Mixing Politics and Entertainment

By Nick Anstett
Opinion Editor

On March 4, Netflix released the fourth season of its hit award-winning political drama “House of Cards.”
Starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, the series follows scheming politician Frank Underwood as he plays the system of Washington, D.C. to his own benefit and in the process grows increasingly more powerful. Even at its worst, like last year’s muddled and sluggish third season, “House of Cards” remains intoxicatingly addictive and may or may not have been the first series specifically designed for binge-watching.
Much of this has to do with its smart political eye but also the enigmatic and delightfully malicious figure at its center. However, in an election year already filled with its fair share of unexpected drama and spectacle, where does a series like “House of Cards” stand or instead, why is it that we find so much enjoyment in political drama or spectacle? As AV Club’s critic Scott Von Doviak puts it, in the face of this year’s election season, the cynicism and murderous intent of Netflix’s headlining drama not only seems like a refreshing alternative to the current election cycle but also something disturbingly aspirating: “‘House of Cards’ has always been a cynical gloss on power and politics, but now that we’ve entered the Trump Zone, it looks almost aspirational. Mister, we could use a man like Frank Underwood again.”
Von Doviak also points us in the direction of the current political side show that has taken over headlines and does not seem to be leaving any time soon. I have long made a stink about the dangers of finding current Republican frontrunner Donald Trump entertaining, but, God help me, I can’t fight it. There is just something so damn comedic about him.

 Frank Underwood, a mischievous politician, stars in Netflix's "House of Cards"

Frank Underwood, a mischievous politician, stars in Netflix’s “House of Cards”

YouTube comedian Super Deluxe has created a series of videos that more or less consist of edited versions of Trump unapologetically attacking former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at a CBS News debate for being a “mess,” “a big fat mistake,” and “the weakest person on this stage by far” while sad and dramatic music floats through the background.
Even as I hear voices in the back of my head reminding me that this past Sunday, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel joined the global warning cry that Trump “represents a threat to peace and prosperity,” I can’t help but laugh.
When Trump opens up a political debate by assuring people of the size of his genitalia, I can’t help but chuckle, even when I remind myself that Trump’s proposed policies are not only culturally and racially insensitive but economically unsound and geopolitically disastrous. For all his scheming and political backstabbing, Frank Underwood can’t hold a candle to the maelstrom of absurdity that is unfolding before my eyes with every passing day.
Why is it that I can’t help it? Why can’t I let the rational center of my brain take over and reprimand my sense of humor for having stooped so low? At least, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver seems to agree with me. On his Feb. 28 episode, “There’s a part of me that even likes this guy. It’s a part of me I hate, but it’s a part of me.” Despite Oliver’s witticisms and strategic takedown of Trump’s persona, even spawning the viral sensation hashtag of #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain, the part that I still find myself floating back to is the idea that Trump somehow thought it was a good idea to sell steaks at an electronics store.
Could it perhaps be that Trump instead sits as an almost inverse Underwood? While Spacey brings nuance to the role and the smart and subtle plays of the political system that lend themselves to Underwood’s in show and in real life success, Trump barrels through it all with his crass and uncaring ineptitude almost literally waving his privates in people’s faces. It’s an appeal that borders somewhere between continuous shock and morbid curiosity.
Perhaps the real danger in it all lies in that there is a part of my brain that I cannot turn off that just remains continuously skeptical that Trump is even an entity that could exist in our reality. Maybe, instead, I laugh because I am scared because at this point what more can I do.

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