It probably wasn’t a good idea to watch all of “House of Cards’” season two in three days. Yes, the last few episodes devolved into high camp (menage a trois with the chauffeur!) but the real turn-on of House of Cards is its unapologetic villany.
Unlike so many other antiheroes of his caliber – Tony Soprano and Walter White included – Frank Underwood not only telegraphs the infantile greed and duplicity of American politics, he forces us to confront our absolute powerlessness against it.
Of course he gives us an entertaining way to loathe our do-nothing Congress and every president who has disappointed us. (read: all of them?) Some speculate Frank was modeled after John F. Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson. And though, the show is, as New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley wrote, probably “the most joyless” on TV, it’s also validating in surprising ways.
For Americans stymied by one piece of failed legislation or another, by one corporation or another, watching “House of Cards” offers the illusion of control. We can revel in the Underwoods’ malevolence, while at the same time, point at the screen and shout “See? Here’s the real reason we’ll never be able to retire/fund our kids’ college/take a vacation/drink our tap water.” It’s a masochistic pleasure. And it’s all your fault Francis.