I HAD THIS great idea. I was going to write a piece about House of Cards (Netflix) and Macbeth (Shakespeare), a discussion of how changing gender roles and notions of “acceptable” sexuality inform the relationship between these two pieces of dramatic art. The essay was going to be entitled “An Equity of Evil.”
Once I’d conducted a bit of research (three minutes to be exact) I realized that approximately six thousand variations on the piece had already been written. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, HuffPo, Salon, etcetera, etcetera, et-fucking-cetera—everyone and their sister had taken a crack at HoC and MacB.
I was down. I was blue. I didn’t know what to do. I was literally beset by clichéd descriptions of depression. Then, miracle of miracles, Frank Underwood showed up in my living room. Poof, he appeared in a whirling cloud of smoke and ash, the acrid scents of sulfur and brimstone along for the ride.
At first I thought I was dealing with the Devil. I mean, he looked a lot like Kevin Spacey (Hell, he looked exactly like Kevin Spacey.), and I’ve always thought that was more or less the way things would shake out with El Diablo. But, no, it was just Frank. Sure he was a bit disheveled, but he was completely lucid.
As Frank explained it to me, he had recently escaped from his fictional universe (Spoiler Alert: It has to do with what’s coming in Season 3.) and was being chased by a particularly nasty extra-dimensional outfit, the universal political fictional space police (think Pinkertons with lasers and jet packs and shit). The upshot was that Frank needed a place to crash. I offered to let him stay in my basement in exchange for this column. Frank agreed. I’m surprised he went for it to tell you the truth. And pretty fucking scared. (He’s still here.)
In spite of any lingering fear, I have to admit that Frank’s been a model houseguest (He really is quite polite, Southern as he keeps suggesting.). And who would have guessed but even without any advertising the requests for advice have been pouring in. I guess Frank’s reputation precedes him, even outside his own universe.
At any rate, the response has been so good (the alternative so bad for Frank) that he’s anxious to stick around. He’s even after me to hire an intern or two (he refers to them as “disposable employees”) to help him sift through the ever-growing stack of correspondence.
“Would you agree to wear an electronic ankle bracelet,” I asked. “Y’know, for security purposes.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Security purposes?”
“These kids have families, Frank.”
“Yeah, them. Who else?”
To this he sneered noncommittally, glommed my bottle of Maker’s Mark, and headed for the basement.
That was a few minutes ago. Now, here we are: me upstairs with 911 on speed dial and a brass candlestick in either hand; Frank in my basement sharpening knives, building bombs or whatever the fuck he does for kicks. Oh well, at least the column’s done…
Letter #1 from “Cheery Cupcake”
Dear President Underwood,
I’m head cheerleader at my high school. I’m popular and pretty but my best friend may have me beat on both counts. And she’s class president, too. I’m scared she might edge me out for prom queen, and I can’t have that.
See, my mom was a prom queen, and her mom was a prom queen, and her mom’s mom was a prom queen…so losing isn’t an option. I know this isn’t the sort of crisis you usually handle, but it’s real enough to me. Can you give me any pointers on dealing with competition?
Dear Cheery Cupcake,
It depends how aggressive you want to be. You say this person is your friend, but are you sure about that? I mean, really truly sure. I’d find a way to put her to the test if I were you.
Depending on the results I’d suggest: A. a face full of acid, B. a wild animal attack, or C. hobbling. You should only use the hobbling if you really like this girl.
I have a feeling that if you think about it long and hard enough, you’ll realize that you don’t. The animal attack will be harder to pull off than the acid but far less traceable.
Best of luck,
P.S. I’m thinking about hiring an intern. Have you turned eighteen yet?
Letter #2 from “Russian Teddy Bear”
I am Russian. Please to excuse if my English not so good.
Recently I threw big party. Other than usual problems with the gays party crashers, marauding packs of wild dogs, a protest or two, and the odd, miscellaneous death boo boo, people seemed to enjoy themselves. I thought I’d created a little goodwill for myself in the neighborhood, enough that I might (finally!) deal with a pesky neighbor who refuses to do what I tell him properly care for his yard. (Do you not hate those people, my very good capitalist friend? They can really bring down the property values, no?)
Unfortunately for yours completely truly, there were no dices on this at all. Even though I got the approval from my hand picked legislature City Hall, the minute my troops
troops contractors attacked made contact; everyone in the neighborhood went to shit an ape. Now, my wife and kids won’t even talk to me. And this crazy German tomato down the street is telling me I’m insane. (Can you believe it?) Then there’s Bo, the imperialist running dog dentist who lives a block over (you know the sort, all high and mighty in his big white house on the hill). Well, Bo’s threatening to have my bank accounts frozen, take me to court, all sorts of things. And he didn’t even seem to care about this other neighbor until yesterday. This guy…I tell you. At this point I’d just like to blow the place up. Of course, that would defeat the purpose of invading helping my neighbor in the first of places, so I can’t.
Frank, the pressure’s really crawling on top of me. Before this trouble started I had a lot more time for stress relieving hobbies such as shirtless photo shoots on horseback, shirtless photo shoots with guns, shirtless photo shoots with dangerous animals, and shirtless photo shoots driving racecars. Now, I’m lucky if I have time to take the occasional selfie with my iPhone.
Russian Teddy Bear
Dear Russian Teddy Bear,
I like your style. But I think you may be forgetting your Machiavelli, “Never was anything great achieved without danger.”
Just because you suggest you might blow the place up doesn’t mean you have to actually do it. I mean, come on!
And let’s say you did have to blow it up, that would allow you to buy the property cheap and put a big addition on that house of yours. It’s a win-win situation if you really give it some thought.
P.S. Get a new word processing program, Vladimir. All your edits are still visible!
P.P.S. I wouldn’t mind having a look at those selfies.
Letter #3 from Class Prez
Dear President Underwood,
I’m concerned that my best friend may be out to get me. She’s head cheerleader at our school and really pretty. She’s also super popular. But I may have her beat on both those counts. Did I mention that I’m also class president? To be honest, I’m pretty much a shoe-in for prom queen. Which is the problem.
I think my friend may be jealous of me, and I just want to make sure she isn’t planning any nasty surprises. You know? I’m really more concerned for her than I am for myself. Doing something bad could really screw up her life!!!
P.S. I love the satire of your show SOOOO much!!!!
Dear Class Prez,
I don’t think you have anything to worry about. You sound like a fine, upstanding young lady. Who on Earth would want to hurt you?
P.S. It’s not satire…
Letter #4 from “Bummed at 1600”
Everyone used to love me. Seems like just a few years ago I was the most popular guy on the planet. People told me I was brilliant, charismatic, and a transcendent speaker. They compared me to Jesus, Martin Luther King, and JFK. Then, all of a sudden (all right, not really all of a sudden, but pretty darn quickly), everything went to pot: polls tanked, legislative initiatives failed, one scandal after another was ginned-up by my rivals. Now everyone hates me.
I can’t be liberal enough for the liberals, socialist enough for the Marxists, war mongering enough for the nationalists, or conservative enough for the conservatives. And the moderates accuse me of being too moderate. I’m thinking of chucking my fucking Nicoderm, huffing a case of Camels, and calling it a day. Help!
Bummed at 1600
Dear Bummed at 1600,
“If you cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved.” –Machiavelli
To paraphrase: Maybe if you spent a little more time ruthlessly destroying your political rivals and a little less time worrying about whether people “like you,” you wouldn’t be in this sort of mess. As a wise man once said, “If you need a friend get a dog.” As another wise man once said, “If that doesn’t work get two dogs.” And as a third wise man (me) said, “If that doesn’t work kill everyone you need to (including the dogs).”
Letter #5 from Waiting for Vindication
I wasn’t very happy with the way you treated the President in Season 2. Frankly (Hahaha! That was a pun!), I’d call it disloyal. And the way you trotted out your Vice Presidential Chief of Staff as bait for the Independent Counsel didn’t ring of truth, not one bit.
I’ll be looking for improvements in Season 3, looking for you to do a better job as the Decider in Chief than you did as Vice. I want you to stand strong against the evil-doers, to be compassionately capitalistic, belligerently Christian, and libertarianly invasive.
Waiting for Vindication
Dear Waiting for Vindication,
I’ve struggled to find a question in your letter, but I suspect there isn’t one. I would suggest you read some Machiavelli but I don’t think you’d understand it.
P.S. You do realize that the American House of Cards is a remake of a UK original that’s about two decades old, right? We already know what’s going to happen…
Letter #6 from HRC16
I’m a bit of a politician myself and a huge fan. I’ve watched both seasons of House of Cards, and I have to admit, you’ve taught me quite a bit. One thing you haven’t had to deal with is a spouse that seems to be working at cross-purposes from you. My spouse, on the other hand, can’t seem to control herself.
I’m considering a run for higher office but every time I turn around she’s got her hand on some gigolo’s ass. (She’s pretty famous in her own right and photographers follow her constantly.) What to do, what to do?
Like any other nefarious confederate your spouse will be loyal as long as it suits her. Just make sure it suits her.
I wouldn’t worry about the small stuff such as your wife’s dalliances. As long as she doesn’t do anything that puts your long-term goals in jeopardy, I’d let her have her fun. But if she does put your future at risk, be as ruthless as you would with anyone else. No doubt, she’d do the same to you.
As Machiavelli said, “Before all else, be armed.” That applies to your spouse as much as anyone else. To succeed you must be willing to liquidate anyone…
Letter #7 from Golden Boy
I was giving a speech the other night, accepting a pretty big award actually. I was trying to be humble and inspirational but I think I may have come off as narcissistically delusional. Truth is: I was whacked on a bathtub full of X…I think I may have said (or, at the very least insinuated) that I was my own hero. Now, everyone’s mocking me.
Dear Golden Boy,
I know this is you, McConaughey.
You are a complete twit. But you’ve always been a complete twit. No one should really be surprised. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It seems to be working. You just won an Oscar for Christ’s sake.
All right, all right, all right,
Frank (If you call me F-Dawg again I’m sending Meacham.)
P.S. Love you in True Detective.
P.P.S. Send me a selfie. (Or two!) (Please!!!)