“You’re the Worst”: The Meaning of Kakistocracy

TV series You’re the Worst, considered a youthful “anti-rom-com,” has now completed three seasons on FX. I know this despite never having seen it. What’s enough for me is the title’s catchphrase, so widely applicable in the political world these days.

But as a therapist I also appreciate that You’re the Worst has received great reviews for how it’s handled the clinical depression of one of its lead characters, Gretchen (Aya Cash), in season two and her subsequent attempts at seeing a shrink (Samira Wiley) in season three.

Unfortunately, though, people who are “the worst” often don’t get that much better, at least in the eyes of others around them. Vikram Murthi, AVClub, notes that a theme of the series “is that self-improvement doesn’t negate core character traits, that behavioral or attitudinal changes don’t suddenly alter our defining character makeup. Gretchen will likely always try to wiggle her way out of responsibilities because that’s who she is, yet her awareness of the situation could potentially help curb those tendencies.”

Which reminds me of another group of “you’re the worst”-ness, our current president and his cohorts. I’ve recently learned another term, kakistocracy, maybe not so catchy, denoting a “government by the worst people” (Merriam-Webster).

Examples of recent Twitter comments regarding #kakistocracy, i.e., “the worst”:

Bernie Sanders: “If you’re rich and powerful and commit illegal behavior you get promoted to the president’s cabinet. There’s something very wrong with that.”

LGBTQ Nation: “A cabinet full of deplorables…”

The Onion (satire): “Frustrated Russian Officials Struggling To Get Any Policies Through Dysfunctional Trump Administration”

Despite others’ hopeful predictions to the contrary, these individuals and their policy ideas are never going to improve, at least not in any way that really matters. How many times, for example, did we hear about then-candidate Trump, he’ll change/well maybe he’ll change/couldn’t he change? Over and over again we saw the answer in his actions. In other words, really?/I doubt it/ no way.

And yet he was elected.

Has he ever even wanted to change? There’s no proof that he has. And if he did want to change, the prognosis for a 70-year-old is not so great unless he were to apply himself really really hard, perhaps in some intensive therapy, not on the golf course.

And for those fond of deciphering whether or not Trump might sometimes be “acting” presidential, stop it. Acting is just that: a performance. If in some eyes he may on occasion pull it off, so what? It, the acting, doesn’t negate core character traits, [and] behavioral or attitudinal changes don’t suddenly alter our defining character makeup. Remember that from the above-cited review of You’re the Worst?

Of course, many of the appointees he’s managed to round up are of a similar ilk who, like You’re the Worst‘s toxic personalities Gretchen and Jimmy, seem “made for each other, but not for other people” (TV critic Murthi again). Perhaps one more definition of kakistocracy that would hold.

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