Gaslight, Gatekeep, Girlboss: The Empire of Succession


Alyssa Leong ‘23
Design Editor

*spoiler free!

In a Murdoch-esque fashion, “Succession” follows the Roy family as siblings Kendall, Roman, Siobhan, and Connor try to wrest control of their aging father’s conservative media empire Waystar Royco. And look, even I can admit that my favorite show on TV right now sounds incredibly boring on paper.

But consider this: in what other show would you possibly have Congressional hearings, the line “you can’t make a Tomlette without breaking some Greggs,” and a coke-addicted billionaire rap about his aging father all in the span of one season?

In the past three years, “Succession” has taken the world by storm, winning Emmys, inspiring memes galore and becoming material for fancams of sad middleaged men set to Mitski. How in the world, may you ask, did yet another show about rich white people get so popular?

“Succession” excels in its ability to walk the line between gritty HBO business drama and an (R-rated) sitcom all at once. Sure, it’s extremely well-written and thought out. But it’s truly the fantastic cast that gives life to the show. Many of the conversations, one-liners and colorful insults in the show are improvised and always elicit a laugh, such as “what I think he meant to say was that he wished that Mom gave birth to a can opener, because at least then it would be useful” or the gramatically infamous slogan “We Here For You.”

I’ve heard “Succession” be described as a dark comedy, a modern-day “Arrested Development”, and recently “The Office” if it was darker and also if each line was delivered more cringe-ily.” (I can’t lie, that one hurt a little – keep in mind, it was said by someone who only saw ten minutes of one episode). Somehow, all of these statements are true, and are all captured in the fantastic opening theme song that layers classical piano and 408 drum beats.

Personally, I was first captured by “Succession” in the way it was able to balance the contradictions of the satirical and serious. I find myself rooting for out-of-touch, power-hungry billionaires profiting off of conservative politics that I would hate in real life.

And, in a very Scripps fashion, I find myself surprised that one of my favorite shows is one that has so few women characters involved (although with the most recent season, streaming now, that’s admittedly changing). As someone who claims to be invested in more diverse representation in media, how can I find myself rooting for a bunch of rich white men?

But somehow, that’s the beauty of it. Having watched “Succession” three times in the span of the last year, I’ve realized that what makes the show so hateable is precisely what makes it so good.

It’s fun to see a group of out-of-touch billionaires be awful people. Somehow, there are no good characters on this show. While this article’s title may be in jest, everyone in this show truly gaslights (Roman) and gatekeeps (Kendall) and girlbosses (Shiv). Like eating an entire family sized bag of Takis alone or spending a whole paycheck’s worth on Black Friday sales, there’s something disgustingly self-aware about watching it.

Roman’s insults are toe-curlingly hilarious. Shiv’s lack of self-awareness make her girlboss attitude all the more ironic. Kendall’s angst is cringeworthy at times, but makes him a much more complex character. And, well, Connor is Connor. As Roman’s girlfriend Tabitha says during the aforementioned rapping scene, “it is burning my eyes but I cannot look away.”

Even distant Cousin Greg (my personal favorite) becomes more awful as the show goes on. A bumbling but lovingly awkward presence, he resembles the audience in his cluelessness on the world of wealth. Yet as the show goes on, he too becomes more entrenched into the dark underbelly of Waystar.

And maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the repulsiveness of the show makes me more aware of just how awful these people are but just how dangerous they can be.

In all honesty, the only way I’ve been able to get my friends to understand anything about it is by making them having them watch it with me. So grab some popcorn and watch it for yourself – but don’t think this article will give you any better of an idea of what to expect. After all, season three is still streaming weekly on HBO Max now. After all, in the words of Cousin Greg himself, “if it is to be said, so it be – so it is.”

Image Source: TVLine

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