The Politician: Netflix’s Latest Hit

Maria Cuartas

Ryan Murphy’s newest dramatic comedy series, The Politician, has gained the public’s attention due to its realistic themes, the sensitive topics covered, and the progress of characters. It showcases Payton (Ben Platt), a young man who dreams of potentially becoming the president of The United States and is ambitious. He also aspires to be accepted to Harvard so intensely that he has chosen specific extracurriculars that guarantee his entrance. Some other actors include Lucy Boynton and Gwyneth Paltrow. The series was released on Netflix in September and has been watched by multiple users. 


Payton Hobart is the main protagonist because his intentions are pure, as his main goal was to help the school improve. However, he seems heartless because he calculates possible outcomes and situations. He motivates students to elect him by talking to those that feel misunderstood and electing a running mate that is empathetic and realistic. River Barkley, Payton’s first competitor and secret lover, is also a protagonist because he is fair with his proposals and opinions. Astrid, River’s girlfriend, decides to become Payton’s opponent when River commits suicide. She is an antagonist initially because she makes Payton’s life impossible during the elections but helps him run for the senate elections at the end of the series once they have all graduated high school. The characters can be compared to those in Glee, which is a series by the same producer. Rachel is a protagonist that has good intentions but diminishes the work of her peers because she is a perfectionist. Finn, who is her partner, is also a protagonist who helps her find her balance. Santana (like Astrid) hates the main character at first but end up realizing that they are like family. Both series show that characters produced by Ryan Murphy are complex because the characters change drastically throughout the plot. These changes are shown in realistic because they adapt their behavior by improving it. 


Ambition is one of the main traits that most characters possess. As mentioned previously, Payton wants to attend Harvard as it gives him a higher chance of becoming the President. Astrid is also an ambitious politician because she wants to beat Payton to honor River and to win that victory for her social acceptance. The theme mentioned previously can be connected to real-life politics because Payton is similar to former US presidents Barack Obama and Richard Nixon. Like Payton, these politicians have been ambitious and have fought for their dreams. For instance, before performing his speeches in front of massive audiences, Nixon, similar to Payton, watched successful speeches from previous politicians and read about them to analyze and use what was successful in his own speech. Obama is also extremely similar to both Payton and Nixon because he was perseverant and ambitious because he knew he was fighting for a worthy cause. Additionally, it is really impressive to observe how a theme, such as ambition in a young candidate, can be related to both grown-ups and teenagers, making the series universal. By showing the potential outcome of a real-life situation and that being ambitious does not mean being unkind, audiences can connect with the show’s characters on a personal level. 


Audiences may think that the series deviates from the main topics, ambition and politics, by showing mental and physical health issues. Several individuals consider that by adding emotional scenes, the series might lose focus and turn into a complete drama. However, by showing these scenes and emotions, character evolution is demonstrated and the decisions made can be understood in a clearer way. River’s suicide scene was shown in a way that made the viewer understand what had occurred but showed discretion towards the images. Furthermore, River’s death was explained later on by saying that he had tried to be happy but could not achieve it. Thirteen Reasons Why, another Netflix series, address mental health issues and controversial topics such as suicide and rape. The scenes in this series have been considered extremely visual and much more dramatic than those in The Politician. Therefore, this new Netflix series represents an attempt to convey real-life stories in a more authentic yet respectful manner. 


Overall, this series is fantastic because it has deep character development, a compelling plot, and reaches the audience on a personal and realistic level that other series do not. By exposing people to topics such as suicide and politics, the series becomes more engaging to the audience and can connect with a wide variety of age ranges. Although society tends to believe that controversial topics should not be discussed, this series exposes those issues and encourages the audience to advocate for themselves and to confront what is happening in their countries.