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Succession, Shiv and Sexism

If you are reading this article, I assume that you, too, are watching Succession. In case you are a bereft soul who needs background, the TV series involves the Roy family, the owners of Waystar Royco, a global media and entertainment conglomerate.   The underlying theme of the series is who will take control of the company when the patriarch of the family, Logan Roy, ultimately let’s go.

A war among wastrels, Season 3 continues the competition for control of the company among Roy’s children.   Connor, Roman and Shiv position from the inside; Kendall, from the outside, as a righteous whistleblower.

The show is a parody of the world of work.  At the same time, at times, it feels too close for comfort. And, that brings me to Shiv.

When Kendall goes public with the harassment, rape, death and other tragic results of the company’s management by miscreants, Logan knows he needs to step back.  On whom should the spot light shine as bright light is given to Waystar’s wrongdoings?

Initially, Logan names Gerri, the Company’s General Counsel, as the Company’s CEO. Strong, smart and experienced and, most of all, Gerri is able to see the sibling rivalry for what it is: Snake Linguini.

When it comes time to selecting the Company’s interim President, Logan selects Shiv. Shiv historically has played little or no role in Waystar. In fact, she is, dare a say, a Democrat who has the gift of knowing when to serve a delicious dish of woke, hot or cold.

So, at least for now, the women are in control previously having had no control.  Or, are they?

I have seen this phenomenon is real workplaces.  It’s called the glass cliff.

The glass cliff refers to a phenomenon wherein women tend to be promoted to positions of power during times of crisis or downturn. Under these circumstances, the chance of failure is materially more likely.

Shiv’s first major challenge is a shareholders meeting where there is a plot by Sandy Furness, the owner of a rival media conglomerate, for a hostile takeover of Waystar. Naturally, Sandy’s co-conspirator is Kendall.

Sandy has dementia. Logan, too, is impaired by a urinary tract infection. Or, as more aptly described by Shiv, Logan’s “urethra has wrestled control from his brain.”

So Shiv meets with Sandy’s daughter Sandi. Just beautiful. Shiv and Sandi cut a deal on behalf of their fathers that avoids a vote for control of Waystar.

More specifically, Shiv offers Sandi an additional board seat (from 3 to 4), suggesting it be, well, for Sandi. With a wily smile, Shiv suggests it is only fair that the Roys get a 4th seat, coincidentally, for her.

After the deal is done, Logan becomes lucid with the help of medication. When a congratulatory toast was raised to Shiv for her “hellvua Hail Mary of a deal,” her father trashes the deal, complaining that Shiv had made too many concessions and that he could have done better.

Thereafter, Logan takes every opportunity to knock Shiv down.  Without saying so, but with a tap on Roman’s back, Logan seems to anoint Roman as his “#1 son,” a hard role for Shiv to play.

In the episodes that follow, Shiv’s influence all but disappears. Having literally saved Waystar while painfully trying to please her father, her father seems to enjoy sadistic joy in marginalizing her.

After the shareholder’s fight, the next challenge is who will be the new leader of the Republican party. A cabal of powerful conservatives convene in Virginia an emergency meeting of the Future Freedom Summit to make the selection.

Shiv favors Rick Salgado, apparently the most “moderate” of the choices.  In contrast, Roman urges for Jeryd Mencken, a neo-fascist with the neo being questionable. He refers affectionately to a man called “H.”

Ultimately, Logan embraces Mencken and rejects Salgado. In reality, Logan is embracing Roman and rejecting Shiv. Her plea “my opinion counts for more” is contrary to the reality where it counts for less.

Shiv ultimately goes along to get along and continues to appease why trying to please her father.  And, that continues with the 40th over-the-top birthday party Kendall throws for himself. I will refrain from writing about the party, except where Shiv is concerned, because books could be written about it and time I have not for a book.

Connor, Shiv and Roman attend the party.  For Shiv and Roman, the goal is cut a deal with Lukas “odin to codin” Mattson, as Roman refers to him. Mattson is a key investor in GoJo, an on-line streaming company.

But Shiv is kept out of the party’s literal treehouse where Roman and Lukas cut the deal. The tree house is a brilliant metaphor for the invisible but impenetrable boys’ club that still exists in much of corporate America.

Shiv also seemed blindsided by the note Roman gives to Kendall offering to buy him out for $2 Billion. It appears Logan and Roman conspired to remove Kendall while at the same time exclude Shiv, the Company’s president.

The conclusion is not that Shiv is a good person who has not earned her due. Like her family members, her narcissism is topped off with a patina of sociopathy.

Remember Shiv’s response to the rapes. “We get it already.  Stop moaning about the rapes.”

And, did not Shiv seem a tad disappointed that her husband, Tom, likely would not be going to prison? Perhaps that’s why Tom “celebrated” with Greg, ending with a curious kiss on his forehead. Respectfully Louis (as in Armstrong), sometimes a kiss is not just a kiss.

Shiv has no ethical center, just like her sibs. But she knows how to act “as though,” unlike her sibs.  If Logan were smart, he would go with her but, at least for now, that seems unlikely.

Stay tuned for the final 2 episodes of the season.  I already am experiencing anticipatory grief for when the season is over.

Mad About Mad Men

As originally published by SHRM’s “We Know Next,” found here.

Mad About Mad Men
By: Jonathan A. Segal

Sexism is more than illegal. It is immoral and bad business.

There is more than a little bit of sexism in the roles portrayed in Mad Men.  So why are so many of us crazy about the show, even though we deplore the sexism that is part of it? Continue reading Mad About Mad Men