Sadly, the critically acclaimed sitcom Parks and Recreation has ended along with the antics of try-hard feminist politician Leslie Knope. On the bright side, during the same week, House of Cards launched its third devious season. During my binge watching of both shows, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Frank Underwood and Leslie Knope. To this day, I imagine an alternative universe in which Frank and Leslie meet in person and say something along the lines of, “We aren’t so different you and I” (and then the two engage in some sort of political warfare for the presidency, ending with a heartbreaking cliffhanger).
Cross-universe fanfiction aside, the two characters are really not all that different from each other. In fact, they exhibit similar behaviors when it comes to their ruthless efforts to get what they want. While the two certainly have a plethora of differences between them, they both have core values that rest in some way or another upon the notion of the American Dream. They both believe that if they push themselves hard enough, they can achieve whatever it is that they want, whether that be fixing a swing set, or attaining total control over the United States.
Parks and Recreation provides us with a glance of a somewhat optimistic American political climate. Of course, meetings are arduous and there is the occasional comical negligence, but it’s all good because of idealist Leslie Knope. In stark contrast, House of Cards paints a lifelike narrative of Washington D.C. that is foreshadowed in its brutality by the cut-throat practices of Frank Underwood. Overall, in House of Cards, everyone has a motive (that or they are being used and manipulated by the Underwoods to further their mission to attain power and prestige).
Once the story ends, we are left wondering about the motives of Knope and Underwood. Maybe it was for love, maybe it was for service, or maybe it was for the lust for power. But at their cores maybe they both have the simple basic urge to have dominion over whatever is in their reach. In applying these portrayals to real life politicians, the unsettling question creeps in of: what are they in it for?