With shows like Madam Secretary, State of Affairs, House of Cards, and Scandal getting major airtime, the television realm of D.C. and politics has far more women on the Hill, and it’s all the better because of it. All of the Olivia Pope’s and Claire Underwood’s of TV politics have similar characteristics: gorgeous, powerful, influential, and competent. They’re cunning and when it comes down to it they can be ruthless and win in a male-dominated world. But this world of powerful and strong women is mostly dramatic and serious in tone. HBO’s political satire Veep serves as a comedic break to this trend with Julia Louis-Dreyfus starring as Vice President Selina Meyer and a supporting cast of hilarious Washingtonians. It’s a solid comedy starring a female politician in one of the most powerful places in the world, but Selina Meyer is definitely different from other fictional women in the White House.
Veep (currently airing its fourth season) began with Selina Meyer as the oft-ignored vice president. She gets snubbed by the president, has a job nobody really respects, and finds herself in ridiculous situations. The bumbling incompetence of Meyer and her staff is the comedic lynchpin of Veep. They find themselves in unfortunate PR disasters, usually ending up with Meyer yelling at all of them, yet they never seem to learn. These gaffes run the gamut from terrible tweets to accidental email leaks, all of which we occasionally see in real life, except exaggerated to extremes.
All the previously mentioned female politicians are fantastic at what they do and that’s why we love them, but Selina Meyer is terrible at her job and manages to get by from crisis to crisis eventually rising to the coveted position of president in a series of lucky mistakes. She curses like a sailor and is selfish and amoral. (She visits a factory after a hurricane in order to get a great photo op, but is disappointed and packs up cameras when she finds out the only damage done are to a few tiles on the roof.) Julia Louis-Dreyfus captures the unlikable and foul-mouthed Selina perfectly and her flaws and mistakes make for the best laughs.
Another comedic gem is Tony Hale; if you liked Arrested Development and found Buster Bluth hilarious, his character Gary will be a favorite. He plays the ever-faithful puppy who holds Selina’s purse, picks out her shoes, and provides all the Capital gossip. The duo has some of the best scenes together.
The best part of Veep is the way it tackles the sexist world of American politics, but it’s not in your face or constantly used. It satirizes the ridiculous antics Selina must deal with as a woman in the White House, but doesn’t constantly try to remind you she has a uterus. Selina deals with the insecurity of being a woman in the national spotlight like worrying about wardrobe malfunctions (one of her nicknames for VP stands for visible panty line) and her inability to call out inappropriate advances by state leaders. Like any great satire, it’s humorous on the surface but effective at pointing out how messed up things are.
It’s also great at mocking the “Old Boys’ Club” culture of D.C. or as Selina likes to call it, the “axis of dick” (a play on Bush’s famous ‘axis of evil’ line). It’s all of the ridiculous and gross things men in politics get away with because of their power and status and it’s bitingly sarcastic and on point. In one episode, there’s a senator who passes away and his legacy is praised on national news, but all the staff rejoice his departure and share stories of inappropriate advances and harassment they all suffered. That’s the other great quality about the show – it’s unapologetically irreverent.
Apart from gender and politics is the hilarious running theme of Meyer and her staff being bewildered and irritated by Millennials and their growing presence in their world. Their repeated attempts to connect with the youth culture while begrudging all its weird quirks is painfully accurate and something a lot of political organizations and people could learn from.
Watch Veep for its unconventional take on a female president, Selina Meyers’ colorful vocabulary, or the “wow I can’t believe I’m laughing at this” moments, because it delivers on all these fronts.
Cover image courtesy of Sky.