In "Kissing Your Sister" there is a (maybe deleted) scene where Selina reminisces about her father taking her to Nixon's inauguration and getting to meet Tricia, the "pretty" daughter? I've been wondering how much subtext we're supposed to read into that line. On the surface it's just Selina being shallow, but but when you think of Julie Nixon Eisenhower's career, where shes' done a lot to document/criticize her parents careers, like what Catherine is attempting, it becomes much darker, 1/2
Selina is indicating that she will never value her daughter for what she’s doing. I’m assuming that this was intentional, but probably was not for the whole audience. I bring this up because you mentioned a couple of times wondering if the show was as aware of how dark the implications of what it does are, mostly in relation to it’s treatment of sexual harassment. Are there other jokes where you’re trouble by the show, or the audience, missing a lot of context?
I did not know that. I’m reasonably knowledgeable about American political history – did a year long course on it in university – but I definitely have blind spots. (We were told to pick a couple of topics and learn them in detail, so I focused on the Civil War and the Great Depression).
But with that in mind, I’m not sure I’m best placed to identify the missing context – at least in political terms.
I’ve talked a lot about Dan’s behaviour being somewhat glossed over by the show – as it’s a big one to my mind. We’re told very early on that he manipulates women into sexual relationships in order to advance his career – which really isn’t a million miles away from rape by deception. Would Amy, or Carol Hallows, have slept with him if she knew what his aim actually was? (To note here, rape by deception has – I’d argue for good reasons – always been defined extremely narrowly by the courts, and I am well aware that what Dan did wouldn’t fit the legal definition of the crime.) To be fair, I think Iannucci at least was well aware of how it would come across – we never see Dan manipulate a woman who isn’t well aware of his true nature.
The most serious one for me is the ending of season 5, which essentially depicts a coup – that no one cares about. While I’m not a constitutional expert, no one elected Montez – or Tom James – to the Presidency. While the electorate may have gone for a draw between O’Brien and Meyer, the fact remains that they are the only two people with any right to be President, and the cold-blooded way Tom James attempts to subvert the result of the election really turned me off him as a character. Which isn’t even getting into Montez being appointed President through the most blatant quid quo pro imaginable. In any sane political system people would be screaming for (metaphorical) blood, but in Veep the legitimacy that comes with being elected is apparently not that important.
In a way it could be seen as a prediction for how careless people would get about the suspension of democratic fundamentals and the abuse of power, but it still kind of drives me nuts that the show glosses over the implications of what it depicts. Like, you can be cynical about the dirty-dealings that go on in all political systems without implying that the results of elections are mere inconveniences to be ignored at will. (To be honest, the way the show depicts that election in season 5&6 seems driven by the writers being more interested in exploring the darker aspects of Selina’s character than how such an event would play out in reality).
I also find the way they’ve developed Selina and Andrew’s relationship pretty dark in its implications. The rationale in season 2 made sense – there really aren’t that many people a sitting Veep could have a casual relationship with, and Selina almost certainly didn’t have the time to start a serious relationship (even if she’d wanted to – frankly Tom James seems like the only person she might be capable of compromising with enough to have an ongoing relationship, and even there I wouldn’t bet on it). As a result she keeps Andrew around because he’s convenient, she’s extremely isolated and almost certainly lonely (in that whole season, Amy is the only person she speaks to somewhat frankly, but it’s not an equal relationship – Selina is always the boss, which means neither she or Amy can ever really relax as true friends). Andrew was slimy, but knew what side his bread was buttered on.
But by season 6, he’s become incredibly transparent in only being interested in what Selina can do for him financially, and the show implies that he’s always been this way, that there’s never been a time when he cared for Selina more than his next meal ticket. It turns him from a likeable sleazebag into an out and out leech – and if the show intended it as a satire of the Clintons, well… no matter what he’s done, I think it’s always been clear that Bill loves and loved Hillary, terrible husband though he may be. I mean, actually hitting on Selina’s midwife, while she was giving birth? (Note, I doubt that we will see Dan do anything as repulsive in regards to Amy, because the show still wants us to take their relationship semi-seriously, whereas Andrew’s become a joke). I get that it was intended to be funny, but… I don’t know, it’s so gross that I think it backfires and undermines Selina’s character quite severely. In season 2, I could kind of understand, terrible though Andrew was, why Selina would fall for him. After the flashbacks in 6.10, I think that’s a lot less explicable.
And then there’s Selina and Catherine’s relationship, which… I’m not sure which aspect is worse. Selina not caring that Catherine was being brought to hospital with a potentially life-threatening illness – or Catherine knowing how terrible Andrew was (which she expressed awareness of as late as season 5) and bringing him into Selina’s life at her most vulnerable moment anyway.
It’s kind of sad because Selina’s relationship with Catherine was quite interesting early on in the show – when it was implied that Selina did love Catherine, and did want to make her happy, and had to balance this against an understandable frustration with Catherine’s wilful political naïveté, and the lack of time for anything beyond politics in Selina’s day-to-day life. (One of the reasons I enjoy 2.02 as much as I do is that it doesn’t feel the need to make Catherine ‘right’ – obviously a film studies essay is not going to solve the Middle East peace process, and just as obviously, Catherine’s desire to get to say something of her own is entirely understandable).
I feel like some of the interpersonal writing has suffered from a desire to…I don’t know, be as outsizedly awful as can be imagine. And yet, I can’t remember a single moment in season 6 as cruel as that scene in Running where both Dan and Selina think Gary’s parents are dead – and it works because neither Dan or Selina is actually intending to be cruel… they’re just so careless about other people that it wouldn’t cross their minds to make the effort of remembering such minor details as whether they have a living family or not. (Dan probably remembers them about Amy and no one else, and Selina… maybe about Ben?) (That whole conversation in the limo is the most fucked-up family scene I think they’ve ever had – and for that reason, I love it).