[no spoilers here I promise!]
The show has filled the gaping hole left by the end of The West Wing and with Netflix dumping an entire season on us all at once, I am now left with the challenge of finding gaps of an hour here and there when I can watch as I am the only fan in my household.
Of course to enjoy shows like this it helps to first have a grasp on how top-level American politics works with its Congress and its committees and what-not. But even with that knowledge I strongly recommend that you watch with subtitles so that specific references don’t fly over your head.
Behind it all I have a pet peeve that more people don’t watch shows like this. These are realistic portrayals of how our governments actually operate. Why WOULDN’T we be more interested?
Some say such shows glorify the “left” and demonise the “right”. I’m not so sure anyone can say HoC is glorifying its lead character of Frank Underwood, played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey!
In the Season 1 Episode 1’s very first scene (trust me…this is NOT a spoiler) he puts a dog run over by a car out of its misery before anyone arrives that could save it. He explains to the camera that he was “willing to do what needed to be done”. Obviously this was meant to symbolise the realities of political life at the very top!
Then the plot departs on its meandering path of intrigue, scheming, conflicting agendas and Machiavellian back-stabbing. Underwood is anything but a saint, though even in the West Wing, although its central character President Bartlet is held up as a paragon of virtue, in that storyline he couldn’t have possibly gotten where he was without the help of Leo McGarry, who clearly lined his pockets during his rise to the top and felt the need to shred a ton of documents when his time as White House Chief of Staff was over.
What shows like these teach us, the way I see it anyway, is that not only is it important to at least have a grasp of the goings on at the highest political level, but also to appreciate that the people involved are merely human beings with the same weaknesses as you and me.
ironically as I was watching Season 2 eps 1 and 2 yesterday, the doorbell rang and it was someone canvassing for the upcoming local council elections here in Ireland. I was given the leaflet you see below and on the back the candidate gives a summary of his candidacy including his background plus some bullet-points covering his objectives – all the greatest hits for lefties are covered like fighting austerity, unemployment, the environment & public transport.
Of course given what I had just been watching I was tempted to ask the guy at my door, who happened to be the candidate’s brother, questions like “How is his campaign funded?” or “What would Paul do if he found a dog in the street that had just been run over” or (though this one came to me afterwards) “How about a campaign slogan like ‘Let Me Give You A Hand”’?”
But also, given what I had just been watching, I didn’t want to stand there on my doorstep jabbering so I politely took the leaflet, shut the door and waded back into the pool of the ever-developing plot.
Joking aside, the most telling sign (pun intended) that the general public here in Ireland care very little about politics comes at election times, when candidates appear willing less to compete by open debate on the topics that matter, and more on flooding the main streets with oversized photo-shopped head-shots.
If it were down to me House of Cards and shows like it would be compulsory viewing at secondary schools, even with it’s “realistic” language and occasional nudity, or perhaps because of it as that would no doubt get youngsters’ attention.
People get to reach the top on the back of a “house of cards” because for the most part, we let them. If we could just let our level of understanding about how government work get to the level of our understanding of things like team sports, X Factor and soap operas, we might just see a bit more accountability from our leaders. MIGHT.
Best of luck to Paul Hand with his campaign. Once I can find out exactly which pies he has his fingers in, I may just vote for him. JLP