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Can ‘Evil’ Sometimes Be Good?

In this week's House of Cards essay we will explore whether Frank Underwood's motto, "Bad for the Greater Good," could be true.

by
Becky Graebner

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June 5, 2013 - 7:00 am
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Check out the previous installments in Becky Graebner’s dissection of House of Cards. Spoiler Warning!

May 8: 3 Washington D.C. Stereotypes House of Cards Hits Too Close for Comfort

May 15: The House of Cards Vision of Infidelity: More Fact than Fiction

May 22: Seduce Your Way to the Top? Meet The Anne Boleyns of Washington, D.C.

May 29: Why We Love to Hate Politicians

*****

In order to write these articles, and at the suggestion of my lovely editor, I have watched season one of House of Cards twice. Not only was watching it a second time still entertaining, but it’s always good to watch a show again. You pick up on things that you missed the first go because you were too busy trying to figure out the plot and the characters. I started pass #3 last Sunday night (not because I’m a nut job) but because I finally got a good friend of mine, another Washingtonian, to give it a try. We’ve gotten through two episodes so far. Let’s just say, HoC has gained yet another fan.

As we were watching, my buddy would inquire about Person X or Y: Is he good or bad? Is what Peter just said true? Is XYZ about to happen?! Obviously, as I have seen the show, I knew these answers and I tried not to give too much away. However, I did say that Frank got “a little shady” towards the end of the season. Even though by the end of episode two it is evident that Frank is manipulator and destroyer of lives AND after I gave full disclosure that my friend might not like Frank by the middle of the season, he still cheered for Frank when he cornered Michael Kern on CNN and when Linda Vasquez brought him in to her office to “fire him.”

It became evident that my friend was rooting for Frank — he even asked if Frank would turn out to be a good guy in this strange land of the evil, manipulation, and moral corruption. Although he probably will not turn out to be a good guy in the end, the audience will probably still enjoy it most when Kevin Spacey is on the screen — playing the role of the mad dog, Loki God of Chaos — and I think my friend will be part of that crowd. I started to think about what season two would be like…would Frank achieve his ultimate goal of becoming President of the United States? Then, it happened. A small thought moved out of the recesses of my mind and into my full awareness. I could no longer deny its existence.

My dangerous thought: Despite all of the “bad” things Frank Underwood had done, no matter how much you disliked him after some of his actions, Frank Underwood would be a good President.

There. I said it — and here’s why…

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"Bad" and "evil" are not the same things. If I eat too much chocolate and do not brush my teeth adequately I experience the "bad" result of cavities and a, alas, visit to the dentist (>>resulting pains are "bad" for me). None of that is "evil". if I should desire to advance in my job and I consciously (and successfully) murder my competition, that is "bad"!!! Yes, but it is also "intrinsically" bad, viz., "evil". Forcing illegal Mexicans to return to Mexico might be "bad" (ir "good") policy. Killing them would be "evil" policy. The article obfuscates the distinction. "Evil" (= use of intrinsically "bad" means) is always wrong. That the authoress failed to make the distinction discussed above is, indeed, "bad" logic, but not "evil".
46 weeks ago
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