Saturday, June 3, 2017
Curse You, Frank Underwood!
Why do I watch House of Cards? It's nothing but terrible people doing terrible things to others. Kevin Spacey's President Frank Underwood is a modern day Richard the Third, and as with Shakespeare's historical villain, the Anti-Hero of House of Cards talks directly to us, the audience. We become co-conspirators.
For the first time in the series, Robyn Wright's equally megamaniacal Vice President speaks directly to the audience. She says something along the lines of, "It's not that I don't know you're there... It's that I don't trust your intentions." And that really made me question, Why do I watch this stuff? I think part of the answer is because I want to see the bad guys punished. I want to the anti-hero fall apart, in the tradition of Richard III and Macbeth. But is that the only reason for binge watching a show like this?
I once attended a homeschooling seminar in which the speaker bemoaned many of the stories within pop-culture that focused on anti-heroes. He called them "bent" stories. If I remember the definition correctly, a "bent" story is when the values of the characters are warped and twisted -- the virtues of the story are ot in line with the virtues of a benevolent civilzation. A bent story would have characters doing bad things, and good things result from those bad actions. Basically, vice is celebrated.
Now, I'm not prudish enough to suggest that people shouldn't be writing "bent" stories. In fact, something like House of Cards offers us a window into current and past administrations -- by telling a bent story, it offers criticism of the real world. Yet, there is something more worth noting. I think that many people cheer for these anti-heroes, and see themselves within them... Even if they would never do anything similar in action... in their thoughts, viewers can vicariously experience what it is like to plunder and pillage, and commit all kinds of atrocious acts.
The original Richard III has a five act structure. The king is vanquished by Act Five. The original House of Cards, a BBC production, seems to follow a more modern the act structure. And although I don't like giving spoilers, I will say that a certain tyrant meets his maker by the end of Act Three.
The American House of Cards is now Five Seasons in... And it might keep going for another five. I have this terrible feeling that Frank Underwood won't be getting his comeuppance, and that fans of this anti-hero will take his message of power by any means necessary to heart.
Pop culture rant over. Now back to work, writing children's stories to combat the bent stories.