Did Industry just offer the most lucid (and ruthless) example of the way capitalism and patriarchy and whiteness work in tandem to maintain a structure where those excluded by any one of those systems delude themselves into thinking the only way to succeed is by keeping those systems intact?
By which, I mean: Did Industry school us all in the importance of intersectionality by illustrating what happens when we refuse to see conflicting and overlapping modes of discrimination and exclusion, focused as we are on a seat at a table that necessarily only has a few open spots?
If that sounds too jargony for what’s ostensibly a show about the tensions at a banking institution that turns its final minutes into an edge-of-your-seat climax every episode, then just bear with me.
Last we saw the folks Pierpoint & Co., we witnessed them turn a hunting excursion into a metaphor for a survival of the fittest contest where only the most canny—and callous—come out on top. This is the world the likes of Harper (Myha’la Herrold), Eric (Ken Leung), Daniel (Alex Alomar Akpobome), Yas (Marisa Abela), Celeste (Katrine De Candole), and Robert (Harry Lawtey) not only inhabit but perpetuate. And, as “There Are Some Women…” illustrates, they do so even when they understand its glaring inequities—and, perhaps most shockingly—its violence. For that is ultimately the kind of word we should be using to describe what those very same characters endure and pay forward on any given day.
Take Eric. While Harper has clearly made moves to distance herself from him, he’s long been a force to be reckoned with. He’s “The Terminator,” after all. Every single time he discusses his approach to his job there’s a callousness that’s clearly calcified over the years. And now, as he wrestles with the restlessness of having been put on leave, we get to witness just where it all came from. And arguably, the more you hear about his mentor (that MAGA hat in his office alone!), the more you’re in awe of how skillfully he’d compartmentalized the racism he’d been subject to for years.
Which is to say: He made a conscious choice at one point to ignore said comments yet blindly follow in his mentor’s footsteps. But how can you so uncouple that behavior in an office without questioning how else it’s affecting his business acumen?
It harkens back to the way Robert was all too happy to let Nicole’s advances be a welcome part of his job—that is, until he realizes such a sexual dynamic was less an outlier than par for the course for that Pierpoint client. One that Harper had nipped in the bud, something Robert either didn’t realize he could or felt all too powerless to do. How power structures so many of the relationships in Industry and across so many different strata (class, race, gender...) becomes all the more elucidating when you find the likes of Yas and Harper tackling such a theme head on.
Indeed, their frank conversation about privilege (especially during COVID times: “I’m not guilty,” Yas says when Harper confronts her about not wanting to assuage her colleague’s white-passing guilt) was eye-opening precisely because it was so casual. Of course Yas would mindlessly miss when they’d get their pay raises: It’s all chump change for her. Yas’ privilege has made her oblivious to a lot of the structures of power Harper cannot ever unsee.
And lest one think this is merely about race, Industry’s pairing of Harper with Daniel puts that to rest. Or, rather, puts it in rarer relief. As the two have joked before, they come from vastly different backgrounds. (Remember her noting that his last name, Van Deventer, didn’t sound “very Black”?) He is, quite like Eric (not coincidentally) a kind of model minority, the kind of worker and colleague that gets bosses to say they’re “well-spoken.” It’s why Harper perhaps feels both comforted and mistrustful of him in equal measure.
What to make of their (arguably very hot, Girls-esque) hookup then? The cynic in me wants to believe Harper when she rightfully owns the monikers thrown her way (like “restless soul” and “craven capitalist”) and thus conclude that she’s keeping Daniel close so she can better keep an eye on him (and keep him away from Bloom): “He’s a sales guy. It’s his job to be convincing,” she tells Bloom when asked whether she trusts him, revealing as much about herself as about her new office fling.
What’s perhaps most depressing about how their close intimacy is immediately recontextualized by Harper’s work-minded approach is how it reminds us that, in Harper’s mind—and in Industry’s world—no relationship can ever be anything but transactional. There’s a soullessness that their work requires and you can see each and every one of these characters trying to break out of old habits while letting others remain untouched. Capitalism as a system requires that those who wish to thrive never dare question, let alone threaten, its foundations—no matter how racist or sexist or discriminatory they may well be.
Of course, I can’t end this diatribe (I mean recap) without zeroing in on Eric’s fate and the two lines that seal it and which, together, illustrate the way in which this capitalist (and yes, patriarchal and discriminatory) system uses individuals as disposable containers for its own perpetuation:
“If you stop producing, you’re simply a cost.”
And then: “You know nobody owes nobody a tomorrow here.”
There is no room for empathy. For understanding. For care. Just a never ending forward-churn that demands you constantly produce more lest you yourself become waste. Or worse yet, let yourself be made into waste.
- I’m not saying I am this close to buying a Pierpoint & Co. hoodie (wouldn’t it go great with a Waystar Royco hat?) but I’m also not not saying that.
- Celeste has a wife! I was as surprised to hear that as Yas was but ho boy does that further muddle their mentor/mentee relationship. Then again, the two are clearly nimble enough to navigate the flirtatious aspect of their dynamic…or are they each trying to play one another? With these folks, you just never know.
- “Are we still wealthy?” C’mon Yas, is this really the main thing on your mind when your dad tacitly admits he’s been #MeToo’d to the sum of several (hundred?) millions of dollars? I mean, it’s not surprising given what we know of her and how unsettled she’d feel if she didn’t have her wealth and connections to fall back on but damn did it cap off a master class in saying (and not saying) what needed to be said (and unsaid). Did you notice how neither said “sexual harassment”? And how her father could barely bring himself to utter the acronym “NDA”? Clearly everyone has limits on what they’ll allow and they’re all tied to how much they cherish their position, be it racist jokes or sexual advances—or, in the case of Yas—harassment claims against her own father. But this “industry” is clearly built on blind eyes all around.