Starring Ben Platt of “Pitch Perfect” alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, “The Politician” is the new series everyone is talking about. The first season of the Netflix original just recently became available to the public on Sept. 27 and has already made waves. The show is about a high school senior named Payton (Ben Platt) who has ambitions to become the president of the United States.
Because of his high ambitions, Payton takes his school election far more seriously than the average student, creating a vast opportunity for mockery. The character of Payton is used as a mirror into political corruption. Throughout the show, numerous comparisons are made between Payton’s actions and the actions of American politicians throughout history.
The first episode of “The Politician” mocks the way politicians choose their running mates. In this episode, Payton’s opponent, River (David Corenswet) dies from suicide. After River’s death, his girlfriend, Astrid, decides to run in his place. The plot grows thicker when, in order to win the election, Astrid picks a black queer female, Skye (Rahne Jones), as her running mate with the hope of gaining the diversity vote.
Payton finds out about Astrid’s plan to play dirty in the election, so he plots to outdo her. In response to Astrid’s decision, Payton’s campaign manager tells him that he needs to pull a “John McCain,” referring to the 2008 election when the former presidential candidate chose Sarah Palin as his vice president in an attempt to gain female voters. In response to this suggestion, Payton chooses a female classmate battling cancer, Infinity Jackson (Zoey Deutch), to run as his vice president.
Next, Episode 2 mocks the way politicians have bought their way into power. In this episode, Payton’s mother, Georgina Hobart (Gwyneth Paltrow), confesses to her husband that she wants a divorce after falling in love with her stable keeper. Payton’s father is so distraught over her confession that he jumps out the window of their home.
While Payton’s father remains in a coma, Georgina thinks about the prenup she signed agreeing she will only get money for her and Payton if she doesn’t leave him. After he wakes from the coma Georgina agrees to stay with him to ensure Payton receives his inheritance one day.
When Payton discovers what he will inherit, he considers buying his way into Harvard by promising a portion of the inheritance to the university. He struggles because he has always wanted to get in on his merit alone. He worries that when he finally makes it to the political arena, it will come out that he bought his way in and it will make him look bad.
On the other hand, if he doesn’t use his money to get into Harvard, he might not have a shot at all. Over half the presidents in U.S. history were millionaires prior to attaining the presidency, leading Americans to wonder if they would have achieved such a level of success had it not been for their wealth.
Throughout history politicians have used propaganda as a tactic to bring down their political opponents. Episode 3 of “The Politician” mocks the desperate attempts of politicians to make their opponent look bad. Comparisons can be drawn to the Republicans questioning of Obama’s citizenship, as well as the investigations and video evidence of Trump’s sexual misconduct.
In this episode, Andrew (Ryan J. Haddad) is convinced Infinity is faking her cancer and recruits her boyfriend Ricardo (Benjamin Barrett) to do some digging for him. Ricardo steals a video from Infinity’s bedroom of a trip Infinity and her grandmother, Dusty Jackson (Jessica Lange), took to Busch Gardens several years ago.
In the video, Infinity is asked about her leukemia and she responds by saying she doesn’t have the disease; however, she doesn’t know what kind of cancer she does have either. After arguing with the man interviewing her, she calls him a “butt muncher,” making her appear homophobic.
Ricardo brings the video to Astrid to use as a ploy against Payton in the election. After Astrid releases the video online, all the students at their high school express rage over Infinity’s comments and Payton believes he is left with no other choice than to drop Infinity as his running mate.
Then there is Episode 4, “Gone Girl,” which makes a mockery of politicians who use tragedy as a campaign strategy. In this episode, Astrid has run away to New York leaving everyone to believe something terrible happened to her and it is Payton’s fault. Meanwhile, Skye hosts a vigil for Astrid at school, making up a story that Astrid was brutally kidnapped and asks for action to be taken to prevent this tragedy from happening again. She promises to take action against this cause as the new presidential candidate running in Astrid’s place.
Skye is displeased when Astrid finally returns and she discovers she had ran away. As a result of her anger toward Astrid, Skye decides to switch over to Payton’s side and be his running mate in the campaign instead. Skye’s vigil can be compared to any sort of tragedy instantly leading to Facebook campaigns about getting rid of guns or for better health care.
Moving on, Episode 6 titled “The Assassination of Payton Hobart Part I” makes connections to some of the most famous presidential assassinations in history, such as John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. Just after Payton’s term as president begins, Skye decides Payton isn’t fit to be president and plots to take him down by poisoning him with congratulatory cupcakes.
Meanwhile, Dusty makes her own plan to take down Payton knowing he is the one who told Infinity what she had been doing to her, so she convinces Ricardo to kill him. Ricardo shoots Payton with a poisoned BB gun, with the episode concluding with Payton fighting for his life in a hospital bed. The episode supports the reality that people in positions of power, particularly presidents, are often at risk of assassination. There are many people out there who want to hurt the president to gain power for themselves or as revenge for the changes they have made.
Finally, Episode 7 of “The Politician” mocks the way politicians attempt to keep their indiscretions hidden. At the end of “The Assassination of Payton Hobart Part II,” the police come to arrest Dusty and she confesses to the crime. She says if she’s going down, so is Payton. She tells them that he knew about the munchausen by proxy for a while but chose to use the evidence for his own personal gain rather than bring it to the police.
After this, Payton receives a letter from Harvard retracting his acceptance. Throughout history, there have been many examples of politicians attempting to keep their misconduct hidden. Some of these include: Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal and Anthony Weiner’s affair and sex offense charge. The events in this episode only confirm that the truth always comes out.
“The Politician” employs different arcs to compare its teen characters to politicians. The characters in the show all share similar backgrounds and characteristics with some of the most famous American politicians. Every episode of “The Politician” is compelling and well thought out. Be sure to check out the show on Netflix if you haven’t already.