The ugly side of you: Binge-watching Netflix’s ‘The Politician’

The ugly side of you: Binge-watching Netflix’s ‘The Politician’

The new Ryan Murphy series hits a little too close to home.

Photos courtesy of Netflix


When I was still in school, I ran for student council every year from Grade 5 until my senior year of high school. So you can say that when I binge-watched Netflix’s latest offering The Politician, it was an experience™. Is this what watching myself feels like? It truly felt like watching me, all of me: both the side that I crafted for people to see and the ugly side of me that I keep at bay. It’s both satisfying and terrifying, seeing my two sides battling it out to be some high school’s student council president… let me explain.

The Politician focuses on Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), a go-getter high school student who wants, more than anything, to be the president of the United States. He understands that to get to the White House, he has to start early. Like, high school-early. Running for high school student body president, he realizes the campaign trail isn’t pretty — it’s painted with mud, blood, and a whole lot of conflict. And since it’s a show created by Ryan Murphy, so the trail has songs, too. The Politician is what you get when you mix Election (yup, the one with Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick) and Murphy’s previous works, American Crime Story and Glee.

The Politician really brought me back to my short-lived student politics stint. My school elections weren’t as bloody or grimy as Payton’s, but when I started college, that’s when things started to get a bit too real. As much as I wanted to continue my so-called political career, I was warned: under the squeaky clean campaign image is machinery that’s as lethal as it can get. Stories of mudslinging, under the table arrangements with Greek orgs, blackmail, and digging the opponent’s buried skeletons permeated the university elections. The good side of me didn’t want in — the ugly side knew how well I could play the game if I wanted to.

They say that any student body is a microcosm of an actual society: The Politician revels in this fact. Save for the soap opera-iness and ridiculousness that come with Murphy territory, the satire is every bit relevant as it is entertaining. Their promos said they promise to promise everything, and really, they weren’t kidding. The theme of corruption — all kinds of it, from political to emotional — lead the storyline, with sociopolitical issues such as gun violence and LGBTQIA acceptance, and uh lesser problems such as plastic straws make appearances as well. Some plot lines are better than others, some don’t even get resolved completely, but once you start The Politician, you won’t be able to stop — it sweeps you into this whirlwind of a political circus, leaving no one unscathed. You know, just like real politics.

The show also talks about authenticity, and rightly so. The supposedly unedited selfies, the occasional kalat tweet — these things get more faves than any of the captions bloggers use for sponsored posts. Once you know its “real” stuff that clicks, you’ll thrive off it: Twitter personalities, YouTube vloggers, and of course, politicians. Some are sincere, pushing advocacies and as-real-as-it-gets content just cause, some use advocacies and as-real-as-it-gets content with a hidden agenda. No surprise there, it’s just so human to recognize value and ask “How can we take advantage?” These days, authenticity isn’t just currency — it’s the goddamn golden ticket. 

Unlike Payton, I don’t have any plans to pursue politics, at least not at the moment. Not because I’m scared — I’m as fed as up you are, I’m the same as everyone else, of course I’ll jump at the chance to change things — but because I know that if I have to play the game, I might just give in. “I’m not a good person, I just do good things,” says Payton in one of the episodes. At the end of the day, honest-to-goodness positive change is enough justification right? Regardless of what it took to get there? Or is that just the politician in me?

The Politician is now streaming on Netflix.


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