House of Cards
Let’s take a poll right now, raise your hand if you’re interested in politics. Besides looking weird in front of your friends and random strangers, if you’re a part of the minority Americans that raised your hand, you find politics engaging, interesting and above all else: awesome. But if you’re like the majority of Americans, you probably can’t even name the Speaker of the House without Wikipedia. Regardless of whether you like politics or not, you probably have a negative view of them, specifically Washington. Seeking to cash in on the negative stereotypes of the political elite, Netflix has created their own political drama series, House of Cards. After putting the entire first season up for streaming, it garnered 25 nominations from various award associations and even won one Golden Globe. House of Cards has become a critical and commercial success for Netflix and goes on to prove that television and story telling has a new medium.
So what is House of Cards about? Needless to say, in a nutshell, it’s a narrative about a spurned politician exacting revenge on those who have wronged him. But what makes House of Cards so brilliantly engaging is that people can binge-watch. Binge watching is the act of having no life outside of watching a specific television show for an entire weekend. Netflix has a great marketing strategy with the recent release of the second season of House of Cards falling on Valentine’s Day of this year; Netflix has the unique ability to draw in an audience in for an extended period of time. Not only draw, but also keep them coming back for more. Live streaming movies and television shows is becoming the new frontier for narratives and creativity. And with overwhelmingly positive reviews for the second season of House of Cards, outlets like Netflix will only grow in popularity.
But here comes the catch, with shows like House of Cards becoming more popular, it raises a different set of questions for Christians. Content wise, House of Cards is rough. It’s a gritty and dark political drama with sex and rough language. Not only that but Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black have strong amounts of sexual content and coarse language. How do we even begin to address issues like this when House of Cards is increasing in its popularity but can be described as the epitome of human depravity in Washington? In an article for The Gospel Coalition, blogger Trevin Wax raises this very issue, only with the Wolf of Wall Street. Wax talks about Christians viewing R-rated films but this also applies to all forms of media. He poignantly asks: “Is there justification for viewing gratuitous violence or sexual content? At what point does our cultural engagement become just a sophisticated way of being worldly?” This is something that I, as a film major, wrestle and struggle with. I love watching movies and television shows but when do they cross the line before they start to erode my foundation of faith in Christ? When does media cross the line of becoming irredeemable with its content and how do we as lights of the world approach them? I don’t know the answers. It will be something I will wrestle with for the rest of my life. Needless to say, House of Cards is a beautifully written, acted and directed piece of work. The content will turn a lot of people away but we have to ask ourselves this: do we avoid watching things like House of Cards because it will be spiritually damaging or do we avoid them because we’re afraid that it will tell us something about ourselves or reveal a world in which we’ve been avoiding to look? I’ll let you decide. As Wax concludes in his article: “If, like me, you’re conflicted about this issue, maybe it’s because we should be.”
Sound Cloud by Paul Anderson