Succession is a show designed to provoke conversation about character psychology. With the show at its end, there’s plenty of time to analyse four season’s worth of Logan Roy’s children’s personalities.
Connor, Kendall, Roman and Shiv are very different people. They’re also bonded by blood and a relentless pursuit of one goal: running Waystar Royco. This competition bred a lot of bad behaviour. At times, the Roy children said and did things which were so awful we had to laugh. At other times, the series showed how sad the characters were. They wrestled with the disintegrating relationship with their father, which impacted their mental health.
Can you diagnose TV Characters?
Although it’s hard to diagnose fictional characters with personality disorders, the Succession kids beg for analysis. They all seem so real, which makes sense, as they are all, at least to some extent, based on real life people. It’s good TV to show characters having the same issues and behaviours as real people. After all, writers are often directed to ‘write what you know’.
What is Main Character Syndrome?
During Succession’s broadcast, a new term gained popularity across social media. Everybody says they know a person with Main Character Syndrome, but it’s important to note that it’s not a legitimate psychological condition. Although it isn’t found in any diagnostic handbook, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing.
Main Character Syndrome is when a person imagines themself as the lead in a fictionalised version of their life. The sufferer centres themselves as the star in their every experience or interaction. Sufferers view other people as merely supporting players in their own story. Those with Main Character Syndrome aren’t empathetic and struggle to recognise that others’ experiences may differ.
Main Character Syndrome, although not real, does sound like a diagnosable condition, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Those with NPD have exaggerated self-importance and excessive need for admiration. They also have an inflated sense of status and lack empathy. And NPD sufferers often exploit others for their own gain. Remind you of anyone?
Do the Succession kids all have Main Character Syndrome?
Main Character Syndrome could apply to almost every Succession character, which is understandable. Their world encourages people to assert themselves over others as a show of strength. Applying the definition to the Roy kids feels particularly apt. Circumstances force them into a gladiatorial battle for the family business. Where there can be only one prize winner there can be only one main character. Each character views events through their own warped prism, albeit in different ways. Let’s look at them one by one:
Connor Roy is fascinating. He can veer between complete self-awareness to self-delusion in the space of a few moments. The most glaring example of Connor’s Main Character Energy comes from a conversation with his partner, Willa. Connor, with a straight face, says that he has “finally found a job that I wanna do…President of the United States.” Without political acumen or experience, Connor feels capable of becoming America’s main character. Yet, he does have millions of dollars provided by his father and a lot of self belief. Maybe his beliefs aren’t so remote. Connor also shows empathy for Willa, and recognises how he’s seen by others. His response to discovering that his dad might be dead was “he never even liked me.” Those bouts of self awareness show a profound sadness and a little narcissism.
Kendall feels no shame in asserting his main character status over others. He’ll make a fuss during investor meetings to ensure that everyone feels his presence. Kendall’s behaviour is also the most adversarial of the siblings. He revels in denouncing his father in public. And when Shiv holds a press conference about company criminal allegations he plays the song ‘Rape Me’ to drown her out. Kendall also demands attention from his wife, children and assistant without ever considering what they want. It’s more important that everyone knows that he is the main character.
Kendall also dismisses other people’s opinions of him. When playing good tweet/bad tweet he bats criticism away. And when asked point blank about his real feelings he’ll use a funny voice or make a crass joke. There are brief moments of clarity. Like when he admits culpability to a crime, but these remain short lived. Kendall will lie when honesty no longer serves his purposes. Kendall’s greatest expression of main character energy is his rendition of ‘L to the O G.’ He honestly believes that he is a great rapper. Kendall is a textbook example of someone with Main Character Syndrome. Thank goodness he’s also a fictional character.
Roman seems the least “main” of all the Roy siblings, in that he is trying to avoid starring in his own life. For many episodes, Roman advocates that Gerri to be the main character in his life. He only wishes to be subservient to her. But abdication of responsibility and role play are both examples of acting out a fictionalised life. Later, Roman tells his family that “this is what it looks like when you resolve all your issues.” He’s so far from mentally healthy, but does acknowledge his interpersonal issues. Those issues come to a head in season 4 when he leans into fascism and violence. But by the end of the series Roman has a breakdown and finally begins taking charge of his life.
Shiv might have Main Character Syndrome, but she definitely has a bad case of self-denial. From the start Shiv chooses to redefine unpalatable events to better suit her needs. Like when she quits her job for former boss Gil, minutes after he has fired her. Shiv also thinks she is the main character in her marriage. She’ll often tell husband Tom that he’s “not good enough” for her. This frequent self-delusion is a coping mechanism for a world stacked against her. Shiv feels she must assert dominance over Tom, making him a supporting character only. This denial is most prominent when she hears that her dad has died. Her reaction being “No, no I can’t have that.” But beneath this exterior, Shiv has a humility and empathy which her brothers do not. She can say sorry and recognises when she has gone too far, like acknowledging to Tom ,“Yes, I am bullying you.” But she keeps going. Shiv may well have NPD.
It is okay to be the Main Character in your own Life
All the Succession siblings have facets of Main Character Syndrome. They’re also not the most mentally healthy. But when it comes to real life, being the main character isn’t always a bad thing. Main Character Syndrome has roots in a positive message. We should always feel that we are in charge of our own lives, doing what we can to make ourselves happy. Being the main character is a good defence against another condition: Imposter Syndrome. Finding the balance between independence and empathy can lead to better mental health.
And to be on the safe side, don’t rap in public.