Zoe Kaplan
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Staff Writer & Content Strategist @ Fairygodboss

I know, I know...a fictional TV show, showing authenticity at work? But the hit TV show “Succession,” a satirical drama about a family-run media empire, has its roots based in reality. The way the characters are portrayed—especially the women—are true to the trials and tribulations professional women face every day (even though everyday women aren’t dealing with millions, and billions, of business dollars). 

It’s true that Succession’s main characters are the men, and the show is dominated and led by the patriarchy. But that doesn’t mean that the women of the show don’t get their moments in the sun. In fact, it’s the women’s attempts to clash against this patriarchy, and use it to their gain, that show an authentic representation of what it can be like for women at work.

Succession’s new season primarily follows the duel between father Logan Roy and his son, Kendall, who’s leading a battle to take the company from his dad. And the women are power players in the fight.

Gerri, originally more of a background player as Logan’s General Counsel, steps into the spotlight as CEO in season three. But this isn’t a girlboss, “SHE-E-O” moment. She claims her power; she’s smart and excited about her work. She also knows the parameters around this new title. It won’t last forever; she’s been given this title by a man who exerts power over her. Gerri is wise and authoritative, but she is also careful—unlike the men who have held her position before, she isn’t reckless with authority. She has experience behind her, and she wields it in a pragmatic way, fending off distractions from Kendall’s younger brother, Roman. 

Gerri’s story on “Succession” actually parallels what happened with the character during the show’s evolution. “Gerri” was originally supposed to be a man, “Gerry,” featured only in a few episodes. It was the actress’ J. Cameron Smith’s talent and compelling relationships with other top characters that brought Gerri’s character to life, and a main part of the show’s storyline.

Succession’s other leading woman, Siobhan, is an outlier from the get-go. She’s a powerhouse; a political force to be reckoned with. Early on, she separates herself from her family by working in the political field rather than for the family company. Now, in the throes of season three, she is fully entangled in the family affair. And she has some tough decisions to make: stay loyal to her dad, or leave with her brother?

From season one, Shiv’s influence over the men in her life is clear; she is dominant in her relationship with Tom. But her most authentic moments come with her conflicted, emotional scenes. When she’s disappointed by her father, torn about whether to choose Kendall, and thrown off from doing work when her husband isn’t sure he loves her. Shiv is a powerhouse; she is also a woman fighting her way for what she wants.

And though Shiv puts up her walls, often coming up as cold and pragmatic, other characters aren’t afraid to get under her skin. This season, in an argument where Kendall is trying to get her to join his rival company, Shiv pulls away. In his retort, Kendall snipes that he only wanted her on her side because she’s a woman.

“Girls count double now, didn’t you know?” he yells.

Shiv’s typically good at keeping her cool, but you can see that this line affects her. Actress Sarah Snook’s disappointment is palpable. She’s a woman who’s built herself up as an asset, but she can still get easily teared down for her gender. My heart broke with her.

In an article about Succession for The Cut, Mia Mercado writes, “To know the characters of Succession is to hate them, and to hate them is to love them.” The women are not exempt from that—and sometimes, the show feels like a “who’s the least evil” contest.

But it also shows women who are taking on big roles in big places and fighting against a patriarchal world and the people that world is favored. To show them winning is authentic, but also to show where they fall short, and where they have conflict, is too.

This article reflects the views of the author and not those of Fairygodboss.

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