Weaving the tale of charismatic young con artist Anna Sorokin, who swindled New York elites out of tens of thousands of dollars, the show has expertly combined fact with fiction to create an intriguing limited series — but one of Sorokin's victims believes there is a distinct element of danger involved with painting a con woman in such a fun and quirky light.
“I think promoting this whole narrative and celebrating a sociopathic, narcissistic, proven criminal is wrong,” Rachel Williams said in an interview with Vanity Fair.
"Having had a front-row seat to [the Anna circus] for far too long, I’ve studied the way a con works more than anybody needs to," she continued. "You watch the spectacle, but you’re not paying attention to what’s being marketed."
Following years of swindling her supposed closest friends out of large sums of cash, Sorokin — who went by the alias Anna Delvey — was convicted of eight separate charges including second-degree grand larceny, first-degree attempted grand larceny and theft of services. Prior to her conviction, she managed to con Williams out of a whopping $62,000.
Williams — who was described by Netflix as "a natural-born follower whose blind worship of Anna almost destroys her job, her credit, and her life," as well as Sorokin's "greatest creation" — was not only "taken off guard" by her portrayal, but felt it failed at any sort of feminist narrative to refer to her as some helpless creation of a proven criminal.
"I looked at it and I was like, Really? That’s where you’re going to go with this?" she told the outlet. "So I had some unease, but nobody thinks that someone is going to be reckless with facts, especially when the character is given my name. To me, it’s not making a statement but convoluting truth in a way that’s dangerous."
While Williams hasn't had the stomach to binge the series in its entirety, she admitted she's been skimming the show and is concerned with blatant "inaccuracies" that she's found. She also expressed her concern regarding the dangers of using true crime as entertainment when the facts are purposefully skewed for laughs.
"I think it’s worth exploring at what point a half-truth is more dangerous than a lie," she explained, speaking of the show's disclaimer that it is all true "except for the parts that aren't."
"I think that’s really dangerous territory." She added, "Plus, it affected real-time criminal-justice proceedings."
Williams also noted that the entire act of creating a Netflix show about Sorokin's life could be feeding into her skills as a con artist, assuring that a new narrative is pushed to the public that makes audiences empathize with her while making her victims appear complicit. (The convicted felon was later paid $320,000 for rights to her life story.)
"Everyone talks about Anna’s star power — they were so clearly taken with this subject that they began to empathize with her," she insisted. "If you think about it, what do con artists do? They tell stories."
"Stories have so much power when it comes to creating belief," Williams concluded. "So everybody has bought into this fantastical narrative that has become so devoid of fact but still has the illusion of truth. The facts are boring, I guess, but they’re important."