Whether or not you’re one of the many Americans who’s been spending an outsize amount of time watching season two of House of Cards on Netflix, you’ve certainly heard about the phenomenon and its calculating power-hungry couple, Frank and Claire Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Wright won a Golden Globe for her performance, and many have discussed whether Claire is a feminist heroine or nightmare.
Conor Friedersdorf has an illuminating, thoughtful take at The Atlantic on just that question (WARNING — lots and lots of spoilers!!):
In real life, it’s easy to find excuses for the shortcomings of our leaders, especially those who echo our beliefs and might plausibly advance our preferred policies. Seeming depravity by a powerful person who agrees with us? Why, they’re just playing by the rules of a corrupt system, unlike those people on the other side!
David Brooks is always reassuring us about how well-meaning our elites are. In fairness to his perspective, benefits of the doubt aren’t always wasted on the undeserving. Yet House of Cards reveals our alarming inability to resist or condemn the powerful even when their depravity is revealed to us in the most unambiguous terms.