“Ms. Libtard, how do you want spelunking within the elephant’s asshole?”
So asks Roman (Kieran Culkin), the youngest scion of Succession‘s Murdoch-inspired Roy clan. He addresses this question to his sister, Shiv (Sarah Snook), the household’s sole quasi-lefty, as she enters a pachydermal aperture of conservative energy brokers and energy seekers. The majority of the current episode “What It Takes” unfolds inside this sinister conclave, taking viewers spelunking alongside Shiv by way of the darkish coronary heart of contemporary politics, revealing—amongst different issues—what elites really consider cancel culture.
The elephant’s a-hole is definitely the Future Freedom Summit, a fictional gathering in Virginia the place shady forces will select the following GOP presidential candidate. Though the choice could also be partly knowledgeable by general attendee vibes, it is going to be determined by Logan Roy (Brian Cox), embattled head of the present’s Information Corp-like media empire, and megadonor Ron Petkus (Stephen Root), who based the occasion.
As Shiv’s husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) notes, that is “a pleasant protected house the place you don’t need to fake to love Hamilton.” One thing is amiss with this description, although, past the truth that folks stopped pretending to love Hamilton years in the past. It’s the common fact that if one is insulated by sufficient cash and energy, nearly any house is a protected house. Petkus demonstrates this dynamic by openly hitting on Willa (Justine Lupe), reluctant associate of the dullest Roy child, Connor (Alan Ruck), proper in entrance of Connor.
First, Petkus compliments Willa’s magnificence and brains, earlier than including that he in all probability shouldn’t say such issues. What with the local weather and all. “Will I be canceled?” he wonders aloud with a smile. Willa assures him, uncomfortably, that he is not going to. When Petkus then invitations her to his Westchester property a second later, and refers to her as a stunning creature, Connor, who’s searching for a favor, calls again Petkus’ earlier joke. He factors towards the rich lech, reflecting his realizing grin, and pronounces him cancelled.
The fixed drumbeat from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Jr. in regards to the imminent risk of cancel culture usually seems like simply as a lot a winking in-joke, within the guise of fearmongering. Sadly, 64% of Americans take it lifeless critically.
A part of the explanation Succession’s portrait of cancel culture panic has chunk is as a result of one in every of its fundamental characters has pivoted, this season, into social justice warrior territory. Roy household black sheep Kendall (Jeremy Sturdy) is a stark instance of the disingenuous empty vessel many conservatives suspect all libs embody. Kendall is briefly conferenced into the Future Freedom Summit, the place he’s not invited, and takes verbal photographs at his sister, Shiv, for compromising her supposed values by attending. His smarm is paradoxical. Woke Kendall could have a rainbow coalition of hypercompetent girls on his employees whereas the considered anybody however a straight white male president shouldn’t be for one second thought-about by the ghouls on the Summit, however that doesn’t make him a greater particular person. He’s simply sporting a brand new set of values like a fancy dress. His advantage signaling, although, is the ideological mirror of anybody pretending that the gravest risk to America is cancel culture.
Kendall is much from the one hypocrite readily available. Everybody on the present is a hypocrite, in a technique or one other. Dave Boyer (Reed Birney), the Vice President hoping to weasel his method right into a Logan endorsement, declares the GOP the get together of the working class. “The Democrats and Tech maintain all of the wealth,” he says, with zero hint of irony, whereas standing in a dragon’s den of unimaginable capital.
Tom, in the meantime, seems to be extra of a lib caricature in non-public than he lets on along with his Hamilton-hating public persona. He and Shiv are revealed, on this episode, as nascent winery homeowners. Of their scant downtime, they attempt to snob out with a mini-wine tasting—all dainty swirls and sniffs—however the fruit of their non-labor seems to be too gross to correctly praise.
Maybe essentially the most fascinating hypocrite on this episode, although, is Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk). One of many potential presidential candidates readily available, Mencken is, as Shiv describes him, a “YouTube provocateur” and “aristo-populist” who talks about “burning Korans and licensing press credentials.” He represents the form of particular person libs truly want to deplatform/preserve out of energy/warn folks about, which is what cancelling usually quantities to, slightly than the conservative interpretation, basically a loss of life sentence. In a slightly unsubtle word, his title is borrowed from early 20th century journalist H.L. Mencken, who as soon as wrote, “Essentially the most harmful man to any authorities is the person who is ready to assume issues out for himself, with out regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.”
By this definition, or every other, Mencken is a really harmful man.
On the Freedom Summit, he instantly hits it off with Roman (Kieran Culkin), essentially the most unapologetically gross Roy sibling. Roman rolls with Mencken’s joke about sending folks to the gulags. (“Nicely, isn’t this good,” he says. “A pair cool guys having some disgusting enjoyable.”) However he can solely flick at Mencken’s precise beliefs in public—even if it’s, as Tom Wambsgans mentioned, a protected house.
Later, although, throughout the luxe Roy household non-public suite, Roman floats Mencken because the horse to again. Predictably, Shiv is the one one within the room left aghast by the concept. She worries aloud about Mencken “whispering swastikas” in her father’s ear, which Roman instantly pounces on. If there’s one factor morally impartial folks hate, it’s when Hen Littles defame budding fascists by mentioning the place that observe traditionally leads. (“Route one,” he calls it, with a watch roll.)
The climax of the episode is a charged tête-à-tête between Roman and Mencken within the lavatory of Logan’s suite. Lastly alone, the simpatico pair breaks cancel culture kayfabe, getting right down to the particulars of Mencken’s beliefs.
“Fascists are form of cool, however not likely,” Roman says. “So, is that, like, an issue?”
In one other unsubtle contact, he begins deep-scrubbing his palms at the beginning of the dialog, and stays doing so for its length.
Because it seems, Mencken is a Tucker Carlson-style white nationalist, the type who’s merely anxious that integrating “new components” into the American bloodstream too quick will “essentially alter its composition.” He additionally admits he’s prepared to borrow concepts from completely anybody, together with Travis Bickle, the fictional vigilante Robert De Niro portrays in Taxi Driver, or, extra troublingly, “H.”
Even on this final protected house inside a protected house, Mencken nonetheless feels the necessity to partially self-censor. He leaves himself the tiniest fig leaf of believable deniability round whether or not he simply quietly endorsed Hitler, lest it rub Roman the fallacious method. He needn’t have bothered, although.
That is the present’s loss of life blow to the cancel culture dialog. Though Shiv ended up being proper about Mencken’s proximity to Nazism—her “Hen Little-ing” that Roman dismissed confirmed completely legitimate—it doesn’t matter. These issues are rendered moot by the pull of enterprise. Somewhat than withdraw any potential assist for Mencken upon proof of his racism, the Roy household as an alternative anoint him as Logan’s presidential choose.
Issues are likely to work out this manner in real life too. How are we even having a protracted dialog about cancel culture when Tucker Carlson is on TV each night time, speaking Great Replacement Theory proper out within the open to one of many world’s largest audiences, and Donald Trump remained president for his total time period? Though the typical citizen would possibly nonetheless find yourself in bother for being too fascist/sexist/whatever-ist too loudly, with sufficient cash and media assist, anybody might be simply as insulated from so-called cancellation as Logan, Petkus, or Mencken.
Anybody who says in any other case is simply Hen Little-ing.