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The Politician: A Commentary on American Politics

Student Council elections at Packer, while taken seriously, are relatively amicable. Candidates pin up playful posters around the halls, hoping to secure votes with clever puns or catchy slogans. When it comes time to vote, candidates express support for one another and seem to truly mean it. But the same cannot be said of Saint Sebastian High School, the setting of the new Netflix series The Politician.

The show, which was released on September 27, 2019, stars Ben Platt, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jessica Lange, among other well-known actors. Payton Hobart, played by Platt, is a high school student whose life goal is to become President of the United States. Before that can happen, though, he must win some smaller-scale elections, like that of Student Body President. Only the first season has been released, but the creators have announced that each one will revolve around a different political race.

At Saint Sebastian High School, Student Council elections are accompanied by intense feuds and unexpected betrayals. No one is to be trusted, and candidates always need to be one step ahead. Payton, along with his friends-turned-campaign-managers James and McAfee, are determined to win. One of the first issues they must face is finding Payton a running mate. No one seems to want to accompany him except Infinity Jackson, who is believed to be battling cancer.

After Payton announces that Infinity will be running alongside him, he hears a rumor that she does not actually have cancer; her grandmother has been making her sick. On top of trying to gain support in the election, he must figure out how to navigate this situation, which could be a question of life or death. He encounters several other obstacles during the campaign, including a confrontation with his sexuality after the suicide of River Barkley, his initial opponent in the race.

The Politician is rife with commentary on the current political climate in America. The degree of corruption in the first season seems blatantly unrealistic, but the creators’ goal was not to represent a high school student council election accurately. Rather, they hoped to convey their own feelings toward the ways in which political races have taken a turn for the worse in America. Personally, I believe the creators achieved this goal. Not only that—they also created a plot that is incredibly captivating, and they found actors to effectively portray the characters.

I am not a binge-watcher. In fact, I barely ever watch TV during the school year, because I, like many high school students, simply do not have the time. However, I binged The Politician. In one weekend, I watched seven of the eight episodes, which range in duration from 28 to 62 minutes. I was truly hooked, which means a lot coming from me. The show allowed me to reflect on the nuances of American politics while enjoying the twists and turns of a soap opera, which, in my opinion, is the best combination out there.

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