HBO’s popular television series “Succession” has shattered one of America’s most cherished myths. The myth that is the American Dream, a narrative so compelling that it has seduced countless generations into striving for wealth, power and prestige. The show uses the Roy family, a wealthy and dysfunctional family that runs a global media conglomerate, to deconstruct the American Dream and expose its underbelly. Through its characters and their narrative arcs, the show reveals that privilege, nepotism, abuse of power, and ruthless ambition are the true forces driving American success stories.
In “Succession”, the Roy family is everything the American Dream promises to be: self-made billionaires, brilliant business minds, and charismatic personalities. But unlike the myth, they did not accomplish it through hard work, perseverance, and grit. Instead, they inherited their empire from a parent who made his fortune through questionable means, and they maintain their power through a web of alliances and machinations designed to keep their grip on the company. They are a picture of privilege, and their story is a cautionary tale about how wealth is often preserved and accrued by those who already have it.
One of the most striking characters in the show is Kendall Roy, the ambitious and allegedly successful progeny of the family patriarch, Logan Roy. Kendall is the embodiment of the American Dream – a person who has worked their way up from nothing to become a successful businessman. But as the show progresses, we see the true cost of his success. Kendall is a broken man, addicted to drugs and alcohol, socially isolated, and desperate to win his father’s approval. He lies, cheats, and backstabs his way to the top, and in doing so, he loses his soul. His story reveals that the American Dream is often not a story of triumph, but a Faustian bargain where one’s soul is exchanged for worldly success.
The show also delves into the psychological toll that striving for success can take on individuals and families. The Roy family, despite their wealth, are deeply dysfunctional. They are emotionally distant, manipulative, and cold towards each other. Their relationships are transactional rather than affectionate. The show suggests that this is the inevitable consequence of a culture that idolizes wealth and power. When people are reduced to their monetary worth, human connections become secondary. The Roy family is no exception, and their wealth has turned them into individuals who are incapable of genuine human connection.
Finally, the show exposes the myth of meritocracy that underpins the American Dream. In the show, the successful characters are not necessarily the most intelligent, creative, or hardworking. Instead, they are people who have been given opportunities and advantages because of their family connections. They are people who were born on third base but believe they hit a triple. The show reminds us that success is often predicated on factors that are beyond our control. A person’s race, gender, socio-economic class, and family connections can all be significant factors in determining their life chances.
In conclusion, the television show “Succession” has debunked the myths behind the American Dream. Through its storytelling, it has shown that success is not always the result of hard work, merit, or talent. Rather, it is often a product of privilege, nepotism, and ruthlessness. The show is a wake-up call for those who believe in the fairytale of “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps”. It is a reminder that wealth does not necessarily guarantee happiness, and that the pursuit of it can lead to moral decay and a loss of true human connection. “Succession” is a compelling argument for re-evaluating what we value as a society and how we define success.