Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Russia as the “Great Satan” in the Liberal Imagination

Why the culture war is global and there will be no insurgency in Ukraine

If you want to understand where the US-Russia relationship went off the rails, I think you should start with House of Cards, Season 3, Episode 6, which aired in 2015. Bear with me (spoilers coming in the next three paragraphs).

I stopped watching House of Cards at the end of Season 4, so I don’t know what happened after that, although I know Kevin Spacey was canceled and dropped from the series. For those who haven’t seen it, the show in its early seasons starred Spacey as Frank Underwood, one of the last of the white Democratic congressmen from the South, and featured his rise to the presidency.

By the time of S3:E6, Underwood has reached the top job and basically solved the problem of Middle East peace through negotiations with Russian President “Viktor Petrov”, an obvious stand-in for Putin. Everything has been worked out, except for one pesky detail. The homophobic Russians have arrested Michael Corrigan (John Pasternak), an American gay rights activist, and won’t let him go until he apologizes for being so gay in front of children. The whole deal rests on this, otherwise the Russians won’t go along. Putin reveals he has two cabinet ministers who are gay, and his ex-wife’s nephew who is like a son to him is also gay, but despite all this he must take into account the feelings of the Russian people and can’t budge on the LGBT issue (this reassures the viewer that no intelligent person can disagree with them, only dumb rubes). Underwood doesn’t really care about this, but his wife Claire (Robin Wright) does, and she meets Corrigan in his prison cell, where she comes to sympathize with the activist as he refuses to agree to the conditions of the release and demands that Putin accept his gayness instead. Claire takes his side against Frank and Putin. I won’t spoil the ending for those who care, as it’s not relevant to appreciating the importance of the episode.

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