It has always seemed strange to me . . . the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egoism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second. – John Steinbeck
What epitomizes the essence of Steinbeck’s ruminations better than the highly successful Netflix TV show House of Cards, a statement on the ruthless spirit of Washington politics (real or somewhat imagined) that even a sophisticated reviewer for the New York Times admits “may be the most joyless show on television.” Nevertheless, I hear it everywhere: emotional downer shows that cash in on human evil are “actually quite literary,” and this type of “finally, something intelligent on television” programming spells the Salvation of Western Civilization.
While admitting the show is joyless, the Times reviewer still considers this drama series “exhilarating and binge-worthy.” She’s right; looking voyeuristically into other people’s soul sickness is a rush, and addictive because we unconsciously recognize it in ourselves. The spirit behind the Machiavellian Frank Underwood and his grim, shifty-eyed ilk appeals to the Black Plague germs lurking in us all, our love of darkness rather than light (John 3:19). Steinbeck needn’t have been surprised by this human tendency. Read more