Ryan Carey-Mahoney: Seeing ourselves in ‘House of Cards’

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Hatchet File Photo

Editor’s note: There are some general plot-related spoilers in this column, though no specific scenes are discussed.

“There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted. Welcome back.” After hearing those words, I knew my weekend no longer belonged to me.

That warning from the all-powerful “House of Cards” protagonist Frank Underwood sent me into a three-day binge watch of the 13-episode second season. But after finishing it, I realized why GW students in particular are addicted.

Maybe we don’t have tendencies to commit murder, but Frank, Claire and the rest of the cast represent who we want to become: successful, despite our flaws and the drama in our lives.

“House of Cards” is, of course, conniving. It’s a soap opera that takes us on twists and turns into political chaos. But it also hints at something bigger than one politician’s crazy-train ascent to power.

Each character faces personal trials often thought to be too dramatic or traumatic to even discuss. Frank Underwood, for example, holds a great deal of power and influence as he climbs the political ladder. He also grapples with understanding his sexuality, but rarely for such a powerful character.

For Underwood, it is nothing more than an accepted truth, and for the viewers it is just another characteristic that doesn’t define him or the power he holds.

His wife, Claire, is a successful and sophisticated nonprofit leader turned sexual assault advocate. We see her finding her voice as a survivor and using her attack to find her strength.

Even the president in the show copes with depression and anxiety, throwing mental illness into the Oval Office without pandering for some cheap views.

On campus, organizations like Students Against Sexual Assault and Active Minds are consistently advocating to educate classmates, even teaching the administration how important these issues are, without making them fads.

Alcohol and drug abuse, the struggles of race and socioeconomic barriers, returning from active military duty and coping with tragedy are all similarly important to the series.

These issues, however, are only as defining as the characters allow them to be. If you take out the occasional murder schemes, the show depicts people dealing with issues that most of us are facing, too. And many of them relate perfectly to our student body. On television – and with the help of David Fincher’s vision – they seem exciting, dramatic.

Of course, the show also gives us a dose of drama in our own backyard.

At GW, we are inundated with so many iconic D.C. landmarks every day. Peer down 23rd Street, there’s the Lincoln Memorial. Take a stroll off campus, there’s the White House. Most of what we see, though, is more patriotic than provocative.

“House of Cards” is flashy, corrupt, sexy. It adds allure to what we all have seen time and time again with characters that are deliciously evil and surprisingly inspiring at the same time.

All of the characters are dealing with issues, but here’s the catch: None of them let their shortcomings and struggles dictate their entire lives.

This show embodies something our ambitious sides all try to emulate. Whether we admit it or not, the unrealistic allure of “House of Cards” is what drew many of us to the District in the first place.

Ryan Carey-Mahoney, a senior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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