Shiv Roy: Succession’s Resident Girl Boss

How Intersectionality Plays a Role in Shiv Roy’s Character Arc


As the fourth and final season of HBO’s Succession winds down, a meaningful discussion still needs to be had concerning one of the characters. 

All four of the Roy siblings are archetypes of rich nepotism children who believe they deserve it all. Shiv, the only daughter, represents the stereotypical girl boss. She’s cut-throat and has people bending to her will at a glance. Yet, in competition with her brothers, she falls short. Her womanhood has continuously held her back. 

In one popular scene, Kendall staged his second or third coup to overthrow his father. He enlists his siblings for help, gathering them around to ask who is willing to join him. When Shiv decides she doesn’t want to follow his plan, Kendall says, “It’s only your teats that give you any value” to which Shiv replies “I know”. 

Misogyny plays a notable role in Shiv’s character arc. She is by no means the worst of the characters in the show, or even of the Roy siblings. She has been used multiple times by her family only because she is a woman. But it is for that same reason, that she has never been given a meaningful position in the company, and why at the end of the day, her contributions are never taken seriously by her family. 

The commentary on sexism and feminism is right there for the watchers to see. The watcher sees Shiv struggle with her womanhood and how she is not taken seriously. Her “girlbossification” is a symptom of the patriarchal environment she has been raised in. 

However, in a crucial scene in season two, the viewer sees how Shiv’s “feminism” does not encompass all women, and is just a tool that Shiv uses at her convenience. 

Imagine a typical four-way intersection. The middle section, in which the lanes cross or intersect, is the most important part. Now applying this concept to social issues, we are given intersectionality. Given race and gender, or gender and class, or any social issues, they are bound to cross. 

Feminism, what is it? It is typically described as a social argument in which one advocates for equality between genders. People often get confused by feminism, as the word has now been stretched and misused to represent things that are not encompassed in feminist theory. On the other side of the coin, people often think of feminism as something small or only concerned with one thing. The truth is, almost every social issue should be a feminist issue. It is for this reason that intersectionality exists. All social issues are not individual from each other, as they all overlap and cross in the grand scheme of supremacy. 

Taking it back to Succession season two, to the cruise ship scandal. After a string of assaults come to light in the company, the family scrambles to make it disappear. A woman who was assaulted while working for WayStar Royco has just been announced to testify against the company. Shiv recognizes this woman is a threat to her family’s company, and she knows that stopping the woman from talking will please her father, and put her in his good graces. She is a woman in a man’s world, and she has to do anything to get ahead, right? So she finds this woman with her daughter at the park and aligns herself with the victim. She says she is angry and wants to tear the company apart, but of course, testifying is not the way to do it. After serious coercion, the woman backs out of testifying and Shiv saves the company. 

The woman, who is a person of color, seeks out justice the only way she knows how. It is Shiv, in her quest to get ahead, that weaponizes her womanhood and takes away any justice this woman will ever have. Shiv uses her notions of feminism to get ahead, employing tactics that actively hurt women, specifically women of color. When she returns, she is praised by the men in her family. After the initial joy, she is again forgotten. 

This show continues to fail its female and POC characters. That of course, is the point. It is a show that centers on whiteness and the male ego. Shiv is constantly hurt by the men in her life. She is not taken seriously, and she is branded as hysterical. She recognizes this, knowing no matter how valuable she is, she is not respected by the people that matter most. However, what power she does have a Roy nepotism baby, she uses to step on top of women with no power to get ahead. 

Overall, this show’s characters are all representative of the power dynamics we see in today’s world. They are all bad people who use their power to hurt others, in the name of making Logan Roy happy. Every one of the Roy siblings has hurt people with less power than them, including the women in their lives. However, it is interesting to see Shiv, who is no doubt a victim, also become a perpetrator in the very thing she seeks to escape.