Bad Vegan: A Meditation in Whiteness

5 min readMar 19, 2022
Photo credit: Netflix

Five minutes into Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives., I knew what Netflix was selling me, white supremacy, and I knew I wasn’t buying it. Bad Vegan is a story centered around Sarma Melngailis, a raw food restaurateur, and Anthony Strangis, the man who defrauded her by telling her he could make her dog immortal and promising her she could enter a realm of spiritual beings by enduring several tests, many of which included giving him thousands of dollars.

About ten minutes into the series, Sarma had been referred to several times as beautiful and was called a “super hot blonde” by Howard Stern. These adjectives prompted me to tweet the following: “One of the greatest examples of white supremacy is barely pretty white women being considered beautiful. #BadVegan” This tweet quickly prompted this response from a, most likely, white person: “@sarma She looks amazing , & do you know how many goddamn black people I’ve seen today try & turn this into a race issue some how some way ? White this white that , Yall muthafuckers try & make everything racial. My god.”

Now, Sarma is by no means ugly, but as I said, she’s barely pretty. But because she’s a white woman with blonde hair in a white supremacist society, she was seen as the next Angelina Jolie, which in turn played into her ability to defraud people as you’ll see shortly.

As the docuseries continues, it’s revealed that a man by the name of Jeffrey Chodorow gave Salma the money to buy out her partner, Matthew Kenney, when he became hard for her to work with because of tension caused by their breakup. The restaurant, Pure Food and Wine, was doing well at the time, so I’m sure helping Sarma seemed like a good investment at the time, but Kenney also contacted Chodorow and asked for the money to buy his partner out and Chodorow chose to help Sarma. Even though Chodorow says he did it because Sarma had attended Wharton like he did and Kenney had a shady financial past, I think it would be naive not to acknowledge in a society where white men are socialized to believe protecting white women is one of the main reasons they exist, Chodorow’s desire to help a white “damsel in distress” factored into his decision-making.

As the series continues and Sarma gives Anthony more and more money, she eventually isn’t able to cover the paychecks of her…