The planets have aligned this week when it comes to all things too rich and too famous with the success of HBO’s Succession and the highly laughable court television dramedy of Gwyneth Paltow’s skiing accident trial taking place in real time.
It is, as if, Ton Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, and a mind-warp version of The Beverly Hillbillies all collided with epic, comet-like force onto an unknowing populace.
Within days of its final season’s premiere, it was revealed that Sunday’s Succession premiere garnered 2.3 million viewers across HBO Max and linear telecasts, marking a series high for show runner Jesse Armstrong’s four season bitch session. Total viewing for Sunday night was up 62% compared to last season’s premiere according to Variety, and the One Percent nightmare black comedy of dysfunctional sibling rivalry-meets-corporate control (and daddy) issues continues full speed ahead.
On the other side of the States from Succession’s Manhattan Symphony, another Champagne and Grey Poupon-stained reality is taking place as Goop health and lifestyle brand founder and actor Gwyneth Paltrow is fighting for her (high class) life and the right to not miss out on skiing in court this week over allegations she crashed into retired optometrist Terry Sanderson on a Park City, Utah, ski slope, seven years ago. Sure, she might have broken his ribs and caused permanent brain damage – but Paltow is equally annoyed that her ski afternoon was cut short.
“Well, I lost half a day of skiing,” Paltrow during her initial cross examination when asked about how the incident ruined her “very expensive vacation.” And of course, Paltrow’s quote inspired social media mockery ever since.
Shows of conspicuous wealth commenced on Sunday with the appearance of “the ludicrously capacious Burberry bag,” a Medium Title Vintage Check Two-Handle Bag, slathered in the brand’s signature tartan plaid – a nearly $3,000 tote whose ostentatious nature has become the toast of the internet and a highly sought out sales item despite insults hurled at its very existence. “What’s even in there? Flat shoes for the subway? Her lunch pail? It’s monstrous. It’s gargantuan. You can take it camping. You could slide it across the floor after a bank job.”
The Burberry Bag’s signage, made its holder, according to The Cut, “but a doe-eyed seal in a pool of passive-aggressive trust-fund orcas.” Because real wealth comes without signatures. Not plaids, and certainly not Bridget’s Sandro dress. The upper middle class might be able to pull off that look, but not The Roys.
Tom’s description of such a heinous accessory has also been the talk of social media — with “ludicrously capacious” becoming a go-to catchphrase for all manner of things you can’t possibly associate yourself with. Thus, the star of the episode was born.
“To the Roys, the most covetable piece of clothing is one that comes at a hefty price with very little markage, or, as we’ve come to call it, stealth wealth. Kendall, for example, wears a $625 Loro Piana cashmere-blend baseball cap this episode and a $6,490 Tom Ford suede bomber jacket, both logoless and utterly unrecognizable to anyone who has to file their taxes through TurboTax.”
Stealth Wealth to the Roys is soft monochrome sweaters and easy shoulder jackets, small bags, aviator sunglasses, cream-colored blouses, simple gold chains (maybe a bracelet and a good watch and brown, grey or black slacks. A shocking plaid such as a Burberry? Not on your life.
Stealth Wealth, or what Town and Country magazine’s Max Berlinger has referred to as the “low-key rich bitch” look is firmly on display at the Paltrow trial. From her blue, initialed $250 Smythson Soho notebook to her “a perfectly rolled-up white turtleneck sweater and Smythson notebook? Immaculate blond waves that are more like ripples? Gold statement jewelry, a bone broth-hued tote, and a slim-cut gray blazer accessorized with the requisite green juice? It doesn’t get more LKRB. Paltrow even nodded to her power color, green, with an olive coat, evoking immediate associations to Great Expectations in anyone who follows ’90s fashion Instagram.”
With all of the attention given to Succession and Gwyneth Paltrow this week, I am drawn to all old quote from two of my favorite movies, The Philadelphia Story and its musical version, High Society. Whether first uttered by Jimmy Stewart or, later, Frank Sinatra, both journalists find, while snooping around the affairs of the One Percent, “With the Rich and Mighty, Always a Little Patience.”
Perhaps, the quote is meant to accept the eccentric foibles of the wealthy who know no empathy for a life they have never lived – a give them a break attitude. Perhaps, however, our understanding of that same quote should and could include a pause for letting them ramp up to new heights of absurdity, of meanness, and downright laughable misunderstanding of the human tragedy and the comedy it holds.
The insults of Succession are all written out and planned for Shakespearian dynamism and comedy gold. And Gwyneth Paltrow’s reactions during her skiing accident trial? Money can’t buy those laughs.