As May came to a close, the newest season of House of Cards returned on Netflix. It is a binge-worthy show, with fascinating, believable (and unbelievable) storylines, intriguing characters, and enough violence and suspense to keep the viewer engaged for hours at a time.
Much has been written about this popular show as it is a main contributor to Netflix growing place in the entertainment industry. It has a cult following, despite in my opinion, only one spectacular season, the first one.
Subsequent seasons never lived up to the groundbreaking, and at times, heart-stopping, first season. Season 5 is getting close to living up to the shadow cast by year one. While my binging is more difficult with an 8-month old who prefers our bed to her crib, I am hooked.
Last night, as I tackled 4 episodes, I had two thoughts.
The first was the similarities to the past US election. Without giving away any spoilers, and staying away from specifics, there are many striking similarities to both parties, from the legacy of the Clintons, to the promise to fight terror that Trump rode along with the promise of new jobs to the White House.
More striking was the feeling I have every season:
I root for Frank Underwood. I like him, I find him charming, funny, and intriguing. With glimpses into his past, and at times, inspired by his determinism, I root for Frank when in all reality, I shouldn’t.
He is not a good person, and he is not a good political figure. What he is, is honest, and that is refreshing. His success makes for a good show. With Frank not rising to power, there is no House of Cards. Even so, in this season, as in past ones, when Frank’s dark history starts to sneak up on him, a past that could lead to his demise, I find myself rooting against the truth coming out.
This is like rooting for the Joker against the efforts of Batman, or the Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz. Who doesn’t root for Dorothy and friends to make it to Oz, and for Dorothy to return home?
Yet, in the beauty of this show, I, and I imagine you, root for Frank and Clare. We want him to be in power, battling the “good ones,” who want what is best for America, although the show reveals that even the good ones are only good when their needs are taken care of first. Frank’s election opponent, Will Conway, is depicted as a savior in the last season.
His good looking, healthy appearance, happy marriage and lifestyle, and refreshing approach, has one wishing he was real. In this season, the layers of the onion is peeled back. We find out that he is very much human, and like most, has skeletons in his closet too.
I root for those skeletons to come tumbling out of that closet. I root for his failure. Why is that?
In a show that can mirror our real world, with terror, conflicts with Russia and political charades, I, we, root for the bad guy.
Is it because we spend most of our days doing the opposite? Is it that this speaks to our own shadow, our underbelly that we wouldn’t open to the world unless we were pressed like politicians often are in our system.
Parker Palmer, in his book, How to Let Your Life Speak, Discern Your Purpose, and Define Your Own Success, writes:
“My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow. An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for “wholeness” is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of.”
Perhaps, House of Cards, is an invitation. It is an opportunity to embrace our own shadow, in our quest for “wholeness.” What is on the surface entertainment, reveals a part of ourselves worth exploring.
How am I Frank Underwood?
In my work and personal relationships, when do I silently root for the failure of others so I shine brighter, even if it is only a passing thought?
How do I use others like chess pieces to navigate my own self-interests, from success, to admiration, to even rest?
What is it in me, that likes the Frank Underwood’s of the world? The fame, power, smarts, success? Why does any of that matter?
God speaks to us in many different ways, and yes, even through a house of cards. As you and I continue to build our lives, are they built on a house of cards, or as Jesus said, built on solid rock.
The solid rock, our faith, reminds us. It grounds us. It connects us to others, especially the silenced others who live on the margins. They are the ones most impacted by the Frank Underwoods of the world. They are also impacted by us, the common folk. The single ballot. The one vote.
Grounding our lives in prayer, reflection, and connecting ourselves to others, where we are in service to, not in reception of, our house stands on solid rock. It is here where our lives can be one of true greatness as we live a life not of love for power and money, but a life of love for God and for one another.