Yes, The Real Setting For Netflix’s The Politician Really Is That Over-The-Top

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Netflix's new Ryan Murphy show is a satirical take on a wealthy high schooler who will stop at nothing to become president of his class so he can eventually go on to become president of the United States. The Politician takes place in Santa Barbara, which is a fitting choice for a show about abundance of wealth and opportunity. The California coastal city is often referred to as "The American Riviera" for its luxurious beaches, views, and waterfront homes.

And while The Politician may be satirizing American greed and ambition, the wealth of its characters isn't satire at all. Santa Barbara is known for its affluence, with many celebrities purchasing houses (er, mansions) in the area. The city reportedly boasts residents like Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and more. In 2010, Santa Barbara was named one of the top 10 most expensive housing markets, with home prices averaging over a million dollars — on par with homes in Honolulu, Hawaii. U.S. News reported that the coastal areas of Santa Barbara, in particular, are home to the city's most wealthy, well-educated citizens
Advertisement
Of course, not everyone who lives in Santa Barbara is well off. The Los Angeles Times reported that many people struggle with homelessness because they're unable to afford Santa Barbara's rising rent costs. The city seems to be more known for playing host to celebrities and tourists than prioritizing its lower income citizens. 
The real city's financial status isn't the only way it compares to the show. Santa Barbara also places an emphasis on education, according to Forbes, because it has many exemplary higher education campuses in the area — including University of California, Santa Barbara. It's no wonder that Payton Hobart and his friends are so concerned about getting into a good school, it's been a huge part of their hometown their whole lives.
Also, the city, like Payton's school, is pretty overwhelmingly white. On the show, Payton's campaign team repeatedly polls "the Haitan vote," but that vote is only being cast by one person of that nationality in the school. Similarly, the US Census says that Santa Barbara is 85.4% white
Even though The Politician does a good job of representing one side of Santa Barbara, it wasn't actually predominantly filmed there. According to Backstage, some scenes were shot in Los Angeles. Additionally, the school Payton attends was a set in Fullerton in Orange County, California. Not many shows have been set in Santa Barbara and the few that have didn't actually film there, including Psych. Filming for that show took place primarily in Canada.
If The Politician cast had filmed in Santa Barbara, they would have been treated to spectacular sites and a laid-back lifestyle, according to a Medium writer from the area. He described the city in these glowing terms: "Life is easy. Life is relaxing. People are carefree, healthy & full of enthusiasm. The place is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Just stupidly gorgeous in every direction."
Fortunately for viewers, there are some sweeping shots of the Santa Barbara area in The Politician. The cast may not have experienced them as much, but at least we will.
Advertisement

More from TV

R29 Original Series