Anyone who is up-to-date on the Netflix TV drama “House of Cards” knows that journalists play a significant role. I have something to say about that with the goal of viewing this portrayal within a historical context of fictional representations of reporters and editors. (If you have not yet binge-watched the 26 episodes, not to worry. There are no spoilers in this essay.)
Based on a trilogy of novels by former conservative British politician Michael Dobbs and a BBC miniseries, “House of Cards” shows American politics at its worst. Congressman Francis Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (played by Robin Wright) have been aptly compared to Lord and Lady Macbeth. Nothing can quench their appetite for power. No one can stand in their way.
Like other contemporary dramas such as “The Sopranos” and “Dexter,” the anti-heroes in “House of Cards” are sociopaths, almost daring the audience to find someone to root for. To borrow a phrase from Flannery O’Connor, “a good man – or woman – is hard to find.”
We live in an era, of course, when almost all great American institutions are in decline and disrepute. The one exception may be the military – if you are willing to discount the sexual predation of women, a subplot in “House of Cards.” All boats sink on a low tide, and the tides in this drama almost run the Ship of State aground.… Read more