There’s a joke on Twitter — in that “ha ha but no, seriously” sense — that goes “every day one person becomes the main character on the Internet. Your goal is to avoid being that person.” On December 20, 2020, when Elle published their long-form piece, “The Journalist and The Pharma Bro“, Christie Smythe became The Main Character of the Internet. The article detailed how Smythe, a respected and experienced reporter for Bloomberg News tossed aside her entire life — her husband, her career, her credibility — for notorious securities fraudster and Big Pharma price-gouger Martin Shkreli.
It’s the sort of story designed to set segments of Twitter on fire; a professional woman throwing away her entire life for someone who stalked and harassed numerous other journalists, raised the price of life-saving anti-parasitic medicine by 5000% and famously disrespected the Wu-Tang Clan. People wanted to know how the hell someone who actually had a brain in her head would be willing to not just give up everything in her life, but freeze her eggs… all for a guy who she was never intimate with and who — plot twist — ghosted her from prison and dumped her via a statement to the press.
It seems almost comically absurd; how could anyone fall for this bullshit? It was hardly as though Shkreli’s trolling, stalking and harassment were going under the radar — especially considering how frequently he targeted other female journalists. And it was hardly as though Smythe were some naive thing, some babe lost in the woods who was just too pure, innocent or oblivious to recognize Shkreli for the posturing, entitled, faux-alpha-male-fronting, wannabe edgelord he is.
That’s why it’s important to recognize what a toxic relationship looks like… and how smart people get caught up in them.