From the filmmakers who brought us Fyre and Tiger King, Netflix’s Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal will debut on the streamer on March 17, giving viewers a front-row seat to the parade of white privilege we’ve all come to know and loathe.
The 2019 scandal, which saw beloved Aunt Becky from Full House (real name Lori Loughlin) and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman admit to resorting to bribery to get their kids into colleges, dominated headlines for months as we all shook our heads at the sheer audacity of rich people.
Now, thanks to the new documentary, we can familiarise ourselves with another side of the scandal, as Operation Varsity Blues unpacks the story of mastermind Rick Singer, who persuaded his multitude of wealthy clients to cheat an educational system already designed to benefit the privileged and exclude the poor.
Between 2011 and 2018, Singer was given over USD $25 million by more than 750 families to commit fraud by inflating entrance exam test scores and bribing various college officials, thereby ensuring their children were accepted into their colleges of choice.
The documentary derives its title from the codename assigned to the investigation into the conspiracy.
Matthew Modine will play Singer in the film, which uses a combination of interviews and actual FBI wiretapped conversations between the ringleader and his clients, capturing such facepalm moments as Singer asking, “is there any risk that this thing blows up in my face?”
His face was certainly not the only one that the scheme blew up in, although for obvious reasons, his punishment is the most severe.
While Singer faces up to 65 years in prison, and a fine of $1.25 million, Oscar-nominated actress Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, 250 hours of community service, one year supervised release and a $30,000 fine, because she is a rich white person.
Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison, two years of supervised release, a $150,000 fine and 100 hours of community service, while her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was sentenced to five months in prison, two years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and 250 hours of community service, again, because they are rich white people.
Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded guilty to paying $500,000 to get their two daughters —Isabella Rose and beauty blogger Olivia Jade — into the University of Southern California as recruits for the rowing team, even though neither child were participants in the sport.
In December 2020, Olivia Jade appeared on Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Red Table Talk, to assert her innocence in the situation.
Unsurprisingly, her revelations about white privilege, on a show hosted by three Black women, was met with widespread derision with many using it as an opportunity to draw stark comparisons between how differently the criminal justice system treats Black people and white ones.
Check out the trailer for Netflix’s Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal below.