley feels fresh because this could be any boomtown gold-rush culture. If it weren't about apps now, it could be about advertising in the Sixties, porn in the Seventies, investment banking in the Eighties or grunge bands in the Nineties. (The excellent Season Two premiere was written by a veteran of the Nineties rock boom, Chavez guitarist Clay Tarver, which makes all the sense in the world.) Silicon Valley could be any cultural phenomenon that sucks up the hopes and dreams of eager young pups who fully believe they'll soon be taking over the world. Some of your friends are probably already this fucked. That poignant sense of delusion dominates Silicon Valley. Is there anything sadder than a dude with a dream?