I am only a little ashamed that I spent all weekend binge watching Season 3 of House of Cards on Netflix. Warning, if you haven’t watched you might find some spoilers in here.
I’ve been watch the show since Season 1 where I was fascinated by the seedy world of politics and journalism that was explored. Of course, the show is fictional, but it has always portrayed journalism darkly and journalists as wildly ambitious and lacking in ethics. They are often bought and sold by politicians who control the story.
Season 3 didn’t leave the journalists out of the story, but for once, they are showing as whistleblowers making ethical choices. We’ve got Ayla Sayyad, who is kicked out of the press room for sassily sticking with the hard questions. I personally cheered for her there. She’s replaced by an even more saavy Kate Baldwin, who repeatedly traces down sources the old fashioned way and questions Frank’s policies and decisions with flair. She even turns down conflicts of interest when she enters into a romantic relationship with Thomas Yates, a writer that Frank Underwood hired to write about his life and promote his jobs package, America Works. These aren’t great feats, I guess, but compared to past seasons, it’s an amazing 180.
All of the major journalists in House of Cards so far have been women, and it is refreshing to see them focusing on their work (for the most part) this season and not always being surrounded in scandal or having their life threatened. For once I can feel for the characters portraying the field of journalism, instead of feeling dirty and sad. Mostly, things are working as they should; Journalists are pursing stories that hold the government accountable (in a time when Frank Underwood has decided to do whatever he wants, laws be damned) and politicians are trying to keep those stories out of the press without doing anything very dubious (other than the standard level of dubious that comes with any political office).
I haven’t read much about what professional journalists have thought about this season’s shift in portrayal yet, but I for one am quite glad. Is it closer to real life? I sure hope so.