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'The Politician' season 2: Justifying the rules of authenticity

Reza Mardian
Reza Mardian

Film enthusiast

Jakarta  /  Mon, June 29, 2020  /  02:32 pm
'The Politician' season 2: Justifying the rules of authenticity

Season two of 'The Politician' is now streaming on Netflix. (Netflix/File)

If you’re a big fan of films/series portraying real characters that you could root for because their flaws look so familiar in the real world, then you’re probably a big fan of Ryan Murphy, one of the cocreators of Glee, American Crime Story, American Horror Story, Pose and his latest show, The Politician.

In its second season, the show centers on Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), a New Yorker who’s now running for the New York State Senate against frontrunner and incumbent Dede Standish (Judith Light). 

The series takes place three years after Hobart’s dreams nosedived: He became student body president because his opponent withdrew from the race, he didn’t get into Harvard and he lost his sense of purpose by spending every night in New York singing and getting drunk in a bar.

When his high school campaign manager McAffee (Laura Dreyfuss) realizes Standish is running unopposed, she convinces Hobart and his high school’s campaign team and rivals to run against Standish. 

As you probably realize, this is a satire of the political world, in which candidates are known to do anything to get what they want. The second season of the show follows the same idea as the first one in that area. This time, Payton wants to win a seat in the New York State Senate. The cocreators of the show don’t just stop there. They also co-created an ultimately unique antagonist in Standish, a New York State Senate majority leader who is in a throuple (a three-way relationship). The show manages to incite questions from the first episode: Who will win the election? How will the campaign of the two candidates work? 

While the feud between the two politicians sounds interesting, what so good about the series is the exploration of authenticity. Both Hobart and Standish experience the obstacle of being their most authentic self. While Hobart claims that he’s a politician that doesn’t have authenticity, Standish can’t reveal that she’s in a three-way relationship as it might destroy her political career.

This narrative may not be new as Murphy’s characters tend to struggle with their identities. Rachel Berry in Glee is hated because of her craving for stardom. In Pose, despite being a proud transgender, Blanca cannot tell her family about her HIV diagnosis. But among all of Murphy’s shows, The Politician is probably his most blatant guide on how to find our most authentic self, demonstrated by recurrent dialogues and narrative expositions in the plot lines through various topics: sexual fluidity, life goals and campaigns. 

Being authentic is more important than ever these days. It’s very easy to imitate your teachers, mentors or other people. What’s not easy is being who you really are to the fullest extent because we need to be aware that there are morals and ethics.

As stated by Georgina Hobart: “Ethics are the rules that a social system provides us and morals are the principles which we govern ourselves by.”

Evidently, ethics will always tell our subconscious mind to do everything in accordance with what the majority of people believe. That’s why, according to Hobart, making climate change a campaign narrative is the best way he could win even though he’s not really an environmental activist.

As for Standish, eventually coming out to the public that she’s in a three-way may be empowering for women above 45 as they’re not often perceived to be sexually empowered. But before she makes the announcement, she’s constantly worrying about what people might think about her. A sex freak who’s not satisfied with a monogamous relationship?

Hobart also struggles to find out what kind of politician he is. The truth is, Standish is a polyamorous woman and Hobart is the kind of politician who really wants to win at all costs. When they take pride in their own identities, that’s when they stand out more. 

Their struggles reflect our own inner questions: Should we cheat during an exam to get a perfect biology score in class? Should we feel comfortable dating a person our classmates hate even though we love them? Can we really be ourselves despite knowing that there are costs in every choice we make? The Politician explores these questions without judgment.

We believe that one path will always be morally right. Whether it creates a bad impact on society, that’s a whole different discussion. Often times, we compromise because of collective values or societal standards that are tattooed onto our brains as if we don’t have any choices. But the truth is, we always have a choice to be ourselves. That might mean we do not conform to society, but as long as we calculate the costs and the aftermath, that should be OK because as responsible adults, we should be able to make any decision for ourselves, including showing who we really are. 

Only when we’re comfortable being authentic to the fullest, we could be more productive. We won’t spend too much time thinking about what other people think of our insecurities, flaws or sexuality because we would be able to actualize ourselves.

The Politician may be a fun and entertaining series that you could binge-watch in one sitting, but if you take a moment to think, it teaches profundity in the simplest way possible. (kes)


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.