Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Film Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Leah Aldridge

Second Advisor

Nam Lee

Third Advisor

Rebecca Forster


In 2016, the U.S. faced a seismic change in national politics and the evolution of the entertainment industry. As the rise of streaming services had finally hit its stride, Netflix, the industry disruptor, had released a steady stream of critically acclaimed series, most notably beginning with the platform’s first original program, House of Cards. The series’ main character, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) would become a fixture within the television landscape at the time, as both political dramas and anti-hero series were at all-time high, but what the writers of House of Cards did not expect was how their plotlines would come to life mere months after the season four premiere. In March 2016, House of Cards debuted its fourth season chronicling President Frank Underwood’s bid for re-election, all while a populist candidate with no prior public service, Donald Trump would pursue the Oval Office. Donald Trump would then fill the historic election with unfamiliar controversies that voters were not accustomed to. As the real election progressed, the distorted cynical fictionalization of reality in the political thriller began to reflect reality. This thesis examines how the real and fictional presidents handled controversies, interacted with women, and associated with the alt-right movement; and attempts to establish how House of Cards lost its cynical tone as the real world's socio-cultural sphere began to reflect the dark hyperbolic events that occurred in Frank Underwood’s Washington D.C.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.