House of Cards: Electoral drama American style | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 22.09.2017
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House of Cards: Electoral drama American style

Political drama has a long and illustrious history in Hollywood. Today, "House of Cards" is regarded as the very best in the genre.

"Do you think I'm a hypocrite?"

Frank Underwood, as played by Kevin Spacey, is not known to mince words in the  US political drama series "House of Cards." "Well, you should," he adds. "I wouldn't disagree with you. The road to power is paved with hypocrisy. And casualties."

While none of this is as new as some have claimed since the series first aired in 2013, the brutally honest portrayal of political cynicism and a pure striving for power has never before been presented with such clarity. Hollywood and the major US TV broadcasters have engaged intensely in politics and election campaigns for years - but they have never been as drastic in their portrayal of politicians and their actions.

Award-winning series, devoted fans

Much has been said and written about the series. Initially, the saga about Frank and Claire Underwood won a lot of praise - in Germany, too, where the series was a notch above similar series and films.

Spacey, Wright picture-alliance/dpa)

German press has compared 'House of Cards' to a Leni Riefenstahl film

Recently, however, there has also been criticism of the show that is in its fifth season.

Germany's Die Welt daily newspaper commented that "House of Cards" looks like something Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl could have filmed, with "Washington lit from below like a Nazi building" and Robin Wright as Claire Underwood jutting her chin into the camera like a javelin thrower in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. A "master race" is apparent in the series, the paper concluded.

In any case, it's not the first time Hollywood has taken on on the world of politics. James Stewart and Henry Fonda played heroic, emotional characters in the political arena. In the 1960s, political drama became more critical, putting reality on par with the audience's wish to be entertained. In that vein, "House of Cards" is a bluntly formulated continuation of the genre.

Read moreWhy German politics struggles to translate to screen

Reality competes with "House of Cards"

But the popular political drama has run into a huge problem that no one could have imagined when the series launched four years ago: Donald Trump. Reality has caught up with fiction.

Donald Trumps Twitter-Account mit covfefe-Tweet (Twitter/Arnd Riekmann)

Is reality trumping fiction when it comes to US politics?

When season five hit the screens in May 2017, Trump had been in office for a few months. Compared to what the 45th president of the United States has said and done, the series is beginning to look a little lacklustre.

It's a matter of taste as to what's more entertaining these days: the Underwoods' fictional wheelings and dealings; or Donald Trump's daily tweets?

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