In an interview with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the former vice presidential candidate, Andy Abrahams of Parade magazine inquires about Ryan's teevee viewing habits, asking, "Do you watch political shows like House of Cards?" Ryan responds like so:
I watched the first couple of episodes until he cheated on his wife with that reporter. It turned my stomach so much that I just couldn’t watch it anymore. His behavior was so reprehensible, and it hit too close to home because he was a House member, that it just bothered me too much. And what I thought is, it makes us all look like we’re like that.
Wait. It took Ryan that long into the show before his stomach turned with sickness over the way the show suggested that everyone in the House looked like that? Because there are a lot of signs, well before Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood sleeps with Kate Mara's Zoe Barnes, that this is not going to be a tremendously flattering depiction.
Let's just take the first episode, shall we? I'm going to try my best to not spoil the plot too much for anyone who hasn't seen the show, but there are a lot of red flags that should have tipped off a queasy Ryan well in advance. Here are the reddest.
In the show's very first scene, Underwood kills a dog. Now, this was ostensibly to put it out of its misery, but before he does this, he subjects the dog to a monologue about pain and power, none of which the dog can understand, because it is a dog. (Underwood also sort of enjoys killing the dog, it seems?)
Minutes later, Underwood breaks the fourth wall to assure the audience that he is a thoroughgoing, soulless bastard.
A healthy dose of creatine is added to Underwood's soulless bastardy minutes later, when the newly elected president reneges on a promise to make him secretary of state, at which point he decides to sever all allegiances and toss the rules out the window.
I mean, this is what Netflix tells you is going to happen.
Frank's wife, Claire, castigates Frank for not being angry enough, so he breaks some stuff to impress her. The Underwoods read nothing but Ron Fournier columns, apparently.
Underwood spends the entire night standing by a window, smoking and seething. At this point, even Tom DeLay would say, "Geez, the way this guy stews in his anger makes me worry the he's kind of unstable."
Underwood tells the audience that he intends to "carve up" the newly appointed secretary of state and "toss him to the dogs." Which is good news for the dogs, I guess, because now he needs the dogs and won't be killing any more dogs with his bare hands after performing soliloquies at them.
God basically begs Underwood to chill, for His sake. He does not chill.
Underwood sends his chief of staff to meet with he Washington police chief to enter into a corrupt deal to cover up the drunk driving arrest of a junior member of Congress from Pennsylvania, so that he can enter into further corrupt arrangements with that junior member of Congress. (Who, by the way, was cheating on his girlfriend with a prostitute at the time he was pulled over for drunk driving.)
Underwood is not too terribly subtle about making this corrupt arrangement. But then, this is a show with an upside-down American flag in the title credits.
Before Underwood "cheats on his wife with that reporter," he enters into a corrupt arrangement with her as well.
"We're in the same boat, Zoe," says Underwood. (Surely, if Ryan is capable of an eye-roll, he did it here.)
Finally, I would have liked to have thought that the first time it was suggested that any member of Congress played Ultimate Frisbee, Ryan would have gone red with anger, the word "Slander!" choked in his throat. This was the first time during this show that I was truly, deeply, offended at the aspersions cast at Congress.
A few episodes later, Underwood and Barnes sleep together, and I guess during the time between the pilot episode and that moment, Ryan was thinking, "This looks bad, but I bet he'll start representing members of the House in a more favorable light any minute now." Alas.
[Hat tip: Chris Moody]
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