A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that miniseries Political Animals is like a dirtier, sexier West Wing. Expect plenty of dirty politics and hidden agendas, which make this intricate, but fascinating series not a good choice for kids. Add to that the frequent strong language ("s--t" and "bitch) and casual epithets ("homos," "goombahs," "rag-heads") and lots of drinking and drunkenness. One character is seen graphically forcing herself to vomit after a meal, and another is shown snorting cocaine. Many of the male political figures on the show use their fame to land giggling, scantily dressed women, and some gyrating and thrusting bare behinds are shown. Some feverish making out between two men who meet online, too.
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What's the story?
In the miniseries POLITICAL ANIMALS, Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver) is a Hillary Clinton-like figure, tapped to be the U.S. Secretary of State after a failed run at the presidency, and the ex-wife of ex-president, Bud Hammond (Ciaran Hinds), a beloved Bill Clinton-ish horndog. Elaine and Bud are the parents of glossy John Kennedy-esque Douglas Hammond (James Wolk) and troubled T.J. (Sebastian Stan), who's openly gay, but secretly addicted to cocaine. Elaine weathers the ups and downs of her sons and the pecadilloes of her ex-husband, with whom she's still in love, while dealing with the complicated demands of her high-pressure job, and the scrutiny of reporter Susan Berg (Carla Gugino), a former enemy turned ally.
Is it any good?
Political Animals' creators did one major thing right: They cast Sigourney Weaver in the main role as Secretary of State Elaine Barrish. We watch her moving from meetings to speeches to dinner parties to heartfelt scenes with her sons and ex-husband, and she seems real and relatable in each facet of her role, be it loving/exasperated mom or hard-nosed politico. Her magnetism makes scenes like the one where she tells a Russian official she's going to serve his "tiny, shriveled balls" in a bowl of borscht for goosing her behind, or one where she advises reporter Berg not to call a bitch a bitch because "us bitches hate that" seem a lot more realistic than ridiculous. In fact, Weaver is so compelling that voters may wish she could be a write-in for the next election.
However, viewers may notice that most of the male characters on the show are oversimplified -- weak and flawed, while the women are powerful and capable. In addition, Political Animals portrays most of its characters as ruthlessly ambitious and willing to lie and cheat for political gain; parents who watch with their kids will want to talk about the concept of an end justifying a means. The plot moves quickly and is complicated; viewers will have to pay attention to get why developments are important or what they mean. This is not a show for kids, not the least because it's talky and built around mature concepts and flawed characters who drink, smoke, philander, and do other things that most adults would rather children don't see. But for teens and adults, particularly those with a political bent, Political Animals is absorbing and smart TV that may spark conversations about history, morality, and politics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the very dirty politics in Political Animals. How realistic are the plotlines? What political scandals have broken in recent years that make Political Animals' plots seem more realistic?
Is this how we believe real politicians act? Do we expect that the people we elect to lead us will live morally upright lives?
Do you notice any difference in the costuming, music, lighting or dialogue afforded to the women in the cast relative to the men in the cast? What are the clues that the women are the main characters here?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love politics and history
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