I Have Complicated Feelings About Shiv Roy. You Should Too.
The girlfailure we love to hate
Author’s Note: This essay contains spoilers for Succession, including the latest episodes from Season 4.
Oh, Shiv. Out of all of the characters who comprise the sinisterly funny and infuriatingly stressful corporate chaos of Succession, Siobhan Roy (or Shiv) occupies the most perplexing position on the Waystar Royco game board. Out of all of the Roy siblings, she’s been the hardest to root for. So much so that, with each new episode, fans continue to debate whether cheering her on or refusing to is an act of misogyny or support for a ‘bad’ feminist. While all of the Roy siblings have had four seasons of messy character arcs, Shiv’s trajectory has been markedly different from that of her brothers. She’s been bound to different rules of the corporate game and watching her navigate (or, more often, fumble) her way to the top of Waystar has been something of a morbid fascination. Like the proverbial scene of the car crash, I want to look away but I also can’t help but watch everything repeatedly blow up in her face.
Shiv has become a character that many of us love to hate—but this hasn’t always been the case. I, like many, started Succession expecting to root for Shiv. After all, in a sea of men in suits, she stood out. She didn’t seem to care about the family business like her brothers did. She wasn’t afraid to get aggressive, literally wrestling Roman in the second episode of Season 1. She never tried to mask or downplay her own professional ambition. From the onset, she’s presented to us as the quintessential girlboss, the underdog destined to succeed in this male-dominated workplace. But this is Succession, after all, a biting satire of corporate America that has made it clear time and time again that there are no heroes in this family feud. Shiv, perhaps out of all the Roy siblings, is the most striking example of the show’s vicious social commentary. Even as many have struggled to sympathize with her, called her ‘evil,’ and continue to debate over her status as a fan (or least) favorite, I’d argue that Shiv’s destructive character development is one of Succession’s most damning indictments of power and privilege thanks to its added entanglement of scathing gender critique.
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