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Prince For President
The series finale of the TV show Billions just dropped today. Its Metacritic score started at 69 in S1, peaked at 87 in S4, then ended at 62 in S7. I’ve enjoyed it especially as “competence porn” where I get to admire people who are very good at what they do.
I also enjoyed the fact that while most TV shows (eg Succession, White Lotus) make big business or rich folk into buffoons or villains, Billions showed a more even handed fight between a prosector and a billionaire hedge fund manager. You could see things from either point of view, both earned the respect of many admirable associates, and both were arrogant ambitious capable men who had principles that they somewhat compromised to win fights. And most everyone tended to be believably selfish; you had to offer them something to join your fight, and worry that they might betray you.
Alas, the show’s artists must have felt accused of making it seem okay to be rich, as in the last season everything changed. They had pretty much all their competent usually-selfish characters, typically at odds, form an alliance wherein they made themselves completely vulnerable to each other, risked losing most all they valued, and together did quite immoral and illegal things, all for this one purpose: to prevent a billionaire Mike Prince from running for US president.
This billionaire is shown as quite competent, and as intending to pursue mostly good political causes and government policies. His crime? He is arrogant; he knows that he is competent, and trusts his own judgment. Oh and he said privately to a group of political influencers that as president he’d consider a nuclear first strike in some situations. Because of such crimes, apparently none of the show writers thought he should win in the end.
News flash: pretty much all the candidates for US president that you’ve ever heard of are arrogant. And they’d all consider a nuclear first strike in some situations, regardless of what they might say beforehand. (Yes all, every last one of them.)
The sad message I see here is that some cultural elites are eager to make it very clear that there are basically no limits to what they’d do to tank a US presidential candidate they didn’t like.