Forget the tacky Lena Dunham credit and the overzealous substance abuse, Industry should be required watching for induction days at every corporation.
There was once an episode of Skins where Effy, in her post-teenage-mania life, ends up working at a trading firm. We’ve seen what happens when grown ups operate in the workplace – a la Mad Men, Suits – but what of the experience of moving between that mania and an office? Take out your piercings, deal with the unnecessary feedback and don’t forget to smile at the person that wants to set you on fire.
That’s pretty much the premise of BBC/HBO’s Industry, which, to simplify it, centres on this question: What happens when the Skins kids get into a grad program? What follows is workplace harassment, that one guy obsessed with Japanese whiskey and an old dude that hasn’t realised that partying with clients on boats isn’t the way we do business anymore. Whether you ended up at a boutique marketing firm or an investment bank, one thing is certain: anyone who has worked in a corporation for more than five seconds can relate to more than five seconds of this show. In tandem with the accents, the intro track and the NSFW moments every second scene despite it literally taking place in a workplace, it’s nostalgic to feel like we’re watching the entire Skins crew trying to make the cut.
Even more resonant is the fact that there truly are no heroes in this story (bar the relatively uncriticisable but self-described hubristic Gus). Not only is it a feat that so much depth was offered behind these characters in simply one season – not that there isn’t more to be desired that can’t populate the narrative of its sequel – but this wasn’t just a bunch of episodes to establish foundation; this collection of hours saw our graduates grow. For some, that meant distinguishing real affection from office sex games; for others, it meant realising that the person who yells at you but is in your corner is preferable to the one who champions inclusiveness but calls you a liar when you report getting groped by a client. No one teaches you that when you’re studying commerce at university, and it certainly isn’t a cliché you see in every third drama. Mike from Suits may have had a fake degree, but he was never sexually harassed at his first client meeting, terrified of others finding out, taunted by the woman who did it and then accused of making it up to get ahead.
There are some hard-to-watch moments, in between sequences of excess and trader jargon that most of us would need a dictionary to translate. No corporate system should ever let what happens to these young people happen to anyone, and there’s no reason that who you are at work isn’t a reflection of your true personality. We would love to think that men have stopped shushing women, that human resources would shut that shit down the moment a sentence starts. We want to believe that women who have been through the struggle won’t watch other women go through it and remain complacent – or worse, antagonise or take advantage in a different way. It’s too horrible to think that there are people going through this every day. Not at every company, for sure, not in every department, not in every team. But even at some, it’s still too many.
The ultimate conclusion that our main character Harper Stern, expertly portrayed by Myha’la Herrold, comes to is that no one will really look after you. You have to get in the ring for yourself, lest you fall down and never get up again while someone steps over you. Words like “culture” and “inclusion” are easy, but life is really fucking hard.
You can stream Industry now on Binge.