Eat the rich: Why the downfall of wealthy television families is comedic gold

Succession follows the lives of a dysfunctional and obscenely wealthy family. Photo courtesy of HBO


From Kendall Roy to Alexis Rose, the characterizations of the fictional wealthy are comedic gold mines. Television shows and films that follow the lives of the ultra-rich are not a new concept, but there has certainly been a recent increase in shows that focus on the downfalls and struggles of these families. These shows are sources of great entertainment, and “Succession” is a prime example of a very recent show that has quite the dedicated fanbase. “Arrested Development” and “Schitt’s Creek” are two sitcoms that also follow dysfunctional wealthy families, but these shows are not as recent. 

Film and television that centers around dysfunctional and questionable wealthy people have only become more and more popular over the past few years. As a fan of such content myself, I fully understand the appeal. Is there anything better than watching rich people make a fool of themselves? 

These shows let us see characters that live lives that are drastically outside the scope of our own realities. “Succession”, “Arrested Development” and “Schitt’s Creek” provide us with insight into the lifestyles of a small demographic of people that we will likely never be able to experience. With the added family drama and dysfunction, these shows only become more entertaining. 

Senior biochemistry major Rushda Hussein said the dynamics of these families, particularly the Roy family in “Succession”, only further illustrate how complicated their relationships are. 

“That family aspect is still there,” Hussein said. “But personally, I wouldn’t find a [wealthy] family like [the Roys] to actually be close to each other … And that is seen in the show. A lot of them emotionally manipulate each other, and that is happening pretty much throughout the entire show.” 

We love watching the lives of these families unfold because they are so far removed from our typical realities. We are not part of the top one percent. We are not egregiously wealthy. In the case of “Succession”, we do not have nationally impactful power vested in us. 

Ellie Howe, a junior marketing and entrepreneurship double major, noted that the out of touch nature of many of these characters is what adds to the entertainment value, especially in “Schitt’s Creek”, which follows the lives of the Rose family as they lose their wealth. 

“They’re so out of touch with reality that it’s fun for us to see how those people live,” Howe said. “[The Roses] try to continue the expensive lifestyle and then they quickly realize that, ‘okay, this is not how we can live anymore, just because we don’t have a lot of money anymore.’ So it’s just really funny to see them adapt into a normal … lifestyle.” 

It is so theatrical to see the wealthy attempt to live a life that is normal for the rest of us, and this is particularly evident when it comes to “Schitt’s Creek” and “Arrested Development”. Howe emphasized that “Schitt’s Creek” highlights how the Roses do not even know how to begin to live a life of normalcy. 

“They come in and they’re like, ‘I have no clue how to live this way,’” Howe said. “It’s the very [common] cliche [of], ‘No, we can [do this and] money isn’t everything.’” 

In “Arrested Development”, a very popular scene is the matriarch of the family asking her son how much a banana costs. Watching wealthy people whose lives vastly differ from ours is entertainment at its finest. We do not own numerous luxury vehicles or live in mansions that cost more than we will likely ever earn in our lives. Whether you are keeping up with the Kardashians or tuning in to see what the Roy family is up to next, there is always something to find interesting about television that shows us what it is like to be obscenely wealthy. 

Beyond the sheer entertainment of seeing the absurdity of wealthy life, there is something even more entertaining and enthralling about watching the downfalls of wealthy families. 

“It’s interesting to see the downfall [of these families] and see them live like regular people,” Howe said. “They’re not used to that … [And] a lot of us don’t live in $10 million homes.”

Ali Mohamed, a junior biology and Spanish double major, agreed that people love watching the complicated downfalls of the ultra-wealthy. 

“Most people like seeing … shows [with] people at the very top [who are] making billions and billions of dollars [and then] seeing them fall,” Mohamed said. 

In the case of “Succession”, the characters are especially problematic. The corporate corruption and borderline fascism that the Roy family contributes to is astounding. 

Hussein believes that though the characters in these shows are often problematic, they are also uniquely charming, and this is especially true when it comes to Succession. 

“You know the characters are *ssholes,” Hussein said. “[The characters also] know that they’re bad people, and they don’t pretend to be something that they’re not. There’s a weird charm to that.” 

From using the most obscene and vulgar language at each other to plotting the downfall of their own family members, the “Succession” characters are terrible people. And yet, most “Succession” fans will tell you that they still love many of the characters. 

Mohamed echoed that he also found himself constantly rooting for the characters in Succession.

“You still are somehow rooting for the characters somehow,” Mohamed said. “I still found myself rooting for Kendall [Roy] even though they’re all just rich people making really bad decisions and not caring about anybody but themselves.” 

Watching people that represent the top percentage of all wealthy people — especially if these characters are morally corrupt —  struggle and face defeat is cathartic. 

“It’s satisfying in a way,” Mohamed said. “Especially when you know that they’re doing all this stuff that’s so corrupt.” 

Film and television that satirize the ultra-wealthy only continue to become more and more popular. From “Knives Out” to “The Menu”, there is a newfound abundance of media that highlights the corruption and absurdity of what it means to be wealthy. 

It is time to eat the rich and everyone is hungry.


Related posts