House of Cards’ success and the image of public affairs.
Internet had echoed it for a few weeks. Lots of teasers had already been shared on social networks. On February 14th, House of Cards fans have been given their valentine’s day present: Netflix released the whole season 2 on its website. This has been an instant success.
House of Cards is about Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), an American congressman. He and his wife Claire (Robin Wright), head of a PR agency, constitute a close couple in which each member helps the other. A couple willing to do anything that could satisfy its power appetite.
The reasons of this soap’s success are ambivalent: they are to be found in its realism and, at the same time, in the way the opera disseminates popular myths about political power.
Franck Underwood, the archetype of the modern politician
Everybody knows that Barack Obama’s communication is a prime example. His perfect self-control, the way he cultivates his «coolness» his digital communication skills help him to build an image of proximity really useful for difficult periods. House of Cards is clearly staging the Obama’s communication. Let’s compare House of Cards with the White House’s Flickr account.
Like Barack Obama, Frank Underwood is supported in all his actions, and is permanently under pressure. Like every politician, his rising to power is made of treasons and, sometimes, violence. Like numerous famous American politicals, he can count on a very loyal wife.
Frank Underwood is all of that, and knows how to communicate on what he is. Franck Underwood is a very credible congressman. However, this realism can not let the opera escape from the necessity to romance the action, with the risk of becoming caricatural.
A negativ approach of Public Affairs
House of Cards gives us a bad picture of what lobbying can be : public affairs are not all about intimidation, ghost meetings, seductions or pressures. Anyhow, it is clearly not the way CLAI helps its clients to lead them in their communication regarding political decision-makers !
By the process of the aside, Frank Underwood speaks directly to the viewer, and consacrates the return of a theatral process that gives to the show a shakespearian dimension. Frank Underwood shows in real time his real thoughts and reveals the background of the stage… taking the risk of resuming his actions to cynical moves.
So, House of Cards is midway between realism and fiction. However, it has two merits :
- Interest people about technical topics, and break the image of austerity that is associated to politics
- Provide with an uncompromising vision of political life, without excess
Thus, the soap undoubtedly contributes, despite its excesses, to familiarize the viewer with public life, the U.S. Congress and the role of lobbying.
It is not the least of its merits.