3 Valuable Lessons for Muslim Americans from House of Cards

Netflix dropped a shining light into my life this week in the form of House of Cards’ season 3 trailer. If you don’t know about the show, literally stop everything you’re doing now and watch the first two seasons. Go. I insist.

Instead of blathering on for about 500 words about the majesty of HoC, which I often do in person, I think it’s best we take a look at some of the life-applicable lessons that the first two seasons have reaffirmed for the Muslim American community. Let us also fantasize about what’s to come for the highly-anticipated third season, which premieres on Netflix on February 27th. Spoiler alert, my friends.

1. Women are still struggling for equality in the American government.

What I really got from this show is how little influence women can carry in Washington. Sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it? During the span of the 113th Congress (2013-2015), there were only nineteen women with leadership positions, and that number is a combination of both the House and the Senate.

Now, this doesn’t mean that there are no strong female characters in the series. On the contrary, they’re actually all quite formidable. But, every plot line lead by a woman shows the different ways in which her life revolves around a man. Take, for example, Claire Underwood. She’s beautiful, she’s educated, and she can wear heels all the time without crying. Do you know how hard that is to manage? Yet, in many episodes, Claire is seen as one of her husband’s many puppets. On several occasions, Frank uses Claire and her connections to further his own agendas.

Claire is no victim, however. Her husband may use her to his advantage, but in season one she’s also making all the necessary and sometimes violent moves to keep her foundation afloat. Claire is not so different from the other strong woman in Frank’s life, Zoe. Zoe, a political reporter and blogger, traded sexual favors for inside scoops. While for a long time it seemed that Frank had all the power in the relationship, his crippling fear of Zoe is evidence that she was the dominant player.

2. The U.S. government is built on lawlessness.


Politicians on this show even hate the laws that constrict them. Frank commits a multitude of crimes and backdoor deals in order to get things accomplished in Washington. Something like that isn’t so farfetched when you consider the fact that, just a month ago, the CIA was revealed to have committed crimes of torture in the pursuit of anti-terrorism.

America: we love to impose laws, but we hate to follow them.

The harsh attitude towards female characters is bigger than a general disdain for women. The show itself encapsulates the contempt that America’s government holds for Others and anyone that may threaten the heirarchy. Frank, who starts the series as a congressman, intensely hates everyone and thinks he’s above them in every way. Metaphor, much? He’s an upper middle class white man. Talk about representing the status quo.

3. Being enlightened will literally put your life on the line.

This show and its characters even hate the public — as shown indirectly through Frank’s disdain towards the viewers. The pilot episode opens with Frank breaking the fourth wall and walking the audience through the norms of his life. Frank’s soliloquies are a staple of the show and help to punctuate dramatic moments.

For the first episode of the second season, Frank goes nearly the entire hour without talking to his adoring public. That is, until the end — after he’s successfully pushed someone in front of an oncoming train — when he flashes his huge F.U. cufflinks (his initials) to the viewers.

“Did you think I’d forgotten you? Perhaps you hoped I had. Don’t waste a breath mourning Miss Barnes. Every kitten grows up to be a cat. They seem so harmless at first — small, quiet, lapping up their saucer of milk. But once their claws get long enough, they draw blood. Sometimes from the hand that feeds them. For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted. Welcome back.”

This is the quintessential message that we can derive from not only the show, but also the American government. Citizens are all fine and dandy until they grow up to understand the way the world works. Once that happens, a force has to come in and squash the growing threat. You don’t like it? Tough luck. Welcome to America.