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WWFUD: What Would Frank Underwood Do?

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You’ve been sitting at home in your sweatpants in the dark for days, binge-watching House of Cards…and now the last episode is done. We get it. You’re lost and confused.  Going back to your regular routine is out of the question. Let’s be honest: your life is pretty dull in comparison to the shenanigans of Capitol Hill. Where’s the intrigue? The manipulation, the power plays, the politics? We’ve got you covered.  Take a tour with us through the museums of Washington D.C. and take a look at these works of art that have that Frank Underwood flavor.  Ambitious leaders, murder, backhanded dealings and sexual tension- we’ll tell you all the dirty little secrets behind these District delights.

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I don’t have to tell you HoC enthusiasts that politics is all about image. Rule number one: don’t let ‘em see you sweat.  To get to the top, a fella’s gotta present himself with dignity and strength…even if he’s wearing leggings as pants.  This 1812 portrait of Emperor Napoleon hangs in D.C.’s National Gallery of Art Washington D.C. and is clearly an exercise in spin.  Wanting to show off his new skills as a civil leader, as opposed to his old ones of gallivanting around on a horse mongering war, the big cheese is shown standing calmly in his office.  You know this because his desk is littered with very important documents.  He has many leather-bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany. 

We’re not sure why he’s touching his own stomach but I guess it’s better to get caught with your hand in your vest than in the cookie jar. The artist, Jacques-Louis David, is no stranger to the evils of government either.  Mostly because he was one of them. He signed death warrants left and right, but that was back in the day when people didn’t have to be quite so sneaky about their misdeeds, unlike our next story…

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The police cover-up is one of the oldest tricks in the politician’s book.  Corrupt coppers can make all your problems disappear- DUIs, racy nights with escorts…even people.  That’s exactly what Frank Romero’s painting The Death of Ruben Salazar is talkin’ bout.  It all started- and ended- in Los Angeles, with a Chicano-led march against the Vietnam War….and we all know how much the 1% hates it when folks take it to the streets.  The LAPD and Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department -who I have to tell you are not known for their fair treatment of people of color- break up the peaceful rally with tear gas.  This understandably antagonizes the crowd and the whole damn thing metastasizes into a verifiable riot. 

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Now Ruben Salazar was the kind of journalist people like Underwood hate.  He sought the truth, never sold out to special interests and always spoke up for the underserved Chicano community.  Salazar was covering the march for the L.A. Times and sat down in the Silver Dollar Bar to get some respite from the sun and a cold beer.  The sheriff’s deputy, ignoring the pleas of the people outside, shoots a 10-inch tear gas projectile into the bar, hitting Salazar in the head and killing him instantly.  10-inches sounds pretty big right? That’s because it’s the kind of weapon they’re supposed to use for barricades. Like, to go through walls and buildings.  Here comes the cover up:

The coroner ruled the death a homicide, as you might expect when someone is shot in the head with an almost foot-long missile whilst having a beverage and minding their own business.  But the sheriff’s deputy was never charged.   This led many people to believe the shooting was intentional, a way to get a loud-mouth for justice out of the perfectly coiffed hair of shady politicians.  Hunter S. Thompson (who is like a drunk, drug-addled Superman to Underwood’s Lex Luthor) wrote about the story, publicizing the outrage nationwide. 

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(After the important questions were asked of young Michael Jackson of course).

The internal records of the event weren’t released until 2011, and when they were, nobody could find any evidence that the murder was pre-meditated.  I don’t know about you, but I think 41 years is plenty of time to sweep the dirt under the rug.  You can visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum to see this colorful testament to a dark, dark story.

Let’s see…we’ve covered the pompous men of office and the murder conspiracies, but something seems to be missing. Of course!  The next best thing about House of Cards is the super weird sex stuff.  Putting the obvious horror of imagining Kevin Spacey nude aside, the show is chock-full of opportunists willing to drop trou to get a little taste of the pie, so to speak. 

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And what would our nation be, really, without gross old guys paying young women for the pleasure of their company? It’s practically an American tradition!  An illicit exchange of goods and services is clearly what’s happening in this disturbing painting of two Ill Matched Lovers by Quentin Matsys, which appropriately hangs in the National Gallery.

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There’s so many warped relationships in the show, I’m not even sure which one this weird work of art reminds me of.  Zoe and Frank?  Rachel and Frank? Rachel and Russo? Rachel and Stamper? (Wait, poor Rachel…)  What I do know is that if you look in the bottom left corner you’ll see that the Matsys actually painted…

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A deck of cards. 

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By Angelica Jardini

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Angelica Jardini

Sr. Editor

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