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The Politician: A Messy Red, White, and Blue Puzzle for the Overambitious Student Body President

Smriti Nambudiri, Class of 2022

Write up your slogans, plan out your campaigns and lock those skeletons in your closet, because it’s time to talk about Netflix’s latest teen drama offering, The Politician. The show follows the election campaign and fight for student body president in Saint Sebastian High School. The 8-episode series stars Lucy Boynton, Zoey Deutch and Gwyneth Paltrow, among many others.

The show, created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, follows Payton’s (Ben Platt), campaign for student body president through its ups and downs, thrilling twists and turns, and emotional rises and crashes, coming together as one messy, red, white, and blue puzzle. The glamourized but turbulent world of politics is shown through the lens of a high school student body president election with all the strategies, secrets, and backstabbing. But more than the campaign, it follows Payton confronting his ambition of becoming student body president, and its implications on his life’s dream of becoming the American President.

It takes us through all the decisions he makes along the way, the good, bad, and ugly, demonstrating how far he is willing to go and all he is willing to do to gain people’s votes and earn their favour. All the while, it shows us Payton’s journey as he deals with the consequences of his actions, leading him to re-examine parts of himself he thought he knew perfectly.

Ben Platt and Gwyneth Paltrow in a still from the series. | Source: IMDb

The show’s plot develops in ways that leave you second-guessing every character’s behaviour, questioning whose side they are really on. The events that happen, mimic the real-life politics and provide a funny and witty perspective into a world that we only see on the news. All characters develop clearly and believably, however some arcs are more surprising than others. Not to mention, the incredible performances that all actors have given, especially Ben Platt, Lucy Boynton and Zoey Deutch, who bring the dynamic characters to life in ways that feel poignant and real.

Despite managing to nail the depiction of the elitist high-life, the drama and lunacy surrounding the student body elections in a high school is sometimes dramatized to the point of being beyond realistic. With its desire to be witty, it risks losing sight of its focal issue, and at times making the show disconnected from any semblance of logic. The high school students almost seem like middle-aged politicians with their strategies, tactics, and betrayals. There are points at which one feels like the show is all about rich people whining about not winning.

‘The Politician’, has intelligent writing and an intriguing concept, coupled with incredible performances. All this tied up with a generous sampling of Ben Platt’s heart-breaking voice can feel like too much for too little. It is an over-the-top attempt at a satirical view of our society’s political landscape, which does land flat every once in a while. But if you are looking for a show to lose yourself in, with a healthy dose of drama, and you are craving a mindless binge, this show is the one for you!

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