Political Writers Turn Off House of Cards

House of CardsAh, television! Or at least television series. Over the years, I’ve been very into some popular series like Arrested Development and Deadwood. And I was very much a fan of Breaking Bad through the fourth season. But some shows never really click for me. The biggest example of this was The Sopranos. But I only saw the show intermittently. Still, I’m not a big fan of modern gangster narratives. For example, I’ve never much liked Goodfellas, even though I appreciate its craft. And maybe this is why I don’t care for House of Cards.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the first episode of the series and wrote, Dark Cynicism in House of Cards. I thought it was interesting stylistically, but it all depended upon unbelievable characters and an entirely cynical view of the world. What bothers me this morning is why so many people I read are so interested in the show.

This morning, Ed Kilgore writes about it over at Political Animal, House of Cardboard. Like most people I’ve read, he complains that the second season is less believable than the first. That seems very strange to me because the show doesn’t even try to be realistic. Even the look of the show goes for an other worldly feel. It comes off looking more like David Cronenberg’s Existenz more than anything else.

This, I think, is the core reason that people have liked the show. They mistake it for something that is realistic when it is actually more along the lines of a fable—albeit, one with a perverse moral about ends justifying means, even when the ends themselves aren’t particularly good.

Kilgore complains about the second season plot line where Underwood works on entitlement reform. Last Week, Matt Yglesias complained about the same thing:

There’s a lot of implausible plot threads in this show, but the treatment of Social Security in Season 2 is politically insane. You have a Democratic administration working furiously to cut Social Security not in exchange for some big GOP concessions, but just to avoid a government shutdown. In the real world, there’s absolutely nothing politics-minded Democrats would rather see happen than have Republicans shut the government down in an effort to force the country to swallow Social Security cuts.

That does sound silly. But it is hardly less believable than the Speaker of the House murdering inconvenient people. I think this is a major problem for the series, though—at least for the political types who I read. They seem most interested in the series because it shows the behind-the-scenes machinations that really are representative of how laws get made. But if Underwood is good enough to kill people with out getting caught, he ought to understand the politics of Social Security. My guess is that the third season of House of Cards will be the last. Or at least, it will be the last for the political writers. When the third season comes out, I highly doubt that everyone will be writing about it.

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