Favorite Fictional Characters, #41: Frank Underwood
Much has been said comparing House of Cards to the West Wing. That the former is the latter without the moral compass or the naivety, depending on who you ask. I think it's pretty obvious that while we dream about a Jed Bartlet, we fully expect - and then, in the tradition of self-fulfilling prophecy, give ourselves - a Frank Underwood. Scheming, ethically rudderless, ambitious, ungentle. He is a despicable creature, the ugly specter of our worst imaginings about politicians.
And yet he's a delight to watch, which is a tribute to Kevin Spacey's work. His slimy charisma keeps us rooting for him, despite the naked evil we know resides in his black soul. It says something about who we are as people, as citizens, that we are drawn like fluttering moths to these sorts of destructive flames, slick-talking demagogues we know are bad for us, and yet we can't resist. We're willing objects of their seduction, and in the end we awaken with that same hangover, unable to break our addiction to the pageantry of glad-handing and deception. As with so much in life, we get what we deserve. Frank Underwood, not Jed Bartlet, is who we are as Americans.