By Danielle Rice || Arts & Leisure Editor
The Netflix original series The Politician was released on September 27. From the creators of Glee, The Politician centers around Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), a driven boy in high school who is running for class president, and will stop at nothing to win the election. With a fast-paced storyline, it follows Payton’s campaign, as he chooses a running mate and strategizes his girlfriend, Alice (Julia Schlaepfer), and friends, McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss) and James (Theo Germaine). At the beginning of the season, we find out that Payton’s friend River (David Corenswet), who we later find out Payton had feelings for, is running against him. Soon after a debate at the school, River commits suicide, devistating Payton and his girlfriend, Astrid (Lucy Boynton). Astrid blames Payton for River’s death and decides to run against him in River’s place. This sparks an intense competition between Payton and Astrid, each of them trying to one-up each other to prove to the school how much they cared about current issues they think are important to students and targeting different groups of students with their campaigns.
It is important to know that The Politician is largely a satirical series. Most of the main characters are very unlikeable. They are all privileged, extremely wealthy, and apathetic toward the students they are trying to target. For example, Payton tries to get a running mate that would make him look the most compassionate. He settles on a girl at his school with cancer. He is interested in her only for how she would make him look, and how many votes having her as his running mate would give him. However, he does not really care about the groups of students he claims to support. This seems to be the intention of the creators, however, because almost all of the characters involved in their group had a lack of awareness about less “important” students, and the series highlighted their ignorance. There was even an episode entitled “The Voter,” which was completely from the point of view of one of these students that the candidates were trying to gain a vote from. Despite being unlikeable, Payton’s character develops throughout the episodes. He recognizes his own flaws – that he was overly fixated on winning, which allows him to regain some sympathy from the viewer. This satirical nature allowed for uncomfortable realizations about the main characters through a comedic lens. I personally really enjoyed this style; I found it entertaining, engaging, and most of all, funny.
There were several issues I had with the series, however. Firstly, the series handles LGBTQ+ issues in a potentially problematic way. Despite including many LGBTQ+ characters, the main character himself, Payton, did not come out about his own sexuality. He was in love with River, however he stayed with his girlfriend despite not actually being in love with her, for what seemed like his image. This made it seem like to win the election, Payton felt that he should appear straight.
In addition, River’s suicide seemed to be taken somewhat lightly. Although the focus was more on the other characters than him, it still is a topic that should be taken seriously. In his speech, River expressed casually that he had felt hopeless. This was all that was mentioned and then he killed himself, leaving no true explanation. Because this happened at the beginning of the series, the topic is moved on from rather quickly, and the audience does not get a reason aside from this. Since they did not have time to delve into his mental health background, I think the suicide should have been left out completely.
Overall, I thought the series was very well done. The acting was great, and the story line was compelling and thought-provoking. I enjoyed the satirical style, and I found myself binge-watching episodes because after each episode, there was a cliff-hanger and I needed to see what would happen next. I would recommend this to those who love politics and history, and those looking for a wild new series to binge—with everything from thruples to attempted poisoning.
Sophomore Danielle Rice is the Arts & Leisure Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.