‘Succession’ Fans Complain About Being Triggered and Traumatized by Election Episode

·4-min read

Don’t tell Anderson Cooper, but our silos are burning.

Sunday night’s episode of Succession was so traumatizing—both too real and too soon—that the show’s fans reacted by setting fire to them and running away screaming. That’s how upset they were by how uncomfortably the events of “America Decides” mirrored the events of the 2016 election, and both the media’s role in platforming incendiary political candidates and its unwillingness to fact-check extremism—so long as it provides good ratings.

My social media feed on Sunday nights and Monday mornings is typically composed of people’s reactions to the most recent episode of Succession. This week, that meant scrolling through endless reactions of fans, who were screaming, crying, and throwing up—to borrow from that meme—because of how upsetting “America Decides” was for them.

The episode took place largely in the newsroom and office space of cable network ATN, which is owned by Waystar Royco. As a presidential election unfolds, we see how the Roy siblings’ different personal and professional priorities, as far as which candidate wins, dictate how they want the network’s coverage to go. They make decisions on how to cover the burning of ballot boxes, whether or not to provide an opposing viewpoint to a fascist talking head, and, most upsettingly, to call the election in favor of the white-supremacist-supported candidate—all based on what will be good for their company’s bottom line.

The Horrifying New ‘Succession’ Episode Gave Us 2020 Election PTSD

The episode was a bleak portrait of what likely happened behind the scenes on both the 2016 and 2020 election nights. It was simultaneously an exposé and indictment of how corporate-backed news outlets, compromised between truth and business, have operated in the years since Trump was elected. And it was a deafening alarm bell signaling how problematic viewpoints, like the one expressed by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in response to the network’s Donald Trump town hall, can be for the sanctity of the nation—something that only Shiv (Sarah Snook) seems willing to express here.

In one episode that ran just over an hour, Succession managed to undo three years of therapy. (Just me? I doubt it.) It also made uncomfortably clear how few lessons have been learned; we may think that the dark days of those elections and what followed are animals of the past, but they have claws in every way that the billionaire-controlled world still operates.

The way in which ATN’s election coverage stokes the fire that was one of many factors leading to the Jan. 6 insurrection is the most immediately traumatizing storyline. But the close race that should have obviously gone to the non-extremist, obviously more-qualified Democrat was instead called for, through election technicalities, the white supremacist-supported megalomaniac (Justin Kirk’s Jeryd Mencken), travels slightly further into the past to disturb us all over again.

Given how urgent these themes are today, some viewers seemed to feel that it was maybe even irresponsible for TV’s coolest, “best” drama series to air a storyline like this.

It’s like being invited back to the most scarring middle-school bullying session and having to look at it through a new light—or, I guess, being asked to recall how self-interested media companies influenced a vote that led to a shift in national tone that resulted in the spike in hatred and even deaths of entire populations of people. Cute!

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