Essay on 'House of Cards' Corruption

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A problem in our society today that has been a problem throughout history is corruption in politics. In the television series, House of Cards, the main actor Kevin Spacey plays the role of Francis Underwood. His character makes his way through politics as House Majority Whip up to the President of the United States. Underwood’s character is merciless and craves power and will do anything to get what he wants like any other politician. His character is relentlessly cruel, and in the first two minutes of the first episode of the first season he says, “I have no patience for useless things.” As he says this, he kills a dog and puts it out of its misery since it was just hit by a car. The point is, that Francis Underwood is similar to past and current politicians who will do anything to make a name for themselves or obtain more power. The show House of Cards first aired in 2013 and relates very closely to American politics and previous office holders. In all, this series links with real issues in society that focus on corruption in our political systems.

The show House of Cards in total has a similar problem that society has in just about every episode. Ranging from corruption in politics, blackmail, and affairs, to illegal activities like murder or paying people off, almost everything is in it. The show tries to show a realistic perspective on what working as a journalist or at Capitol Hill is like. Starting as the House Majority Whip, Francis is denied the Secretary of State seat even after he is promised to have it. This is the event that drives Francis to do everything he can to get his revenge and more power in the process. Immediately after this, the corruption starts. Francis uses his subordinates to do dirty work such as paying people off for knowing things, but also handles things himself like having an affair with a journalist/reporter for personal gain in exchange for secret information. Above all, he has murders carried out so that nothing stands in his way of getting to the top. Although this might be a little exaggerated compared to real life because it is television, it is still very similar and linked through corruption and what comes along with that. In Chapter 8, Francis involves himself in an affair with Zoe Barnes, the journalist from The Washington Herald, a newspaper in the show. However, he is smarter than everyone believes him to be and he has a very meticulous plan to get to the top. By engaging in the affair with Zoe Barnes from the newspaper, he uses her to leak stories early which allows him to get what he wants. By telling Zoe information, she leaks it to the public before the government has even released the information to the people. By doing this, Francis can tell her to leak something and when she does, the government is forced to do it. For example, in Chapter 1, when Francis is denied the Secretary of State office, he leaks the information to Zoe that Catherine Durant will be given the Secretary of State spot. He tells her this because Durant has sworn her loyalty to Francis in his revenge path to the top. Of course, since it has been leaked, the government complies and gives her the spot. Now that Francis has received what he wanted from Zoe, he feels that he does not need her anymore. Again, Francis has clearly stated he has no patience for useless things, and because of this, when Francis and Zoe are on the train tracks, Francis pushes her in front of a moving train and kills her instantly, committing murder. Francis Underwood is so corrupt that he has no feelings toward anyone and does whatever it takes, including killing someone, to get the revenge and power he seeks.

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In addition to seeing this character on set, we also see plenty of examples of Francis’s character in real-life politics. At the beginning of the series, Francis Underwood is said to have reminded the audience of “notorious Republican Majority Whip Tom Delay, an ultra-conservative Southerner who was involved in massive corruption.” Both of these Majority Whips were involved in some way with things they should not be involved in and it corrupted them. However, later in the show when Francis finally moves up the chain of command and becomes president, he has a striking resemblance to another religious Southern Democrat who also had an “unstoppable lust”, which was Bill Clinton. The show continues and Francis is still corrupt but he has gained the power that he wanted and got his revenge. In the first season, Francis meets with one of the lobbyists who is also corrupt and they work together but when he leaves Francis has an aside and faces the camera and says, “Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power, in this town a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after ten years, power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who does not see the difference.” It is obvious to us that Francis is all about getting power, and that money doesn’t matter when you have power. In addition to having the same viewpoints as Clinton, they are also similar in the way that they both had affairs and were impeached from the presidential office. “While Bill Clinton promised to run the ‘most ethical administration in history,’ he has instead presided over an era as sleazy as those of his predecessors. Scandals forced out HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. There were charges that foreigners made large illegal donations to the Democratic National Committee during the 1996 election. The most explosive charges surrounded Clinton himself. Allegations of corrupt real estate deals by Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas led to an independent counsel investigation that began in 1993 and continues as of this writing. This investigation eventually produced the charge that Clinton had perjured himself and had obstructed an inquiry into his affair with a White House intern. Clinton was questioned about this affair as part of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Clinton was eventually impeached, but the Senate failed to convict him.” Plainly stated, there is political corruption all over in the government, it is just the United States is good at hiding it. (House of Cards aired in 2013) “By 2013 the United States was rated as one of the more honest countries in the world by Transparency International, a research organization that presents annual ratings of the relative corruption of countries…Many European countries rank ahead of the United States, but most other nations have more perceived corruption.” This shows that the United States is ranked higher but because it is a high-profile country, the corruption in other countries is more recognized. This shows that although there is corruption it is not dealt with because of what country it is.

Furthermore, Bill and Frank both have wives who follow unsympathetic strategies to accomplish their own goals or visions.

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Essay on ‘House of Cards’ Corruption. (2024, April 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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