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Veep Got Eerily Prescient Again With a Story About Black Churches

This show is always a step ahead of reality but this is getting spooky

Malcolm Venable

Veephas come uncannily close to actual real-life events frequently -- most notably with the implosion of Selina Meyer's (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) presidential bid in Season 5 that looked remarkably (and distressingly) like Hilary Clinton's surprise loss later that year. But there was also the time Selina made an offhanded crack about a rival on Meet the Press -- airing days after Joe Biden had a slip up of his own on the same political chat show. And don't forget the time Selina screwed up her swearing in at the end of Season 3, causing the her to have to fly back to D.C. to get sworn in all over again, just like Barack Obama had to do in 2009 after he flubbed it the first time.

The mirroring hasn't gone unnoticed by Veep's team. "We write certain situations, and then after we've finished editing the episode or getting it ready, that situation happens in real-life," creator Armando Iannucci told the Hollywood Reporter in 2015. "It's rather spooky."

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Though we all should be used to Veep's seemingly psychic coincidences by now, that doesn't make them any less startling, and the events of its most recent episode, "South Carolina," stand as further proof. In it, Selina has the bright idea to speak to the congregation of a Southern black church (to advance her own agenda with zero concern for the parishioners, of course, because this is Selina Meyer we're talking about). In her address, she inadvertently horrifies the assembled people with a very poorly thought out defense of police officers, just after an officer killed a black kid. It's peak Veep: grimace-inducing, hilarious and right at the edge of plausibility but also piercingly relevant to this very moment in American culture.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep


For weeks, Southern black churches have been in news feeds as African-American houses of worship were burned in Louisiana, setting off police searches and intense emotions, especially for people who saw that exact type of terrorism play out in the 1960s. Ten days after three churches were destroyed, an arrest was made, which seemed to put the story to bed, but it resurfaced in greater context following the Notre Dame fire, after a viral tweet contrasting the responses to a church fire in France to church fires in America prompted soul searching and millions in aid for the seemingly forgotten churches at home. Veep's story is not an apples to apples correlation, but having Selina enter a black church and display her typical obliviousness,feels remarkably similar to what's happened in recent days. Even spookier: Selina starts the episode throwing shade at her new opponent in the presidential race: a black woman named Kemi Talbot (Toks Olagundoye).

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"She's not even all black," Selina says when her staffer reminds her she's running against an actual black person now, a fact lost on Selina as she looks to shore up cred among African American voters. Never mind the insidiousness of the remark: Veep again is in line with current events since Kamala Harris, who has an African American father and Indian mother, formally announced her candidacy for president in February -- well after this episode had been conceived. (Veep's creative team has long insisted the show is not a parody of the political world but man, you can't not marvel at the timing.)

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Anyway, as Selina delights in a civil rights leader (played by Keegan-Michael Key) calling her "the blackest white woman her ever met," she blithely presses on in S.C. Having also been courted by a Chinese official to repeat a message in exchange for favors, Selina sashays into the Second Baptist Church of Charleston to stump for herself and the Chinese bigwig, offending the congregation with a colossally stupid speech that leaves the them speechless. Again, the episode's shenanigans aren't exactly in line with what happened in Louisiana, but as Selina stands on the pulpit and says to Southern black worshippers, "What happened recently in your community to that young boy is very sad," it's as if we're seeing, in a way, the people whose holy houses were met with their own grief just weeks ago. It's one more example of the brilliant comedy's propensity for crystal balling the future -- a mystical talent it has on top of the many others its been awarded for so often. Veep's farewell this season will be a seismic loss for comedy and political farce, but we can only hope that its promise of ending with what is "right for America" does not involve a total takeover by Russia or sentient robots placing themselves in charge, because, based on precedent, it would absolutely come to pass.

Veep airs Sundays at 10:30/9:30c on HBO.