While Paul Ryan distances himself from House of Cards D.C. dystopia, Hillary embraces it

posted at 5:21 pm on August 15, 2014 by Noah Rothman

There are going to be some spoilers below, so if you are planning on watching the Netflix series House of Cards anytime soon and don’t care to have any of the plot ruined for you, stop reading now.

House of Cards is a fantastic show. Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of the conniving and Machiavellian character Frank Underwood is brilliant. The plotlines are compelling, the characters are well-developed and three-dimensional, and the acting is spot-on. If you’re a fan of dramas about republican politics, as I am, you’ll love this show.

I held off watching the program for a while, and did not commit to a binge until after the second season had been out for some time. Working in and around the business of politics and media, I felt saturated in references to this program for years. It seemed like I already knew the characters and knew the storyline just from following politicians and reporters on Twitter. They loved and celebrated their portrayals in that program, and I did not feel the pressing need to get the inside references.

When I finally did watch the program, I found it thoroughly entertaining. I was, however, struck by a nagging thought which I continue to wrestle with: Why on Earth, I wondered, would anyone in Washington D.C. think it prudent to celebrate their portrayal here?

Spacey’s character is a perfect antihero, in the same manner as is Bryan Cranston’s portrayed Walter White in the AMC drama Breaking Bad. You did not love Walter White; if anything, he was a monster to be feared. He was compelling, but by no means a character worthy of emulation, much less celebration. In the same way, Spacey’s character is a scheming, murdering, adulterous sociopath who surrounds himself with the like. He is ambitious, and not in a good way. His fellows are manipulative, egocentric, and vulgar. The well-intentioned and earnest are portrayed as dim-witted prey, unsuited to the unforgiving world of Beltway politics.

House of Cards portrays the District quite perfectly, in fact. It is a place Americans have come to fear and mistrust, and for the very reasons acknowledged in this program.

And yet, House of Cards references are and have been everywhere. Half the press corps and a variety of political figures participated in a spoof video featuring Spacey which debuted at the 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner. Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett reportedly quizzed Spacey on his character, joking that it might be useful to apply Underwood’s methods for dealing with an unruly Congress to the real thing. “I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” President Barack Obama said of Spacey’s character in 2013. The president added that the merciless Underwood “is getting a lot of stuff done.”

Now, Spacey was merely an immoral conspirator when Obama professed his admiration, and not a murder. But, as of season 2, he crossed even that line. Would the president say the same of Frank Underwood today? No one has asked him.

This is the backdrop for the latest clash of worldviews set to take place around this Netflix drama. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has probably set himself up to be lampooned in the press as a stick in the mud when he recently denounced the immorality of Spacey’s character. In an interview with Parade Magazine, Ryan said that he did not much care for Frank Underwood’s depravity.

“I watched the first couple of episodes until he cheated on his wife with that reporter,” Ryan told Parade. “It turned my stomach so much that I couldn’t watch it anymore. His behavior was so reprehensible, and it hit too close to home because he was a House member, that it just bothered me too much. And What I thought is, it makes us all look like we’re like that.”

I am shocked that Ryan is among the first prominent politicians to suggest that their portrayal in House of Cards is scandalous. For some, particularly in the District it seems, a cultural narcissism is so entrenched that even one’s reflection in a funhouse mirror is a welcome sight.

Within hours of this statement, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the precise opposite approach when she starred in a parody video with Spacey who reprised his role as Underwood. To add to the totality of the vanity on display here, it is a video centered on wishing former President Bill Clinton a happy 68th birthday.

Worlds – universes – apart. This is not a culture war in which Hillary is hip while Ryan is a stodgy old man married to his dated notions of morality. This is a stunning display of myopia on Clinton’s part. It is a narrow mindset shared by nearly every player in the nation’s capital.

Spacey’s character is written with the intention of communicating to the viewer everything that is wrong with Washington. In that effort, the writers and the actor succeed spectacularly. How in God’s name Hillary Clinton, or the rest of the D.C. media/political complex for that matter, thinks it is appropriate to associate with such a figure amid a veritable crisis of confidence in Washington, I have no idea.


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Paul Ryan Sexting Scandal coming up in 5, 4, 3, 2, …..

everdiso on August 15, 2014 at 5:29 PM

TIME.com @TIME
Reports: Germans recorded Hillary Clinton conversation ti.me/1pxZU0e

I wonder if we’re going to cry about it like the Germans did?

everdiso on August 15, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Cry, Merkel, Cry

http://time.com/3119252/german-security-forces-recorded-hillary-clinton-conversation/

The revelation is a potential embarrassment to Angela Merkel, who has decried American spying

German intelligence agents intercepted and recorded Hillary Clinton in conversation as she traveled aboard a United States government plane while she was Secretary of State to Barack Obama, three German media outlets reported Friday. Agents intercepted the conversation “by accident,” according to reports citing unnamed government sources by broadcasters NDR and WDR, along with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The revelation was among the more than 200 documents that a German spy, identified only as “Markus R.”, allegedly passed to the CIA.

The news, which comes as relations between the U.S. and Germany have soured over allegations that the U.S. spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has the potential to embarrass the German government. As recently as last month, Merkel condemned alleged U.S. spying on Germany, stating, “I would see this as a clear contradiction to what I understand as trusting cooperation of intelligence services as well as of partners.”

U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Chief of Staff of Denis McDonough, have allegedly confronted their German counterparts on the recording.

The specific time and location of the recording remain unclear.

everdiso on August 15, 2014 at 5:32 PM

In Washington, everything is relative. And if you’re a Democrat; evil is good, knowledge is ignorance, victory is defeat.

GarandFan on August 15, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Why on Earth, I wondered, would anyone in Washington D.C. think it prudent to celebrate their portrayal here?

It’s the bravado of bullshiite artists.

Lonetown on August 15, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Great … I thought Geothermal had stopped posting about lousy TV shows no one ever heard of.

corona79 on August 15, 2014 at 5:36 PM

The revelation is a potential embarrassment to Angela Merkel, who has decried American spying

German intelligence agents intercepted and recorded Hillary Clinton in conversation as she traveled aboard a United States government plane while she was Secretary of State to Barack Obama, three German media outlets reported Friday. Agents intercepted the conversation “by accident,” according to reports citing unnamed government sources by broadcasters NDR and WDR, along with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The revelation was among the more than 200 documents that a German spy, identified only as “Markus R.”, allegedly passed to the CIA.

The news, which comes as relations between the U.S. and Germany have soured over allegations that the U.S. spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has the potential to embarrass the German government. As recently as last month, Merkel condemned alleged U.S. spying on Germany, stating, “I would see this as a clear contradiction to what I understand as trusting cooperation of intelligence services as well as of partners.”

U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Chief of Staff of Denis McDonough, have allegedly confronted their German counterparts on the recording.

The specific time and location of the recording remain unclear.


everpisso didn’t write any of that.

Schadenfreude on August 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM

OT: ISIS Massacres 80 Yazidis

Obama is evil.

faraway on August 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM

OT: ISIS Massacres 80 Yazidis

Obama is evil.

faraway on August 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM

everpisso, you swine, you were wrong on them being saved, by your obama.

Yazidis have been saved.

check, check, check, check, check, check.

what’s next for Obama to fix for you guys?

everdiso on August 15, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Schadenfreude on August 15, 2014 at 5:44 PM

[Schadenfreude on August 15, 2014 at 5:26 PM]

I don’t know. That beached blue whale photo is tough to beat. I hadn’t realized how obese Hillary had become.

I wonder how she compares to Christie now?

Dusty on August 15, 2014 at 5:50 PM

Spacey’s character is written with the intention of communicating to the viewer everything that is wrong with Washington. In that effort, the writers and the actor succeed spectacularly.

Bingo.

Liberals often accuse conservatives of being idiotic and bigoted for taking a liking to Archie Bunker despite the character having meant to be a parody and nothing more (never mind that Archie actually was portrayed sympathetically even if liberals hated him).

Meanwhile, here you have Hillary, the media, and the Washington establishment thinking it’s “cool” or “hip” to align with a Frank Underwood-character because he’s fictional, and therefore, nobody can call them out for favoring such a reprehensible figure (I’ve seen both seasons of House of Cards). Paul Ryan — and others who share his sentiment — will be labeled “mawkish” and “old-fashioned” for not being able to stomach Underwood’s brand of degenerate behavior.

I disagree, however, on calling someone like Frank Underwood an “anti-hero.” He is not. Underwood is a straight-up villain protagonist which is generally defined as the shifting of a storyline view from the traditional “heroic” perspective to that of the villain’s. Underwood is the focus, and the audience is persuaded to root for, or support him, but he’s not really “heroic” in any sense of the word.

I think Paul Ryan is vastly overrated within the conservative movement, but he was spot-on with his criticism.

Aizen on August 15, 2014 at 5:54 PM

I keep not wanting to like Paul Ryan, but it’s hard.

Bet on August 15, 2014 at 5:54 PM

The progs revere Frank Underwood because they don’t think the methods matter — all they want is for their desired end result to happen.

He’s the essential democrat, and is the person that many of the progs want to emulate.

Revenant on August 15, 2014 at 5:55 PM

Madam MooMoo has a kind of nice ring to it. Her cankles have even succumbed…

trs on August 15, 2014 at 5:58 PM

I keep not wanting to like Paul Ryan, but it’s hard.

Bet on August 15, 2014 at 5:54 PM

Isn’t it?

Every time I dismiss him for his big government voting record, he goes and does something respectable like this.

Aizen on August 15, 2014 at 6:01 PM

The original BBC version was much better. It was so over the top, so satiric, you just did not relate it to real people. Get it from Netflix.

This version is so self-important that it’s almost, for me, unwatchable. There is nothing about Underwood that is interesting, and I think Robin Wright overacts to the point it’s laughable. It’s just a tawdry and cheap imitation.

PattyJ on August 15, 2014 at 6:04 PM

Spacey’s character is written with the intention of communicating to the viewer everything that is wrong with Washington. In that effort, the writers and the actor succeed spectacularly. How in God’s name Hillary Clinton, or the rest of the D.C. media/political complex for that matter, thinks it is appropriate to associate with such a figure amid a veritable crisis of confidence in Washington, I have no idea.

Two words – “We won!”

A few more? “We are degenerates who love our degeneracy as much as we hate you, and since we won, we’re going to shove it down your throats.”

Steve Eggleston on August 15, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Spacey’s character is written with the intention of communicating to the viewer everything that is wrong with Washington.

This character is based on RINO dim-bulb Kevin McCarthy.

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy says Kevin Spacey stole his line.

For his role in the smash Netflix series “House of Cards,” Spacey shadowed McCarthy, who assumed his own role as the No. 2 House Republican on Thursday from outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

McCarthy says that in preparing before the series started filming, Spacey was interested in knowing how the California Republican twisted arms.

“I told him I say to members, ‘You vote your district, you vote your conscience, you just don’t surprise me.’ And he stole that line for the show,” the Californian Republican told People Magazine in an piece published Thursday.

and Paul Ryan is just as dim.

I watched the first couple of episodes until he cheated on his wife with that reporter. It turned my stomach so much that I couldn’t watch it anymore. His behavior was so reprehensible, and it hit too close to home because he was a House member, that it just bothered me too much.

Correct answer would be that it’s liberal Hollywood propaganda that is ludicrous, not that it hits too close to home.

sauldalinsky on August 15, 2014 at 6:09 PM

PattyJ on August 15, 2014 at 6:04 PM
Yes! To further understand why the BBC shows is so over the top. You need to watch Yes Minister, and Yes Prime Minister. Great shows, very British but with a real bite to them. The American version of House of Cards is garbage.

flackcatcher on August 15, 2014 at 6:19 PM

I held off watching the program for a while, and did not commit to a binge until after the second season had been out for some time.

I did exactly the same thing, Noah.

Binge watching is a great way to watch shows. No commercials, no waiting a week or 6 months for the next episode.

Just finished season 2 of Game Of Thrones. I’d watched Comic Book Girl 19s histories of all the major houses, so I knew a lot of the spoilers, but it’s still very enjoyable.

Language warning watching CBG19, but she’s very knowledgeable and funny, and she grows on you. Her movie reviews are great too, if you’re into the fantasy, scifi genre.

MichaelGabriel on August 15, 2014 at 6:24 PM

Bread and Circuses = dumber and dumber.

VorDaj on August 15, 2014 at 6:27 PM

The Clintons are the inspiration for house of cards.

While Walter White was in every man who become an Evil hebegan as a good person. The Clinton characters in the house or cars are inherently evil from the get-go

avi natan on August 15, 2014 at 6:35 PM

So Paul Ryan gets it right on depravity…??

But he’s clearly wrong on amnesty…on debating Heritage on whether the Gang of 8 bill of lies is amnesty…

He’s clearly wrong on whether “voodoo amnesty economics” is going to save Social Security and the rest of the entitlement structure.

He’s clearly wrong on whether he should trust Patty Murray…

and last, he is reportedly no longer concerned about reducing spending or the debt…and he’s wrong about that

But he’s right about the opinion we should have about some overhyped Netflix drama….

The future of the Republican party — and the House Ways and Means committee — is in good hands….

EastofEden on August 15, 2014 at 6:43 PM

Noah, this post is silly. That skit gains Hillary votes. She comes across as smart and with a sense of humor. It points out she and Kevin are friends.

Ryan’s attitude helps shore up his support on the religious right without him having to bend on anything real. The religious right is way too gullible.

If I was a Democrat, I’d send people here to read this post and laugh. It makes us look bad, not her.

fadetogray on August 15, 2014 at 6:44 PM

I also recently binge-watched HOC and enjoyed it…made me wonder how much of it was based in reality…probably more that any of us would care to think about.

Two main thoughts when I watched it: 1) Can’t believe they made the main character a democrat. While the show doesn’t lay up party lines and skewers both sides equally, I found it notable that the most overt partisan sucker punches were reserved for the Tea Party Senator.

2) The most ridiculous and “suspension-of-disbelief” storyline in the show was its constant portrayal of the MSM (especially lib hacks like O’Donnell and Maddow) as non-partisan and stalwart truth seekers. Frank Underwood and others face tougher questions from the media than have ever been posed to our current liberal politicians.

Huckabye-Romney on August 15, 2014 at 7:02 PM

Used to really enjoy watching “West Wing” back in the dark ages, despite its clear partisanship and soap-opera antics. You may recall that the series finale (when the Democrat won despite the writers’ original plan to let the Rebublican (played by long-time Dem Alan Alda) get the prize)ended with all of the WW pols pairing off in both homosexual and heterosexual unmarried couples (well, not married to each other anyway).

Polls following GWB’s contemporaneous second election touted concerns over declining morality as one important factor in his win.

Dems still don’t get it.

AesopFan on August 15, 2014 at 8:21 PM