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Is “Severance” What Life In A Corporation Is Really Like, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:29am

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I’ve recently watched a spate of television about corporate power. Having survived adventures in corporate life myself, it’s impossible not to deconstruct. There must be a million possible axes for this, but what if we look at How Real The Show Is, and How Much Does It Hate/Love Its World? (Actually I’m writing this because a lot of people are talking about Severance and I have Something to Say but I have to set it up first. As true as I can make this for you, my friends.)

A List Of Shows With One-Word Titles About Big Corporations

  • Billions (Realism: low except architecture/great staircase; H/L: loves its simple and testosterone-filled world)–Showtime. Premise: Fund manager Danny Axelrod, lit by his working class rage, chews through Moneyland while pursued, combatted, and secretly admired by Chuck a High WASP District Attorney with father issues.
  • Succession (Realism: emotionally resonant; H/L: loves its evil world)–HBO. Premise: Approximately–the Murdoch media empire churns through criminally wealthy family life tossing entire lives into the air with glee.
  • Industry (Realism: noticeably higher; H/L: embraces its world ruefully, aware of the damage caused)–HBO. Premise: Follow the lives of new graduates in their first year(s) at high-powered London finance place, in a gritty, nuanced kind of way.
  • Severance (Realism: the ceilings are correct? why do unreal shows about corporations focus so much on the buildings? so you have some idea of where you are?); H/L: loathes its largely literary/symbolic world) Apple TV. Premise: A corporation develops a chip that people can have installed in the brain so as to sever their identities allowing them to be one person at work and another at home, without any knowledge by one persona of the other. We suspect that the corporation, no spoilers, is malignant.

I find this all salient because America seems to be at an inflection point in our feelings about capitalism and democracy. How’s THAT for a big claim on a Saturday morning when we thought we were just talking about TV? The American mythology of Business involves either Big Player Heroism, or Corrosive Malignancy of Faceless Institutions. But in my experience, corporations are made up of people. I am not sure we can address the inequities in America today without understanding that any system will offer some opportunities for greedy people to cheat. And that people, for some reason that’s above my pay grade (as we said in the corporate milieu), insist on cheating to get more than they could reasonably be said to need.

To get the point, Severance doesn’t have actual people in it. It makes characters out of concepts. Corporations do not treat people the way the show does, and the way artists and writers (looking at you, Dave Eggars) so often like to pretend is the case. Severance gives us a corporation without a human face, without feeling. Corporations are human cauldrons: full of feeling. Succession and Industry are much more like it.

Do we care? Do we care how artistic America sees corporate life? I don’t know. Maybe America itself is “Severed,” between those of us who have worked in corporations and those who have not. Those who have rarely, rarely tell a broad enough truth about their experience. Nature of the beast. Hard to tell the truth in a cauldron.

This does raise a possibly fun question, what about The Office? Loved by millions? I don’t know. I haven’t seen it, as I cannot stand to watch characters embarrass themselves. If you have an opinion, an insight, we’re all friends here.

Have a wonderful weekend.

I am gradually working up to longer word counts. Tendonitis improves, slowly. Thank you for your expressions of care.

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