Netflix’s new original series “The Politician” takes a satirical route on depicting high school life and has possibly hit too close to home for some students. After all, the main character, Payton Hobart, is an ambitious yet anxious high school student who feeds off of other people’s approval.
For the majority of the first season, the main drive to the plot is Payton’s desire to become class president and get accepted into Harvard. His candidacy for class president is taken as seriously as an actual U.S. election. In fact, he believes that his high school political advisers and first-lady-material girlfriend all are key pieces to his success.
Every action Payton takes is meticulously thought out and is all geared towards eventually becoming the President of the United States, a dream he has had since the age of seven. It’s highly amusing to see how much energy Payton poured into the high school campaign for class president and into school until you realize how some of Payton’s character resembles some of your own qualities. The dramatic tension fostered out of microscopic inconveniences in Payton’s life forms parallels with regular high schoolers’ lives; like Payton, many students’ primary concerns may be the fact that they didn’t get a 100% on a five-point quiz or win president of a club they hardly care about.
Payton’s pathway to presidency is so painstakingly precise that he has determined that he must become president of his senior class in order to get into Harvard in order to become president. I know, a lot of ‘in order to’s. Payton’s life is centered around this one, large ambition and he is willing to go great lengths to ensure that his dreams become a reality. At the finale of the series’ first season, however, Payton’s lack of motivation to follow his presidential dreams moreover attend college, shows that life will not always go the way we plan.
For example, earlier on in the series Payton had said that he did all the right extracurriculars- speech and debate, Mandarin, newspaper- but still got waitlisted from Harvard (obviously, even getting waitlisted from one of the most prestigious colleges is an honor in itself but to him, this is the worst thing that could have happened), demonstrating that no matter how much we try to do all the right things to get us to all the right places, it won’t always work out.
He demonstrates how too much personal ambition can be detrimental in the long run. This just screams Macbeth, doesn’t it?
His ambition to succeed is what drives a majority of the plot in this first season. At the same time, however, it is the cause of Payton’s shortcomings in other aspects of his life; he pushes his mental health, friendships and self-realization out the window. While this may have to do with Payton’s larger dream of wanting to become president, he loses himself by trying to please everyone else.
I guess no amount of watching “Ned’s Classified Survival Guide” (a show about middle school, if you’re unfamiliar) could prepare Payton for the tribulations in high school.
Ryan Murphy, the director and screenwriter for the show, is well-known for his other works such as “Glee” and “American Horror Story” (AHS). He has conjured up former cast members from his shows, most notably Ben Platt from “Glee” to play the lead character of Payton and Jessica Lange from AHS. In regards to the rest of the cast, there could’ve been more diversity. Or maybe, there was a conscious effort to have all white leads and minorities to play token minority characters in order to reflect how minorities are underrepresented in American politics and government. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. For now.
Besides the heightened drama and exaggerated characters, the show also focuses on making political and social commentary, ranging from government inaction to the ethics in buying your way to college. Essentially, it exposes the new surge of entitlement resulting from the Trump-Era. When the series makes effective points like these, it really helps it stand out from the rest of washed-out high school dramas.
Now, for those of you who finish the show within a week (or a weekend in my case), you won’t have to wait too long for the next season. Shooting for season two has already begun.
P.S. I really enjoy the theme song. I would find hidden gems and discover more about Payton’s identity through it, so don’t skip the intro the first few times you watch the show!