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Alex Jaconelli

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House Of Cards - A Political Intrigue for an Internet Age

Posted: 04/02/2013 14:29

Reinventing Francis Urquhart, political manipulator from the pen of Michael Dobbs and his House of Cards trilogy present on our screens in the early 90's, was going to take some doing. But I do believe Netflix has pulled it off.

Put aside the audacious launch on-line that hammers yet another nail in the coffin of how we consume TV, and the fact that a second season has already been commissioned. For those who find Kevin Spacey's southern-drawlin' conivin' Francis Underwood a delicious proposition as house whip to an incoming American administration, 13 episodes awaits us now....

I've stopped at two, ok three.

And as I burp on the layered cake of political intrigue, game playing and negotiations, a peculiar aftertaste strikes me.

While the writer Beau Williman and directors (David Fincher, a master of this tonality and so far James Foley - Glengarry GlenRoss) set that dystopian landscape supported by dark and guilty flavours, I'm feeling there is an emerging picture, that of the personal consequences of our relationship with the media.

In the original House of Cards Maddie Pryor becomes Urquhart's mouth piece as a necessary but well-challenged route, and the reflected power to Maddie is handled by her in that so familiar English humility. Not so our new Maddie - internet uber-squirrel Zoe Barnes dipping her toes in print media for the first time.

Here an interesting duality emerges, and just to confuse my metaphor, not one but two.

Firstly the fate of print. With some knowing irony, Underwood meets Zoe for their second liaison in a shadow-filled Washington location. "How very deep throat of you", our eager beaver notes. The difference in this era of House of Cards is how speedily we jump to print - a pace far exceeding that of Watergate - a time when standards were in place, corroboration was required. Time was taken.

The second emergent theme however, and this will be interesting to follow should our new Maddie face her English counterpart's downfall - is the opportunity that befalls her, and the tinge of narcissism that is appealed to, as how rapidly we've moved from the golden ticket of getting a byline on the page, to the far loftier but easily attainable goal now of becoming a talking head on TV political issues.

Forgive me, to my second duality.

Claire Underwood, the wife of Frank. Originally we had the woman behind the power, all implied strength yet limited of action. Not here. Claire is the ceo of Clean Water Initiative and is manifesting a management style that troubles the old guard but makes change sudden and targeted (mass redundancies) to afford talent acquisitions that will allow her organisation grow into the modern internet age. Oh dear, are my dualities beginning to overlap?

So there we have it. The sumptuousness of Francis which will appeal to the politicos amongst us brought up on and ready for a more adult meal than the West Wing, and the emerging themes around the nature of how how organisations have to shape up to this new age, for all of us, not just the media/political circus.

I feel the indigestion, and not a little irony, as I post this.

 

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