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Critics Review
The Chair review: An excellent satire on ‘cancel culture’ and contemporary society

Sandra Oh shines in an excellent dramedy set at a time of an ever-changing socio-political landscape in the digital era

3.5
Ryan Gomez
Aug 25, 2021
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Story:

Sandra Oh plays Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim who is appointed as the new Chair of the English department at the fictionalised Penbroke University as she attempts to revive the struggling department, juggling between her personal commitments as a single mother and her professional commitments

Review:

Writer Amanda Peet has managed to find the right balance between a heartwarming drama and hilarious comedy. The satire, on an era of what could be described as post-postmodernism, beautifully captures the social framework of neoliberal western democracies. The story set on the sprawling campus is a petri dish for the larger society outside the campus.

Directed by Daniel Gray Longino, the series explores the ideas of cancel culture and political correctness and its effects on society and an individual. Jay Duplass plays Dr. Bill Dobson, a grieving widower and a once-popular professor at the University. Through Bill Dobson, the narrative attempts to present the argument about why ‘cancel culture’ could turn toxic at times, despite the best of intentions.

Dobson’s attempts to explain why he is not a Nazi sympathiser, and that the Nazi salute he imitated in class is been taken out of context and misinterpreted by the students attending his open discussion, which turns a bad situation to worse, eventually leading to his suspension. Dobson’s fall from grace is an integral part of the story and the character holds the same importance to the narrative as Sandra Oh’s Ji-Yoon Kim.

Ji-Yoon, on the other hand, is caught in between a rock and a hard place, as she has an obligation to support her friend Dobson whilst being forced by the students and her superiors to hold Dobson accountable, and take an action against him. At home, she is struggling to come to terms with the reality of being a 46-year old single mother to a young daughter. Her relationship with her adopted daughter is also explored in order to assert the importance of cultural identities.

The politics within the University board members and their decisions to appease everyone by using Dobson as a scapegoat is one of the highlights of the story. The supporting characters such as Dr. Joan Hambling (Holland Taylor) and Dr. Yaz McKay (Nana Mensah) have their own intriguing character arcs in the story which add to the overall well-paced narrative in terms of racial profiling and gender inequality at Universities. The performances by the entire cast were exemplary. Jay Duplass plays the ‘troubled bearded man to perfection, similar to how his brother Mark essayed his character in The Morning Show.

Verdict:

A well-written satire with an engaging screenplay performed brilliantly by Sandro Oh, Jay Duplass, and the entire cast, the show is also a critique of how modern society, influenced by social media, puts more emphasis on the perception of reality rather than the truth.

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