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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

House of Cards open thread (and a few thoughts on Frank and Claire)

housecards

I’ve just spend this weekend binging on Season 3 of House of Cards. I heartily approve of this “let’s release all the episodes all at once” concept so we don’t have to die of suspense from week to week.

One of the things I have loved about this show is Frank and Claire’s relationship. They are horrible people, but I envy their marriage: they truly care about each other, and they are unfailingly supportive of each other. Or, at least, that had been true. I’m not sure if it is anymore… and I’m definitely not feeling that same envy now.

This continues to be true, however: I don’t know if they are actually trying to do real good that will help real people. And if they are, does that excuse their horribleness? Do they seek power for its own sake, and if they do, is that okay if they leave the world a net positive in the end? Or is there no way to balance out the awful things they have done?

Feel free to discuss this and/or other aspects of the show as you wish…


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  • Tom Moore

    There isn’t any Machiavellian justification for the things they’ve done…

  • I’m just about at the end of season 2. I love the show, but have zero desire to binge watch it, or any show. I just don’t understand it. I actually LIKE some separation between episodes to allow for a little build up to happen. I tend to watch an ep. once every 2 or 3 days.
    When I finish season 2, I’ll watch a whole different show for a while before jumping back into season 3. Yeah, I’m weird like that.

  • Bluejay

    I’ve just watched the first two episodes of the new season, so I’m a bit behind. And yeah, I’m still trying to figure out whether they actually ARE trying to do real good and not just scheming to consolidate power.

    As for whether the good they do balances out their awful deeds: This is like the Julian Assange question, isn’t it? I think, for now, that my stand on this is the same: People are complex, and it’s not easy to render a black-or-white judgment on them. If a person makes others’ lives better, and makes great contributions to society, that matters. If the same person is responsible for awful, immoral acts, that ALSO matters. Good and bad deeds both count, and should both be acknowledged. I’m not sure if they “balance out” each other, or if they should have to.

    Having said that, I would feel *very* satisfied if Frank got his comeuppance because of what he did to Peter and Zoe.

  • This is like the Julian Assange question, isn’t it?

    I think it’s more complex than that. If Assange did the things he is accused of, then he is a raging asshole at best and a rapist at worst. But none of that negate his Wikipedia work. It has nothing at all to do with his activism.

    But with the Underwoods, their bad deeds are directly connected to their deeds that may (or may not) be well intentioned and might actually help people. They do the bad things to get into the position to do the (potentially) good things. I think the underlying question with *House of Cards* is this: Can a politician get into a position of power where s/he might do a greater good *only* by skullduggery and manipulation and even murder? Is it possible to become President of the United States without compromising one’s principles (assuming one has them in the first place)?

  • Bluejay

    So, it’s more like the Omelas question — what price for the greater good?

    Can a politician get into a position of power where s/he might do a greater good *only* by skullduggery and manipulation and even murder?

    Well, maybe not murder, at least not literally or all the time. At least I hope not. (“Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed!”)

    Is it possible to become President of the United States without compromising one’s principles (assuming one has them in the first place)?

    I’m trying to think of examples. Jimmy Carter? But I would imagine it’s much more difficult in the current era. Maybe that’s why Elizabeth Warren doesn’t want to run.

  • Like Omelas, but not in any way metaphoric.

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