I have watched "House of Cards" Season 1 up to Chapter 5, and it seems to me that there is no good guy that I could positively identify with in the show. An example of a good guy that I can identify with is Tom Kirkman in "Designated Survivor".

I personally stopped watching because this show made me depressed. Is this an intentional feeling the show tries to evoke?

Note: I am from Europe, so not very acquainted to the U.S. Administration, at least not in detail.

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    It depends on your definition of "good guy"...this is not a "hero" show... it's about bad people doing bad things. You could consider Doug Stamper a good guy but he does terrible things out of loyalty....as I said, you're comparing two different shows which are telling two different stories. – Paulie_D Oct 25 '17 at 19:23
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    I don't watch the show, but not all shows are intended to have a good guy in it. For example, Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog follows Dr. horrible, a villain. There IS a "hero" in the show, but it's not his story. – DForck42 Oct 25 '17 at 19:40
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    Are the downvotes because the OP chose to stop watching the show because he couldn't relate to any character? While I find that decision a bit unusual; the core of the question seems to be very valid. The question is not opinion-based (it's asking for narrative good guys); but the answer ends up close to "House of Cards portrays characters in a way that your opinion may differ from another viewer's opinion". This isn't an opinion-based question, it's a valid question about an opinion-based show. – Flater Oct 26 '17 at 9:53
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    Unfortunately, often it comes down to phrasing and motivating the question. It is true that the core of the question definitely has merit and is quite interesting. But some people might just have objected to the question's phrasing that makes it look a little subjective, biased, or even naive on first glance. Not saying it is, or that's why people really downvoted it. But I could see that as a possible deterrent in the question. – Napoleon Wilson Oct 26 '17 at 10:01
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    I tried to tone down the subjective judgment a little, though. If you see a good question that attracted some downvotes you think are unwarranted and you can even identify a likely reason yourself, feel free to edit it into shape. There's even a badge for improving questions that you answered yourself. – Napoleon Wilson Oct 26 '17 at 10:04

There are good guy characters to identify with:

  • Peter Russo (if you don't mind his alcoholism and whoring around)
  • Lucas Goodwin
  • Zoe Barnes (I couldn't stand her but she's narratively a good guy)
  • Tom Hammerschmidt (starts off unlikeable, but gets redeemed in the last seasons)
  • Cathy Durant
  • Seth Grayson (arguably, because he's not aware of truly immoral dealings)

I could've extended this list further, but I'm afraid that this will lead to spoilery implications.

The thing with House of Cards is that its central character is a bad guy. Without spoiling the ongoing plot, House of Cards has (so far) been a story where the bad guy manages to overcome the good guys time and time again.

Instead of the good guy facing a different bad guy every season, this is more a matter of the same bad guy facing a different good guy every season.

About your comparison to Designated Survivor.

Both House of Cards and Designated Survivor mainly focus on the same philosophy:

United we stand, divided we fall.

But they explore the philosophy from a different point of view.

United, we stand.
Designated Survivor showcases that a united country can overcome the biggest hardships. The characters are tackling a shared goal/problem, and their teamwork causes them to succeed.

Divided, we fall.
House of Cards, however, showcases that a divided government is a problem. The politicians in House of Cards are tackling each other, instead of tackling a shared goal/problem. The lack of teamwork perpetuates a broken system.

Edit - Slight elaboration:

In the last few years, we've seen more shows where the classic good/bad archetypes get subverted.

Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are really good examples of this. The shows explore criminal environments. Most characters are a professional criminal in one way or another. However, most of them have relatable backstories, which humanizes them:

(note that I'm not avoiding spoilers since the question isn't about Breaking Bad)

  • Walter White begins his life of crime with the intention of keeping his family safe when he's gone.
  • Jesse Pinkman gets treated like a worse person than he is (by his parents), which contributes to why he ended up in this life. He has never shown any immoral behavior except his opinion that drugs should be freely useable. He very much wants children to be happy and safe, and abhors murder (the only to this exception was when he killed child murderers)
  • Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman breaks the rules but usually in a way where he tries to do good, or at least to make something happen that Jimmy thinks is just (like Kim getting Mesa Verde as a client).
  • Mike Ehrmantraut was a dirty cop, but his son's death was a moral wake up call for him. He takes shady jobs but avoids killing anyone, even refuses to take a gun unless he's expecting an unavoidable shootout.
  • Gus Fring started a (drug) business with a lifelong friend. The lifelong friend was killed, and Gus ended up with a violent cartel that he couldn't walk away from. Gus is stuck with the cartel, as much as Walt was stuck with Gus.

The show very much explores that not everyone who commits crimes is necessarily a villain, or intends to do evil.

Bring it back to House of Cards, Doug Stamper is a good example of such a relatable bad guy. Avoiding spoilers, Doug's character is composed of traits that are usually found in a narrative hero:

  • He has an undying loyalty for his best friend.
  • He hardly ever slacks off or phones it in. He does what needs to be done.
  • He struggles with personal issues that torment him every day.
  • He wants someone to love.

However, these "good guy traits" eventually get soured.

  • His best friend is a villain.
  • He never refuses a task based on it being immoral. He never even questions having to commit felonies.
  • Every romantic engagement he's had ended up in a very creepy spot.

So it's up to you to decide whether you consider Doug evil (based on his actions) or good (based on his intentions and general approach to life).

I think most fans of the show would agree that if Doug had been loyal to a good guy, he would've been a good guy himself. So then the question becomes whether we should condemn Doug because he's loyal to a friend who has sent Doug down the immoral path?

  • The part about Dough Stamper probably brings it to the point - Good intentions, bad environment. +1. However, you should remove the Breaking Bad part. I have not watched it and I feel it is not very related. – hitchhiker Oct 26 '17 at 19:09

House of Cards is an American political thriller web television series created by Beau Willimon. It is an adaptation of the BBC's miniseries of the same name and is based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Cards_(U.S._TV_series)

I don't watch the show, but the show is a "Political Thriller" (meaning it is meant to showcase the dark side of [American] politics and probably has a slew of anti-heroes. It's name is a reference to both the practice of being able to build and stack cards, but originates from an expression from 1645 about building something on "shaky ground" and that it will collapse when necessary.

In addition House of Cards is a post-modern and Americanized retelling of Shakespeare's King Richard III, but I have also seen websites that show multiple Shakespearean play allusions from MacBeth to Othello. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/21/house-of-cards-shakespeare-_n_4823200.html

Designated Survivor is a Political "Drama" and because it is on network tv, it tends to be structured in a pseudo procedural-crime drama and serialized hybrid and has a PG-14 rating. Most Cable and Streaming shows that share some genre elements with their network counterparts tend to push the envelope by telling more controversial rated R stories and don't often have something closer to a traditional protagonist, like KS's character in DS. (But of course there are always exceptions).

  • This does not answer my question in any way. Can thrillers not have heroes? – hitchhiker Oct 26 '17 at 19:05
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    Thrillers can have heroes, sure, I think it was definitely more common in the 80's with crime-action-thrillers (thinking Die Hard, Lethal Weapon) but in terms of current television cinema on either cable or streaming, most "thrillers" do tend to feature anti-heroes, villains, and/or characters that are socially dysfunctional. It's just that it's a more common fade at the moment. As someone who watches 30+ shows on average a year, most shows I watch no longer have more traditional protagonists. Here's an article on it: dailydot.com/via/darkness-anti-heroes-ruining-tv – Darth Locke Oct 26 '17 at 20:20
  • I'm just coming from the angle of a TV connoisseur. whom consumes a lot of tv. When I see either "thriller" or it's some kind of drama or dark comedy, on a non-network platform I presume I'm dealing with darker content, because it is SO OFTEN the case. Obviously, if one doesn't watch a lot of TV, one may not see what the common trends are. KS also has a reputation coming off of his 24-stint, so it's not a surprise, that he may take up a similar role again, which is what ABC, I think, was/is trying to recreate good and bad are also subjective so your question isn't easy to answer when creative. – Darth Locke Oct 26 '17 at 20:28
  • ..freedom allows for different characterizations of similar concepts or subject matter. Someone who does watch the show DID give you a more thoughtful answer believing, from their viewpoint, that it does have redeeming characters. – Darth Locke Oct 26 '17 at 20:30

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