The Hard Prep Queer Style of Netflix’s “The Politician”

Ryan Murphy’s 2019 Netflix series The Politician, is queer. And I mean VERY queer. In a series called a mashup of The Royal Tenenbaums, Glee, and Election (I would also add 90210 with a dash of Clueless and a dollop of House of Cards), all of the the central characters are queer…and mostly super rich.

Watching yet another show about rich teens as an adult is like watching my American dream turn into my American reality. My partner, who is a Bosnian Muslim refugee and who came to the United States in her early teens during the 90s in the middle of the Bosnian war, always shakes her head when we watch shows like The Politician or reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and the camera pans on the characters’ homes and cars. She grew up in Sarajevo consuming a lot of U.S. media, and thought that everyone in the U.S. was rich. So, when her family escaped to Croatia and learned they would be resettled in the U.S., she thought she would be moving into a mansion and driving a drop-top Jeep in no time.

She arrived to the U.S., and soon learned the truth: hardly anyone has 90210 wealth, and most Americans are struggling. My experience was different. I grew up in the U.S. in poverty, so I knew most people were not wealthy here, But, because I consumed the same media, I thought it was only a matter of time and hard work before I too would move into a mansion and drive a drop-top Jeep. Turns out we were both wrong.

So, what do I like about The Politician? Aside from the fact that they took a very formulaic “rich teen” series and disrupted the narrative by giving queer teen characters – those who were usually the social outcasts, the butt of “that’s so gay” jokes, or maybe not even represented at all – the power and popularity, it also disrupts our own communities’ narrative that there is only one way to present queer, particularly through fashion.

When I came out, I tried so hard to fit in as queer. I tried to wear skinny jeans and leather vests. But, none of those items of clothing affirmed my identity. I felt like a fraud. I felt uncomfortable. I felt like I went out of one closet and into another, and the clothing in the second closet was just hideous. The hard prep style of the characters in The Politician demonstrate that the range of queer style extends beyond bow-ties, suspenders, and asymmetrical haircuts (which are all fab, but just not for everyone). It shows that there is no right way to dress queer, but there are many ways to dress fiercely queer, subverting all cliché fashion tropes.

High school senior Payton, played by Ben Platt, is running for his school’s student body president. He has been grooming himself to become the President of the United States later in life and has already launched a “stop at nothing” campaign to squash all his political rivals along his journey. He’s dressing the part too.

 

Payton surrounds himself with cut throat (and fashionable) political advisors. From left to right: Alice Charles plays Payton’s girlfriend, but is having an affair with James, one of Patyon’s three top advisors; McAfee Westbrook, who has some secrets of her own behind her fierce suit game; and James Sullivan, played by trans actor Theo Germaine. Autostraddle says of James, “James was specifically cast as a trans man’s role, though his gender is never brought up directly within the show. Watching a trans character get to be an astute, conniving political chess player at the very top of his game — without having to first explain, pacify or justify his existence to a cis audience? It’s a chef’s kiss.” – Carmen Phillips.

 

Suit game strong!

 

Plotting and scheming in style…

 

But there’s a twist. Payton is sleeping with the boyfriend of his political rival, Astrid. Plot thickens. Astrid knows about the affair and wants in. Her knee highs are as high as her ambitions and high femme style, and very reminiscent of the prep fashion in the film “Clueless.”

 

Astrid serving the fiercest hard prep.

 

Astrid’s style is as versatile as she is. She can switch it up to dapper in a snap.

 

Power Prep Queers…

 

Don’t let the pearls fool you. This is queer style on a mission!!!

 

Payton meets his political and style match with Skye Leighton (right), who takes out her competition no matter the cost and is having an affair with Payton’s advisor.

 

Awe! Prep queers in love…poisoning rivals while rocking Martha Stewart wholesome ensembles.

 

Envy is me wishing I went to a high school this stylish.

 

Suited!

 

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