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“Arrested Development” as Allegory for U.S. Political Institutions

Stephen Walt‏, professor of international relations at Harvard, several years ago remarked that “Arrested Development” is both a “great show and a terrific description of U.S. political institutions.”

Recent events involving the actors perhaps illustrate the limits of parody: A show about the people with no self awareness hardly precludes such behavior among at least the male real-life actors.

Indeed, while U.S. media seems increasingly drenched in satire, genuine improvement in the society seems tragically rare and slow. So, to the extent that the Bluth family is an allegory for twisted U.S. political institutions, perhaps a straightforward analysis would be of benefit. Walt didn’t elaborate on his analogy, so I have endeavored to connect the characters to their appropriate institutions:

George represents the presidency. His very name is presidential. He’s prone to criminal activity, but at times attempts to maintain plausible deniability by using his twin brother, Oscar.

Lucille is the nominal vice president, but, as is often the case in U.S. administrations, is the actual cold, calculating power behind the throne. In seeming contrast to the actress Jessica Walter depicting her, Lucille hatches insidious plots that she strong-arms the president and others to carry out, like buying land to build The Wall on the border with Mexico. She has an affinity for criminality on the high seas, perhaps stemming from the VP living at the Naval Observatory.

Buster literally joined the army. He does the dirty work. He’s — big stereotype here — not too bright. He has an affinity for robotization, at times killing with drones and himself has a mechanical arm.

Tobias represents the NSA. While he’s a never nude, he can use his cat-like agility to spy and move stealthily around a home. Or, after he says “I blue myself” — is capable of surveilling on the go. His photography of his own body parts was seemingly mistaken as evidence of Iraqi WMDs.

Gob (or G.O.B) is the C.I.A., frequently dispatched by the president to execute covert ops. With his “illusions” is capable of cluelessly killing innocents. He teams up with the Buster army in the Sword of Destiny and the Tobias NSA in Gobias Industries. He’s continuously trying to cover up his various shameful actions, including from himself, by popping Forget-Me-Nows. He’s guilty of spawning blowback, such as giving the seal that bit off Buster’s arm the taste for mammal blood.

Michael is the State Department. He gets sent to Iraq with Buster and Gob. He had often been seen as more sane, the adult in the room, but ultimately has been shown to be as twisted as the rest of the family — foreshadowing the current unfortunate trajectory of the institution he represents.

Lindsay is the non-profit sector, perpetually putting on ridiculous fundraisers and staging particularly pointless protests — all the while eager to sell out, intentionally or not.

George Michael is Silicon Valley and its connection to academia. While ostensibly pursuing an education, he focuses on projects like his anti-social software Faceblock.

Maeby of course is Hollywood — she worked at a studio. While her parents Tobias and Lindsay are inept, she’s a skilled con artist. But she does have incredible lapses, displaying incredible ignorance of basic religious knowledge and simple mathematics. She was last seen eyeing more money in Silicon Valley as part of her varied incestuous relationship with her cousin George Michael.

Ann Veal (“Egg”) represents the politically organized right-wing mega churches: Opulent in their wealth, banal in their persona, shallow in their beliefs, hypocritical in their conduct — yet with seemingly functioning family structures.

Lucille 2: Is the donor class, perpetually funding and in bed with one Bluth or another.

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Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org

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