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Opinion | 'House of Cards' adds to the cynicism of U.S. political scene

By Greg Dick
On February 24, 2014

If you haven't already binged on the 13 newest chapters of "House of Cards," go ahead and do yourself a favor - don't. In fact, consider those 12 agonizing hours I just saved you a down payment on another show you've been meaning to watch.

With twisted sex scenes, cold-blooded killings and a little bit of animal cruelty thrown in for good measure, the second season of the Netflix original is not only downright disturbing, it's also misleading.

It paints a picture of D.C. and the American political process that is both inaccurate and cynical.

While annoying, I can live with little oversights when it comes to parliamentary procedure and process. But, then again, as a friend of mine rightly pointed out, would it have really been that hard for Beau Willimon, the show's creator and producer, to share a copy of the script with someone in the industry?

"The West Wing" did this for the better, having people like Lawrence O'Donnell, Peggy Noonan and Frank Luntz serve as writers and consultants throughout the show's run.

But I guess Beau Willimon wasn't too concerned about this since, as he put it in an interview with the Daily Beast, "House of Cards" is about power, plain and simple...you are either exercising power or someone is exercising it on you."

And that right there is why I have a problem with the show. It's not the little inaccuracies or lewd scenes (although I could do without those), but the cynicism which is pedaled at a time when we have too many cynics.

The show takes everything that is good and positive about politics and perverts it.

It takes handwritten letters from school children learning about their government and turns it into a fourth wall breaking Kevin Spacey who says, "I despise children."

It reduces the dedicated public servants who send their condolences to grieving constituents and turns it into confrontation and manipulation while at the church pulpit.

Sure, the show wouldn't have been the same if it focused on those things or the lighter side of politics, but with a Congressional approval rating of just 12 percent and 64 percent of the public saying the country is headed in the wrong direction, we certainly didn't need more cynicism.

Maybe I am wrong. In fact, the early numbers would suggest I probably am. According to Variety, 16 percent of Netflix's 31 million users have now watched at least some or all of the show. Clearly there is something that I am missing.

Still I like to think that the real people missing something are the folks out in Hollywood. The same people who produce movies and shows like "House of Cards" or "The Wolf of Wall Street." Shows and movies that lack any sense of morality.

Right now the country sure could use a little more Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart on the silver screen instead of the corrupt politician amassing power or the Wall Street crook living excessively.

And, hey, since I saved you 12 hours of watching "House of Cards," go ahead and watch "Twelve O' Clock High" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."


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