Just in time for school to be back in session, Netflix released its new dramedy series, The Chair, starring television veteran, Sandra Oh. The series follows Oh’s Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim as she tackles her new role as the Chair of the English Department at Pembroke University which is a fictional ivy league school in vaguely the East Coast (Pennsylvania). Ji-Yoon deals with a series of small catastrophes as she tries to successfully take the helm and lead her peers. Does The Chair succeed?
The Conservative Critic will ask: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And most importantly of all: Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: The Chair
Overall Rating: Good
When going into a series about elite intellectuals who have dedicated their lives to not only academia but Ivy League liberal arts academia, preconceived notions are inevitable. I personally had a tracker ready for how many times I would roll my eyes at the self-indulgence of liberal elitist Hollywood colliding with liberal elitist universities.
The Chair is pleasantly surprising. While the lens is squarely liberal with no glimmer of grounded or conservative thought, the series is well made and pretty compelling. As a conservative, viewers are able to watch as bystanders while liberals take on other liberals. The fight becomes introspective of the monster they’ve made of their own ideology. It’s a pleasantly voyeuristic experience for a Trump voting, real world republican American.
Ultimately, Sandra Oh is a pleasure to watch, Ivy League university students are portrayed accurately full of self-righteous rage, and the liberalism is so rife it’s easy to disassociate. It’s one of the better new shows recently released.
Is it entertaining?
A character dramedy, The Chair manages to be interesting and a fun watch despite the plot taking place over the course of only a few weeks. The show tackles the complexity of human life where never are we facing just one problem, but instead a string of problems that are inextricable from one another. At her job, Ji-Yoon is dealing with supporting her team in the face of (real or perceived) gender bias, racial bias, and age bias as well as their own personal issues and those points of view are often at odds. Her enrollment is down and she still has her own class to teach. And that’s just at work. She’s also a single mother of an adopted child who does not share her ethnic background and the daughter of an immigrant elderly parent whose first language is not English. Meanwhile, her romantic life is complicated at best and she doesn’t seem to have any friends to speak of outside of work.
This complicated tapestry of life is draped across many of the characters, providing multiple perspectives without being overwhelming or overly complicated. No one character is hollowed out to a single definitive trait. The imagination and depth of storytelling involved in such rich characters make the series not only watchable but enjoyable.
Further, the liberals fight a lot. As a conservative viewer, it is delicious to watch a gen z progressive ivy league brat spit with rage and indignation at a gen x progressive ivy league adult over some ridiculous misunderstanding turned witch-hunt. Hearing a boomer progressive feminists call out a millennial sex-positive feminist for her butt showing in her short shorts is exactly the content conservative viewers need.
The show inadvertently paints a picture of such arbitrary cannibalism and strife amongst leftist thinkers, I am genuinely curious as to what emotions a liberal viewer would have while watching. For conservatives its glee and mischievous delight: Yes, lefties, fight amongst yourselves.
Very fun for our kind.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
The show is quite well done. A lot of thought and care went into creating a world that was so rich in the learning aesthetic I could almost smell the books and feel the damp air of old buildings.
Created by Amanda Peet in her writer’s debut (you likely know her as an actress from films like The Whole Nine Yards and The Way Way Back), she is a sensation along with her co-runner Annie Julie Wyman who is also making her writing debut. Together with the director, Daniel Gray Longino who has a handful of episodal credits, the three newbies prove that sometimes beginners have the best eyes for good work.
From the phenomenal chemistry between the acting roster to the pitch-perfect locational choices, the series is beautiful to behold and seems comfortable and familiar like the viewers are themselves, students, wandering the halls of Pembroke. Resisting the urge to over exaggerate or hyper dramatize, The Chair is pleasantly restrained and has a subtle but clear sense of humor complete with the celebrity cameo of Golden Globe winner David Duchovny (The X-Files, Californication) playing an unflattering egomaniac version of himself as an almost PhD.
The cast is heavy with renowned talent which serves the series and also proves the script must have read as sensationally as it plays out on screen (a seasoned, award-winning actor is not likely to sign on to a show run by a team of brand new creators unless it is pretty special). Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy, Killing Eve) is exceptional and is joined in her success by the iconic Holland Taylor (Legally Blonde, Two and a Half Men) as Chaucer champion and literature professor, Joan Hambling, facing ageism and sexism with high spirit and a lot of healthy skepticism. The show also features a stunning performance by Jay Duplass (Transparent, Search Party) as Bill Dobson who finds himself on the wrong side of cancellation.
Between the quality acting, the believable and diverse plot threads, and the cheeky sense of humor The Chair is high quality and is a strong delivery from its creators.
Is it liberal propaganda:
Rating: The biggest YES
The very premise of the show is in itself a liberal narrative. The irony of pointing out privilege and identifying the struggle of persons and color and women in the workplace in the setting of an ivy league school in an expensive liberal state is not misplaced on any sharp viewers.
The show covers just about every single liberal victim complex out there including but not limited to the following narratives:
- Women have a hard time getting positions of leadership
- Women of color have a harder time getting positions of leadership
- Specifically black women have the hardest time getting positions of leadership
- Women have a hard time in general
- Mixed-race families have a hard time
- Single moms have a hard time
- Adopted children who are a different race than their adoptive parent have a hard time
- Drug addicts have a hard time
- Aging people have a hard time
- White men are bad even when they aren’t
- Students of color can be made unsafe by words that they didn’t even hear in person
It’s not that any one of these things might not be completely true and certainly common in the collective experience but it’s just that a conservative thinker might see how long the list is and realize: hey, we kind of all have something that might make life a bit harder. And in America, the playing field is more equal than anywhere in the world. And further – when your setting is an extremely expensive university, these complaints seem a little hollow.
The show manages to somehow defend cancel culture while perfectly demonstrating why it’s a foolish, mob-ruled trap that must be curtailed. It also gives a fairly legitimate voice to whiny brat liberal arts students who have had absolutely 0 life experience to be casting judgments around so casually and ruining lives based on their hurt feelings.
The whole “the artist/educator is the only moral path” trope is pretty heavy-handed in the series and at one point tackled head-on when a baby is asked to choose her future (per Korean tradition) and her family playfully encourages her to choose the money over the pencil.
Somehow not in spite of but because of its absurd liberalism, The Chair is a good show and an enjoyable watch for any conservative viewer looking for some back-to-school nostalgia this fall.