A Report on Smithsonian Associates ‘Are the Cards Collapsing?: A ‘House of Cards’ Season 5 Preview’ with Professor Stef Woods

Wednesday night I did something very DC, I attended a talk on politics through the Smithsonian Associates. Not divisive politics, but pop culture politics about the show based on DC/ British politics House of Cards. American University (AU) professor Stef Woods expertly and enthusiastically delved into the background of House of Cards, the clothes, the comparisons to real politics, literature, and its impact on culture.

Professor Stef Woods. Photo by Moshe Zusman.

Woods is an instructor in the American Studies program at AU, where she teaches a course titled “Politics, TV Series, and Ethics,” which examines The West Wing, House of Cards, and Scandal. She was originally a blogger talking about sexuality, dating and her breast cancer under a pseudonym. She loves pop culture, got invited to lecture at American University and next thing she knows she is under contract as a professor for 5 years. Dreams do come true!

This lecture felt like attending a real college class and indeed, Woods had handouts with suggested readings, homework and viewings. Woods also had a slide show to go along with her lecture. It was a professional, educational and an informative event. Highly recommended! Woods gave a similar lecture on House of Cards last year with the Smithsonian Associates.

House of Cards was originally a book based on power struggles amidst the British Parliament, which was then turned into a show for the BBC, which then turned into an American show for Netflix.

House of Cards promotional poster. Image courtesy of Smithsonian Associates.

I learned a lot of cool techniques about the show that mimic real life. For example, that to show power, Frank and Claire Underwood wear matching color outfits of gray, black and dark navy. That Frank is based loosely on President LBJ’s intimidating leadership style. That the show is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Machiavellian style. That actress Robin Wright, who portrays Claire Underwood, fought for pay equity with her co-star Kevin Spacey, who portrays Frank Underwood, and won! Prior to this, he was making considerably more than she was.

Woods hypothesized that the early popularity of House of Cards would increase voter turn-out, but instead she saw it sadly decline! She also revealed how originally the Netflix original series gave the creator Beau Willimon carte blanche with artist creativity, but that changed which allegedly led him to eventually walk from the series.

Woods believes this is the last season for House of Cards. It is now number six in popularity on Netflix and in its hey-day was number one. If interested in being an extra on the show, go online and look! The show is filmed mainly in Baltimore and Joppa, MD. The show gets huge tax breaks filming in Maryland, which has resulted in thousands of jobs for Marylanders.

If you’re looking for something different and educational, I highly recommend checking out the many events which The Smithsonian Associates offer.

The Smithsonian Associates’ Are the Cards Collapsing?: A ‘House of Cards’ Season 5 Preview with Professor Stef Woods was a one-time lecture on March 15, 2017, at S. Dillon Ripley Center – 1100 Jefferson Dr SW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 633-3030, or purchase them online.

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Marlene Hall grew up an army brat and has lived all over the world and in Washington, DC where she was constantly exposed to theater and music. Marlene graduated from the University of Virginia where she wrote for the Cavalier Daily interviewing musicians. Commissioned as an Air Force officer, she served 8 years. She now works as a realtor with eXp Realty. In addition, Marlene dabbles in improvisational comedy and has taken classes at the famed iO Theater in Chicago and the DC Improv. She is very active in the DC charity and social scene and contributes her time to veterans’ organizations Team Rubicon and Team Red, White, and Blue. She also was a supernumerary in the Washington National Opera’s Carmen with opera singer Denyce Graves. She loves the music and theater scene in DC and goes to as many concerts and shows as possible.


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