So long 'House of Cards' -- and good riddance!

The next Kevin Spacey-less season of Netflix's "House of Cards" will be the last. To those lamenting its end, I say good riddance. 

I for one will not miss what I have come to view as one of the most anti-American phenomena in modern pop culture. With an upside-down American flag as its logo, and “Democracy Is So Overrated” as both its Facebook and Twitter themes — with 3 million likes and 2 million Twitter followers— our enemies couldn’t have designed a better way to undermine our democracy through entertainment and social media.  There’s a reason that “House of Cards” is so popular in China and Russia: it paints a dark, dystopian picture of America.  Is that what we really need right now?

I realize that I’m unusual.  It seems everybody in Washington, D.C., watches “House of Cards.”  But many in Washington came here from elsewhere, don’t stay long, and are proud of being “outsiders” in a town full of transients.  I was born and raised here, and have been a lifelong resident of Our Nation’s Capital.  My husband and I got married here, live and work here, raised our kids here. We don’t blackmail others, manipulate reporters, have an open marriage, make pacts to destroy colleagues’ careers, profanely insult underlings in business meetings, murder political rivals, create phony cyberattacks by foreign entities, or orchestrate fake terrorist attacks in order to stage coup d’etats.  And no one else we know in Washington does, either.

“When Sergey Shoygu became Russia’s minister of defense in 2012, Russian leader Vladimir Putin gave him some interesting advice: If you want to understand America, he said, watch “House of Cards.”

The problem with “House of Cards” is it paints everyone in Washington with the same poison brush.  I suspected it would bad for our brand from the start, but tuned in for the first season out of curiosity.   I turned off the first episode after Frank Underwood killed a dog with his bare hands.  After a year of persuading, friends talked me out of my boycott.  I gritted my teeth through three more episodes, until Frank Underwood was in bed with a 20-something female reporter 30 years his junior, who was calling her dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day while the Congressman was ripping her clothes off.  We have two twenty-something daughters.  I was done.

Here’s how the creators themselves describe “House of Cards:”  “This wicked political drama slithers beneath the curtain and through the back halls of greed, sex, love and corruption in modern Washington D.C.” 

No wonder Chinese censors allowed “House of Cards” to continue its run for years — it depicts America as corrupt, sleazy, and weak.  According to the New York Post, “When Sergey Shoygu became Russia’s minister of defense in 2012, Russian leader Vladimir Putin gave him some interesting advice: If you want to understand America, he said, watch “House of Cards.”  In his book “All the Kremlin’s Men,” author Mikhail Zygar writes that “House of Cards” affirmed Putin’s belief “that Western politicians are all cynical scoundrels whose words about values and human rights are pure hot air and simply a tool to attack enemies.” 

So much for being the beacon of democracy and freedom in the world.  So much for winning the moral high ground over the twisted ideology of ISIS.  Much better for Hollywood to have a wildly popular show that is “critically acclaimed” — seven Emmys and a whopping 53 Emmy nominations so far, but that’s another column for another day — and at the same time glorifies a president whose initials are “F.U.”  Again, bad for the brand.

So much for being the beacon of democracy and freedom in the world. Much better for Hollywood to have a wildly popular show that is “critically acclaimed” and at the same time glorifies a president whose initials are “F.U.”

By its own account, Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network with over 70 million members in over 190 countries watching more than 125 million hours of content a day.   Maybe promoting a show that delights in bashing American democracy and trashing public service in front of that big a global audience is one reason why elected officials consistently rank below used car salesmen in public trust.  It may be only one of many reasons, but “House of Cards” certainly isn’t helping to encourage good people to go into public service.

I worked for President George H.W. Bush, who said – in a quote that is engraved below his bust at the George H.W. Bush School of Public Service at Texas A&M University – “Public service is a noble calling and we need men and women of character to believe that they can make a difference in their communities, in their states and in their country.”

That’s why I went into public service, and I know a lot of other people – from both sides of the aisle – who did the same. Now that Frank Underwood is gone, maybe we’ll see more men and women of character believing they can make a difference, too. We need them.

“House of Cards,” goodbye and good riddance!

Mary Kate Cary is Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush.