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Strategies of involvement and moral detachment in House of Cards

Abstract : The aim of this paper is to evince the reasons why the viewers tend to ‘root for the bad guy’ in House of Cards in spite of his amoral undertakings. It delves into the linguistic, pragmatic and cognitive strategies employed by the protagonist, Frank Underwood, to ‘transport’ the audience in the narrative while distancing them from moral judgment. It is shown that the ‘Para-Social Relationship’ he constructs with the audience invites them to adapt to his goals and perspective, guiding their emotions and reactions, distracting them from ethical matters through generalised impersonalised aphorisms and transgressive humour. Lastly it proposes a three-level model of producing/viewing processes that are specific to House of Cards, highlighting the way the protagonist’s manipulation of audience involvement breaks apart in the last seasons, as the production crew alters the Frank-audience relationship.
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Contributor : Sandrine Sorlin <>
Submitted on : Thursday, February 20, 2020 - 7:22:14 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, February 4, 2021 - 9:02:33 AM
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Sandrine Sorlin. Strategies of involvement and moral detachment in House of Cards. Journal of Literary Semantics, Walter de Gruyter, 2018, 47 (1), pp.21-41. ⟨10.1515/jls-2018-0002⟩. ⟨halshs-02486287⟩

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