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Is “extreme wealth” a barbarising force?

Brian Cox as Logan Roy in Succession

I can’t wait to get stuck into the new series of Succession, which begins today, says Matthew d’Ancona in Tortoise. The hit HBO show – about a “seemingly indestructible” media baron and his children, who are vying to take over – is widely thought to be inspired by the Murdoch dynasty. There’s even a rumour that Rupert Murdoch’s younger daughters, from his marriage to Wendi Deng, were “mildly disappointed” not to have had fictional counterparts. But the power of the show “has much deeper roots and mythic foundations”. Succession mines the ancient themes of “power, family and mortality” that have lodged in our collective unconscious over the millennia. Like Zeus, the family patriarch, Logan Roy, is never quite sure whether to “empower his children or to consume them”. In his entitled daughter, Shiv, the King Lear-like Logan has “a Goneril whom he would like, just occasionally, to be more like Cordelia”.

Equally brilliant is the show’s approach to money. Succession “proposes that extreme wealth, like extreme poverty, is a barbarising force”, reducing those who have it to the most “basic and brutal” urges. But it also makes clear that while people may hate the rich more than ever, it doesn’t stop them wanting to be rich themselves. Nobody understands that hypocrisy better than Logan Roy. As he puts it: “Love… fear… whatever.”

Do the Murdoch clan watch Succession? Brian Cox, who plays Logan Roy, believes some of them do. He says a man once approached him, saying he and his wife were enjoying the show, but that she “finds it a little difficult at times”. When Cox asked why, he said: “My wife is Elisabeth Murdoch.”