Posted by Ruth O’Brien
Dates matter. It’s the when that counts. In the study of politics, we call this notion of chronology “political time.” Then you wrap up the when with the who, what, and where, and you’ve got a story. Well, that is certainly true with House of Cards. It’s an American version of the British classic that the entertainment industry — Netflix — can be proud of. Or can it? Is it a Democratic or Hillary-bashing device, just more gripping and well acted than most?
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as Mr. and Mrs. Francis Underwood are such good actors playing deliciously evil, cruel, violent, and corrupt fictitious Democrats that they almost top the shenanigans of the protagonist in the original BBC House of Cards. And of course, the final episode of Season 2 guaranteed that there will be Season 3 — you guessed it, next Valentine’s Day, in 2015, during the at least two-year run by those getting Ready for Hillary.
I guess Valentine’s Day is as good as any Hallmark Holiday to release such a cynical, Machiavellian analysis of how corrupt corporate America and all politicians are in power, working for the United States (not just Washington), just as Hillary will be Ready to take her nomination after eight long years of preparation for the White House. To be sure, this is a tale about national politics and multinational corporations, less about state and local politics.
Now, I don’t know if the owner of Netflix (who does believe in freedom and responsibility management-labor practices), or any of the crew and cast of this power play about the corruption of American business and politics, is behind setting up a wider viewership to receive such cynicism. Nonetheless, the wonderful season sure plays up one significant message dear to the GOP: Why bother voting? Or, put differently: They are all corrupt. So why would any sensible voter go out and vote anyway? (Vice Presidents do not have to get elected if they assume the American presidency, after all, by any means. Or put more cautiously: VPs, like LBJ, serve the remainder of their predecessors’ presidency when they take office, and can run for one or two more full terms.)
Oops! Now I’m giving away Netflix’s punch line. But who cares? It was obvious from the very beginning. What was less obvious, or more ruthless at least, was all the corruption, violence, and cruelty that will have viewers binge-watching.
Meanwhile, we all know one place where there won’t be a binge in 2015 or 2016 — and that’s for anyone waiting for any documentaries or biopics about Hillary, since the mainstream networks settled this last summer, getting cold feet.
It’s always better to fictionalize history than to try to document — or at least don’t try to document it until it becomes history. Documents are just too precarious, being so open to interpretation, at least before they are unclassified. It’s better to have a good-faith fictionalized account than to attempt a good-faith interpretation of the facts that can easily get caught up in litigation or be a casualty to public opinion polls or be the source of corporate profits. Don’t believe me, just watch Fox News after you turn off Netflix. Didn’t someone say something about something that we all know is news?