In the social media era we live in, it’s hard for the personal to not be political. And often, for the political not to veer towards the personal.
In the last couple weeks, for example, we’ve learned a few new things about Hillary Clinton. With the brilliant Texts from Hillary Tumblr page, we got to see Clinton have enough good humor about herself get in on the popular meme, creating her own post and inviting creators Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe to the White House. Last weekend Clinton was photographed drinking and dancing with her staff in Colombia while taking part in the Summit of the Americas. (Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much backlash, unlike previous drinking and cleavage Hillary Clinton news.) This digital age gives us a more fleshed-out portrait of the people who represent us, which can be both good and bad. And this public and private look at a politician’s life, and more specifically a woman politician’s life, is what HBO’s new series Veep offers us in a fictional realm.
Veep is a bitingly satiric, behind-the-scenes glimpse at U.S. politics, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus starring as Selina Meyer, the Vice President of the United States. The job is not all it’s cracked up to be for Selina, with awkward public appearances, tricky political agendas and the president ignoring her. In a recent Q&A with Good Morning America anchor George Stephanopoulos, Louis-Dreyfus said: “This is really a show about political behavior” as opposed to politics. Veep does make explicit that many of the things Selina deals with in office are colored by the fact that she’s a woman.
Considering that only 90 women serve in Congress–17 in the Senate and 73 in the House–it’s great to see a cultural representation of a woman in as powerful a position as vice president. Although the show is played for laughs, many of the issues Selina deals with are practically ripped from the headlines, or represent what we can imagine happening behind closed White House doors. In one particularly hilarious episode, a magazine pits Selina versus the First Lady in a war of clothing budgets and stylists. Throughout the episode, Selina is continually asked whether the First Lady stole her stylist instead of quizzing her about her Clean Jobs Act.
The emphasis on Selina’s appearance never wanes. Her faithful aide Amy (Anna Chlumsky) has to change Selina’s Wikipedia page because “someone keeps hacking into the site and changing her weight.” I’m guessing Joe Biden doesn’t have to deal with that.
Sexual harassment is touched upon in the form of a senator nicknamed “Rapey” Reeves, whom no one has good things to say about in life or death. But because of his political position, he’s never held accountable for his crimes. Keeping pace with other flawed women on television right now, Selina isn’t completely likeable, nor is her staff; they all do some questionable—and hilarious—things for political gain.
Within the first three episodes of Veep we don’t get much insight about Selina outside of her job–other than meeting her daughter and learning that she is a single mother. But creator Armando Ianucci promises a deeper look into the veep’s personal life and how her job affects it as the series continues.
Maybe she’ll even start her own Tumblr page.
Photo of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer in Veep courtesy of HBO.