Despite all of the nation’s ideals aimed at maintaining meritocracy, Americans are, nonetheless, enamored by the aristocracy. The enduring popularity of shows such as “Gossip Girl,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “The White Lotus” demonstrates this obsession with the mega-rich. It’s why modern audiences are captivated by celebrity culture and taken by the likes of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And it’s why they hyper-glamorize individuals like Anna Sorokin — perhaps better known to the world as con artist Anna Delvey.
If her name is unfamiliar to you, Sorokin’s story likely isn’t. The subject of Netflix’s hit television show “Inventing Anna,” the Russian-German fraudster made headlines in recent years for scamming New York City’s elite and conning her way into society’s uppermost echelons. Sorokin adopted the alias of Delvey, falsified bank records and swindled around $275,000 from unsuspecting friends and financial institutions before her eventual arrest. Upon her release from prison, Sorokin, who is a German citizen, was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement where she remained for over a year, selling artwork that allowed her to eventually purchase a chic East Village dwelling.
Sorokin’s tangled web of debt and deceit has been the subject of heavy media coverage and compared to that of a modern-day Gatsby. She has taken the world by storm, and the Netflix show was only the beginning: in late January of this year, the Butternut production company announced that Sorokin is set to star in her own unscripted television series, “Delvey’s Dinner Club.” The show will take place in the ex-convict’s apartment — where she is currently under house arrest — and highlight her time spent in prison. Glamorizing Sorokin in this way is both harmful and hypocritical; it allows her to benefit from crimes while taking away from the devastating experiences of other immigrants.
After a judge ruled that Sorokin demonstrated interest in pursuing legitimate employment, she was allowed permission to remain in the United States. It’s evident that Sorokin has walked away from a lifetime of lies with little more than a slap on the wrist. With the recent news of her television show, she is even being rewarded for her reckless behavior and inherent desire for fame.
Sorokin is evidence of a broken legal system: one where a conventionally attractive, blonde white woman gains notoriety and sympathy for breaking the law while millions of others are left to suffer. Middle-class people facing the prospect of deportation don’t get to serve out their sentences in swanky pieds-à-terres; they are arrested, jailed and sometimes forcibly removed from their children by the work of Customs and Border Protection. Countless cases of excessive force have been recorded, and a culture of violence at the hands of Border Patrol Agents is common.
Many voters had hoped that this abhorrent practice would improve and become increasingly rare after a reversal of former President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies; however, as recently as early January, President Joe Biden doubled down on those seeking refuge at the border with Mexico, increasing restrictions on asylum in order to hinder illegal border crossings.
Individuals at the U.S. southern border with Mexico are often stereotyped as criminals and terrorists — despite the fact that many of them are simply seeking access to higher education, health care and improved economic conditions. Conversely, Sorokin has actually committed criminal acts, yet is let off the hook. A stark double standard is clearly at play.
Sorokin has previously hinted that as part of her series, she would like to share her ideas for legal reform, but as an individual famous for her forgeries, she is clearly not the right person to do so. By glorifying Sorokin’s actions, journalists and entertainment writers have likened the fake heiress to an anti-heroine and given her modern society’s most powerful weapon: a platform. The media should note that contributing to a culture of amplifying lies is the last thing our political environment needs right now; for evidence of the consequences of deception, just look to the example of Congressman George Santos (R-N.Y.), who betrayed his constituents with outright outlandish claims. Privileged individuals like Sorokin and Santos should not be given leadership opportunities based on fabricated identities, nor should they go unreprimanded for their immoral actions.
Sorokin will only gain additional distinction and wealth from her newfound endeavors — unless viewers have something to say about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the occasional indulgence in glitz and luxury, and I’ve never been one to endorse blind cancel culture. But I believe an exception should be made in the case of blatant criminality. If we do not condemn Sorokin’s actions at this moment — in the era of alternative facts — a dangerous precedent will be set for others.
The premise of “Delvey’s Dinner Club” is not just another light-hearted reality television escape or sappy satire. It highlights the larger problems currently at work in the United States. It’s a reminder of the jarring privilege that money can afford — a symbol that the American Dream is no longer a vision of equality, freedom and justice, but rather a glorification of achieving individual wealth and stardom — by any means necessary.
Criminal justice and immigration reforms are undoubtedly needed, but I am simply not interested in hearing Sorokin’s thoughts on the matter. There are better, more honest voices to bring to the dinner table.
I certainly won’t be tuning in, and I implore you not to either.
Safa Wahidi (24Ox) is from Sugar Hill, Georgia.
Safa Wahidi (she/her) (24Ox) is from Sugar Hill, Georgia, majoring in English and political science. She is an active member of the Emory Muslim Student Association and serves on the Young Democrats of Oxford College Executive Board. Outside of the Wheel, Wahidi enjoys writing fiction, watching rom-coms and anticipating the next Taylor Swift album. You can find her wandering around the nearest Barnes & Noble, tea in hand.