The Netflix original series “House of Cards” has gotten a slew of
good presssince its premier earlier this year, and it’s the first of its kind to get an
But don’t count Barney Frank, the former U.S. Rep. from Massachusetts, among its fans. In an opinion piece in the Portland Press Herald Sunday, Frank went step-by-step through the “fictional misrepresentation of political reality” that is Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of a Majority Whip denied a promised Secretary of State nomination and seeking revenge.
Frank insists that he’s not interested in a dramatic criticism of the show — which he concedes is well acted — but rather a serial misrepresentation of government that might give Americans the wrong idea about what their elected officials are up to.
Spacey plays a South Carolina Congressman and House Majority Whip. For Frank, the problems start there and don’t stop. The character is too “perfect,” but also “wholly amoral,” a caricatured combination Frank insists he’s never found in an actual politician.
The problems with the plot are numerous and significant, Frank writes: Spacey wields way too much power for a majority whip. D.C. officials are unrealistically eager to help out corrupt national politicians. And “amoral superhero” Spacey’s capacity for manipulation of anyone and everyone in politics is constantly exaggerated.
But aren’t TV representations of real-world institutions always unrealistic? Maybe, but not every show is as preposterously unbelievable as “House of Cards,” Frank writes. He cites “The West Wing,” with a line-up of humanly imperfect politicians who sometimes make mistakes and doubt themselves, as a more accurate representation of government.
Even though he’s only watched three episodes and admits that the dramatic inaccuracies could be cleared up later in the season, Frank worries that the damage has been done.
“What troubles me,” he writes, “is that people will watch this, think that this is the way government functions and be further disillusioned from trying to influence it.”
Frank isn’t the first politician to weigh in on “House of Cards,” both for accuracy and entertainment value. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called it “highly entertaining” but “not very realistic,” while Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said the Spacey-portrayed power-hungry Congressman really isn’t all that different from the real residents of Capitol Hill.
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