Tonawanda News


March 5, 2014

The lesson behind 'House of Cards'


Tonawanda News — Toss all that squishy idealism out the window in “House of Cards.” It stars Kevin Spacey as evil political mastermind Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his equally devious and cold wife, Claire. 

In the opening episode of season two, Claire is confronted by a former employee at her environmental advocacy firm who’s suing after being fired. Claire has cut off the pregnant woman’s health insurance as retribution, delivering to her the most vindictive line of dialogue I’ve heard in quite some time with a bone-chilling calm: “I’m willing to let the baby inside you wither and die.”

Absurd? Of course. And absurdly entertaining. 

Part of the show’s appeal to the online streaming public is reveling in our general dislike of politicians by pretending they’re over-the-top villains bent on world domination and the destruction of anyone or anything that gets in their way.

It strikes me as incredibly hypocritical that people are enraptured by the fictional antics of two political villains on “House of Cards” but find the by-comparison tame sport of actual politicking tasteless, crass, evil.

Of course, one is fiction and one is very much reality. But the comparison exists. We delight in fictional deviousness while turning our noses up at the real politicians working the system to run our country.

Politics has turned into a dirty word in our society. 

I guess my point is a simple one: It doesn’t always have to be. The body politic is only as dirty as the people doing the politicking — whether it be at the office water cooler or in the halls of Congress. Depending on the context it can illicit a wide range of reactions — frustration, disgust, curiosity, borderline obsession, a siren song to jump in the fray.

If the Underwoods have taught me anything it’s that politics, real or fiction, is what we make of it.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.

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