Reviews | The actor of “Succession” Jeremy Strong is not cold. It is very good.
In America, we love a good Horatio Alger story, in which someone who starts out with very little applies hard work and ambition and becomes successful – but only in the abstract. In real life, America’s elites hate the try as much as any European aristocrat could.
In our national mythology, class doesn’t matter, but in practice our widely held belief in the myth of meritocracy reinforces inequality. Americans tend to overestimate the country’s economic mobility because Harvard University research showed, and they have great faith in fairness of their economic system, despite much evidence of racial and other prejudice. In some circles at least, coming from a modest background and wanting more is a moral deficiency, a form of greed.
The classism of this attitude is not always obvious as there is a lot to legitimately criticize about the American culture of restlessness, in which overwork is valued and we are all supposed to uplift and grind. The Covid pandemic and rethink the work culture that he forced engendered a backlash and a multitude of reflections on the end of ambition and if careers really matter when people die and the planet is on fire.
But this is not a critique of the effort itself; it is a critique of a corporate culture that is still based on excessively long working hours, fierce competitiveness and exploitative working practices.
The real question, then, is what is worth striving for? There is a difference between working unnecessarily for a company and working hard because you like it, or because you care about what you are doing, or, more importantly, trying to get ahead economically. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do better than your parents. Making an effort – even an exaggerated effort like Mr. Strong’s – shouldn’t be embarrassing. We, the efforts, understand this because we have never been able to achieve great success without this effort.
The elites are often socialized by affecting “ease” and avoiding displays of effort. But it’s a mistake to see the disconnect in terms of personal style or etiquette. We fighters cannot behave as if things come easy, because pretending that they are doing so often requires resources that we lack. We are âunchillâ because we have neither the time nor the money to assemble the chill accessories, or to perform it.
It should be noted that “Succession”, the show where Mr. Strong’s remarkable performance made him a star worthy of a New York profile, centers on one wrestler, Logan Roy, who grew up without wealth in Scotland and built a media empire. His children, on the other hand, inhabit a world of wealthy people who despise effort in the same way Mr. Strong’s classmates at Yale cited in The New Yorker seem to do.