Will The Politician get your vote?

Ruby Osborne reviews The Politician, a recent offering from Netflix.

Ruby Osborne
9th October 2019
The Politician, IMDb
In Netflix’s new high school satire, which follows a competitive student election in middle-class California, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan bring us a tale of murder, suicide, and adultery straight out of a telenovela.

Ben Platt plays Payton Hobart, a senior with a plan. First stop is student body president, next, Harvard, and finally President of the United States. But when the popular and handsome River Barkley decides to run against him, Payton’s big plan begins to waver. Especially as the duo’s history doesn’t make them merely opponents. 

The Politician clearly pays homage to Wes Anderson in symmetrical shots and colour palettes. But it goes further than that. It investigates the family and relationships of the slightly broken male protagonist. We see affairs, adoption, and emotional abuse with a comedic lightness to them. 

The focus of the series is not really on politics, despite the title and the grazing over of class, colour, gender and LGBT issues. On the surface, it appears to comment on the US political system; a politician and a human are presented as being mutually exclusive. But, really it is just a comment on human nature in itself. No one can avoid their emotions in the name of success for too long. Your quirky costume and monotonous way of speaking may make you seem like a movie character, but layers of complexity and imperfection lies behind the salmon coloured pantsuits.

Jessica Lange of course delivers a stellar performance as Dusty Jackson, the overdramatic southern belle that even Blanche Dubois would envy. Lange portrays the Nana of one of Payton’s classmates with a form of cancer that seems to only make her ill after she goes to the hospital… Strange.

The series also focuses on the idea of ‘cancel culture’ and provides a fresh view on the vindication of people of one mistake, in the political and celebrity world. In reality, high schoolers and adults alike don’t just drop people after a blunder, however big it is. 

Overall The Politician demonstrates how things don’t always go to plan, how nothing is as perfect as a candy-coloured movie, and most importantly, that power doesn’t last forever.

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