Cross Pitch: The Theranos Founder meets Elizabeth Báthory
Orange is the new blood for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes who checks into a federal prison camp for women in Bryan, Texas, today.
Holmes’ blood-testing tech was intended to perform hundreds of analyses from a single drop of blood (just a dab will do ya!). It didn’t work, nor did, ultimately, the entrepreneur’s myriad cover stories to investors — otherwise known as the 11 counts of fraud and conspiracy charges of which she was indicted (she was convicted of 3 counts of wire fraud and a single count of conspiracy — thanks, Reddit).
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The only Holmes stories that did work were cottage industry of aftermarket podcasts, books, docs, a limited series on Hulu, and Substacks by vultures like me. If only Holmes had gone into showbiz instead of tech. It’s hard enough to scam investors as a tech bro — imagine being in an industry where women-founded companies received only 2.1 percent of all VC funding last year. The numbers suggest she’d fare better in Hollywood, where women hold 25% of behind-the-scenes roles for big US movies, and 17% of directors and writers are female (World Economic Forum). Hm.
I ached through the first half hour of The Dropout, the Amanda Seyfried vehicle that depicted Holmes’ origin story, remarkable rise, and precipitous fall. For those who found Holmes’ contrived contralto uncanny in real life, Seyfried’s interpretation is even uncannier but with a dash of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (such a missed opportunity not to have the Holmes character claim she “invented Post-Its”).
The voice rated more than a few mentions in Amy Chozick’s recent New York Times profile, as did the notion that the “Elizabeth Holmes” many know and love to hate was a “character” constructed and portrayed by “Liz Holmes” the “real” person behind the turtleneck. This spawned a predictable afterbirth of comments (over 1400 at present writing).
One comment that deviated from the herd came courtesy of “Mark L.” from Baltimore. He compared the Times’ quasi-hagiography of Holmes to Countess Elizabeth Báthory, a wealthy and powerful 17th-century Hungarian noblewoman who lived out her days under house arrest, having been convicted of murdering 600 people in all manner of gruesome ways. This leisure class pastime earned her the nickname “Blood Countess.”
Mark L. apparently “couldn’t wait” for a “Times treatment” of Báthory “befitting her social status” a la Holmes so he asked ChatGPT to work it up:
“…Despite the unfortunate allegations of her involvement in the heinous crimes of torturing and killing young women, one cannot deny Báthory’s impressive social standing and influence. A woman of great wealth and power, her mere presence commanded respect and awe… But alas, the Blood Countess will have to pay the price for her transgressions, and society will move on, wistfully remembering her as a beacon of opulence and grace in an increasingly unrefined world.”
Over a dozen Blood Countess-themed movies are on IMDb, and many more are in development. Why no one has done an exploitation-style Holmes-themed version is beyond me. I mean — the same first name, blood, and incarceration — it’s all there. Like Mark L., I couldn’t wait, so I had ChatGPT work up a new logline:
In this thrilling retelling of history, we follow the rise and fall of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes as she takes on the persona of the infamous Blood Countess, Elizabeth Báthory, in a quest for power and immortality, leaving a trail of blood and deceit in her wake. Starring Mira Sorvino.
Before you balk, remember, don’t Theranos the Baby with the Bathory.
Ba dum tss.