Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss this fascinating exam question.

Scandal and House of Cards are successful  television shows set in contemporary Washington DC. Both shows use twisting conspiratorial plots; the twisting plots rely on corruption, violence and sex. Both Scandal and House of Cards star a central protagonist. Scandal revolves around Olivia Pope, a media relations fixer who has an on again/off again affair with the President of the United States; House of Cards is centered on Francis Underwood, the House Majority Whip. Both shows have high ratings.

Marshall McLuhan divided media into hot and cold. Let’s misuse this characterization here. Scandal is a hot show; House of Cards is a cold show. Or to borrow from Robert Frost, Scandal is fire; House of Cards is ice. These comparisons are just fancy ways of saying that in Scandal, emotions dominate and the blood and sex flow. In House of Cards, the mind dominates so that death is a broken neck and sex is a clinical exercise.

Scandal expects us to immerse ourselves in its reality and form our own conclusions. In House of Cards, Francis Underwood/Kevin Spacey steps out of character to tell us how to interpret the action. Now I will borrow this technique. I think Scandal and House of Cards are successful because they capture of the essence of our belief that  American politics is politically empty and morally corrupt but in a way that entertains us rather than depresses us.

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