Last Friday, as I sat at my kitchen table noshing on some delicious Thanskgivakkuh leftovers, I stumbled across the most recent issue of New Republic. On its cover were some of my favorite faces from TV—crazy Carrie from Homeland, quircky Selina Meyers from Veep, sleazy Congressman Underwood from House of Cards, and boisterous Senator Gil John Biggs from Alpha House. The headline surrounding their faces was “The Hate-Watching of Washington; Why America’s Least Favorite City Became Television’s Favorite Subject. ” It struck me. I have spent the past two or so years watching more politically based shows than anything else, but was it because of my disappoint in the lack of government functionality and cooperation? I wasn’t quite sure, and I decided to give the article a read.
The lengthy piece contains many ideas about why Washington-based shows had risen in fame. The author, T.A. Frank, claims that shows about D.C. had become so popular because “over the past decade or so, Washington’s governing elites [have] told us a lot of hogwash,” and U.S. citizens are “groping for answers.” I had qualms with this. While I understand the frustration with the politics in this country, to me, this thesis seems like a stretch. People watch shows about Washington for the same reason they watch other ones—they are entertaining.
I don’t spend nights in my basement watching Veep because I believe that Joe Biden is ineffective—which I don’t, JB you rock—I watch because Selina’s neurosis and Jonah’s “fructose intolerance”* make me shake with laughter. I asked my friend Caroline, who has recently become addicted to D.C.-based Scandal, if her interest in the show had anything to do with the polarization and dysfunctionality of Washington, or at the very least any concern with politics. Her answer: “Honestly, no. I am the least interested in politics. I like Scandal because it’s intense.” Washington-based TV shows work because the climate of politics is a dramatic one. A city that controls one of the most influential countries in the world is sure to house plenty of space for action, drama, and even comedy.
Yet one question Frank does not answer is one that, to me, seems essential; does the American audience understand these big-budget shows are just that, television not the reality of Washington? As an eighteen-year-old, I’m not sure I have the answer, but I hope they do—not every member of Congress is as scummy as Frank Underwood
*Jonah, the liaison between the President and Vice President and a complete dweeb, claims that he is allergic to only the sugars from fruits.