Netflix is in a bit of legal trouble over popular limited series Inventing Anna. Rachel Williams, former Vanity Fair photo editor and victim of Anna Delvey, has filed suit for defamation in a Delaware court. Honestly, for a show that was filled with incredible, almost unbelievable moments, the lawsuit is the least surprising thing to come out of the series.
Inventing Anna‘s treatment of Anna Delvey’s story was somewhat baffling, in the end. Over the course of eight episodes, the series delved into every underhanded and exploitative action Anna (portrayed by Julia Garner in the series) took. We saw her lies. We saw the way she used people. And we saw how it hurt the people closest to her.
And then, in the end, the series asked us to…feel bad for her? For going to jail? Journalist Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky) lamented that she’d spend the best years of her life in jail and…yeah. She committed a series of crimes and was going to have to pay for them. Why are we supposed to feel bad about her going to jail for crimes we saw her commit – with absolutely no remorse?
One might argue that the people she hurt “deserved” it. Because they were rich. Because they could take the hit. Hell, some of them got their money back and didn’t even face actual harm in the long-term. Which is a fine argument, I suppose, when it comes to the elites she defrauded for clothes and free room and board.
But the argument falls apart when it comes to Rachel Williams (Katie Lowes).
Villain or Victim
In the series, Anna invites Rachel overseas to a (supposedly) all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakesh. Once there, however, she doesn’t actually foot the bill, and it’s up to Rachel to bail them out. Rachel, who isn’t a trust fund baby or high-flier in New York society. Rachel, who has a nine-to-five job and has to put their lavish vacation on her corporate credit card or go to jail. Who wants to go overseas to be thrown in jail? Not me.
Rachel pays the bill with her corporate credit card because she has no choice. Thinking her friend will pay her back. And doing so put her job and freedom in the United States at risk. I don’t blame her for doing what she had to do to get safely back home. I don’t even blame her for trusting her “friend” and leaping at a chance to take a vacation she would never have been able to afford otherwise. Even if Anna had been as wealthy as she pretended to be, Rachel would hardly have been taking advantage of her. If there’s something we saw repeatedly throughout the series, it was that Anna liked to spend money. She liked to spend it on other people. She liked to show it off. And Rachel was hardly the only person to accept her largesse.
As I wrote in an earlier review, Rachel Williams – as depicted in the series, at least – was something of the perfect victim for Anna Delvey. Not because of her bank roll but because of her eagerness to be part of the “in” crowd. Maybe that eagerness makes her pitiable, but it doesn’t make her the villain. But for that reason, the framing of her in the series was…weird.
Everyone else was painted as Anna’s victim. But Rachel was made out to be the villain. First, she was reamed out by Neff Davis (Alexis Floyd). Okay, Neff’s loyalty toward her friend remained strong, as one of the few people Anna didn’t hurt. But in the series, Rachel was painted as mercenary and devious. She was a “user” for tagging along and accepting Anna’s gifts. (Gifts which, incidentally, others accepted as well, but they were portrayed as just falling prey to Anna’s lies.) She was painted as disloyal for getting Anna arrested. Never mind that, had she not had a corporate card on her, she and Anna both would be rotting in a Marrakesh jail somewhere.
Hell, after the trial in the series, Rachel was attacked by mutual friend Kacy Duke (Laverne Cox) for her part in Anna’s arrest. Even though Kacy at that point knew exactly who Anna was and what she’d done to everyone. Including Rachel Williams. Excuse me? Even when I was watching the show the first time, I had to pause the show at that moment to ask wtf.
Damn straight, Rachel was going to help bring her down after all that. I can’t imagine anyone in her position choosing otherwise. Put me in that situation, and I’ll slap that handcuffs on you myself, if I get the chance.
In Inventing Anna, Rachel Williams was painted as devious for tricking Anna into coming out into the open so she could be arrested. She was exploitative for selling her story for money. Which, you know, she probably had to do in part in order to pay back the money she’d had to shell out to avoid arrest. Granted, she reportedly received much more than she needed in order to reimburse Vanity Fair. But so what? Anna Delvey took advantage of other people to get her money; Rachel Williams told her own story to get hers. (Maybe she was just reclaiming her own story in doing so.) Why is Rachel worthy of derision and Anna somehow deserving of pity – for spending “the best years of her life” behind bars for crimes she absolutely committed?
The real Rachel Williams’ complaint filed against Netflix requests unspecified damages, an injunction to remove defamatory material from the limited series, and reads in part:
“This action will show that Netflix made a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things in the Series which portray her as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative and opportunistic person.”
Neither Shonda Rhimes nor the Shondaland production company are named in the suit.
Inventing Anna used Rachel William’s real name in crafting its story. All things considered, Williams’ lawsuit filed for defamation is the least surprising part of Anna Delvey’s strange tale.
Inventing Anna is streaming now on Netflix.