Netflix’s “The Politician” premiered on the streaming site on September 27th 2019 and despite being hailed as “hollow” and “mean” by critics it is currently one of the highest rated shows on Netflix.
This is probably because critics have completely missed the point of the whole show.
While shows like “Euphoria” have been praised by critics for their raw emotional moments in difficult and distressing plots, these shows depict what happens when people rebel against society and the norms that have been set out for them.
This is not the purpose of “The Politician”.
Instead “The Politician” is a satirical depiction of the pressures felt by generation Z to be successful. It is not about what happens when drugs and self-destruction are used to cope with these pressures but instead focuses on the harsh and almost comical reality of what striving for this success and perfection can do to a person.
“The Politician” is based around the life of Peyton Hobart (Ben Platt) who is running for school president because it is part of his life-long plan to become president of the United States.
Since the age of seven he has been meticulously crafting his route to the White House studying the lives of former presidents so that he can emulate their common traits and experiences which lead to success and steer clear of their failures.
His pursuit for presidency is all consuming to the point where every minor decision is considered in terms of how it will affect his future career.
The show’s opening credits set to the tune of “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens depict this perfectly.
The sequence comprises of Payton being put together as though a marionette intended to pass as a real boy instead of actually being human. Diplomas, antidepressants, presidential biographies, a bee in a glass jar, a Harvard badge and a smattering of silver bullets are assembled into wooden compartments that join together to form Payton’s body.
It is a literal expression of the idea that people are so focused on achieving success that we have become nothing more than the sum of our parts or experiences.
Much of the show is based around this lack of authenticity and to call the show “hollow” because of it is to completely dismiss the fact that many young people struggle to know how to cope with their emotions because they feel so much pressure from society to have their path laid out and to stick to it.
In the first episode of the series Payton’s mother Georgina (Gwyneth Paltrow) touches on this, telling Payton: “I think a lot of young people feel that way, especially nowadays. Your generation got the terrible idea that it was best to vomit every thought and feeling all over each other. It’s a pandemic of over-communication that’s led to an absence of intimacy.”
Payton and his political arch nemesis Astrid (Lucy Boynton) are the embodiment of this. They are so consumed with perfection and maintaining their public personas that they’re out of touch with their emotions.
Similar to the way apps like Snapchat and Instagram allow us to share aspects of our days that we’ve specifically created for public consumption, Astrid and Payton strive to project an image of themselves that reflects the person they believe society wants them to be far more than the person they actually are.
This is very telling of our society where appearance and ambition can often mean more than talent, authenticity or genuine emotion.
Season two is set to begin production this October and is set to premier in summer 2020.
Image Credit: Netflix