EXPERT COMMENT LAST UPDATED : 30 MAY
Professor of Occupational Health Psychology at Birmingham City University, Craig Jackson, examines the character flaws of the Roy siblings along with their toxic workplace, as featured in HBO blockbuster series Succession - and hopes such behaviour won’t be tolerated in business elsewhere.
This article contains spoilers and I’m glad.
Hopefully, it will deter anyone from watching four seasons of this show. Persisting until the end will not result in any personal growth for viewers. We already know big business stinks, without watching this emotionally moribund bunch endlessly bounce around the world in Lear jets and blacked-out motorcades.
I hate Succession. It is perfectly written, scripted, acted and produced. It is ‘lofty’ television I’m sure, yet the main characters are repulsive, and the continual theme of ‘who will inherit daddy’s business this week by being the worst person possible’ became tedious back in season two.
In the age of discussions about privilege and the rise of nepo babies, the Roy trio are a warning about promoting family above talent.
If we’re going to discuss Logan Roy’s offspring, we can dismiss Connor right now, just like his siblings do. By looking towards politics instead of media commerce, Con rendered himself inconsequential to the Roys. So, let’s dump Tom and Greg here too - neither of them are real family, and would be unlikely to amount to anything on their own.
By examining Shiv, Kendall and Roman instead - the Freudian Cerberus acting as a warning to any parents considering nepotism as an option - they prove that childhoods involving distant and weaponised parenting produce messed up adults, despite the privileges.
Beyond that premise, the Roy offspring can be discussed as one, lacking any individuality beyond their surface images:the cold ballsy business ‘bitch’; the distant ‘man-child’ with a thousand-yard stare; or the ‘baby’ who says rude words to shock and tease.
Kendall killed a waiter and covered up the accident - yet despite that, the most interesting thing viewers comment about Kendall is his ‘I wannabe down’ Spotify playlist and how he could be redeemed by marrying the right woman.
Their father was naturally tyrannical, and his offspring are obsessed with replicating his character to get power - and like Richard II, striving for power results in them losing any values they originally had.
Their conversations are transactional and distracted at the same time. Their interpersonal inabilities are bolstered by impenetrable babble; “the huddle puddle”, “Gregxit”, “Times New Roman firing squad” and of course “the optics”.
They try to be cruel and brutal while hiding behind weasel words and gobbledegook. For a communications conglomerate, it's deliciously ironic that none of them are accomplished orators (and that includes Kendall’s rapping).
They are incapable of saying what they mean or meaning what they say, surely an essential skill for the psychologically-demanding workplace of the 21st Century.
Any Roy-led organisation would be quickly doomed by this toxic culture and absence of organisational justice. Tantrums, violence, corporate manslaughter, sexual harassment and even insider trading all go unpunished, with the protagonists given endless passes.
And why do all the characters never have ringtones on their mobile phones, apart from Kendall who unsurprisingly has a standard iPhone tone? I suppose that would require a little bit of a personality, wouldn’t it?
I pray neither Shiv nor the Roy Boys are looked upon as successful role models by today's business students.