If you're writing a show about a power-hungry leader who is pushing his electorate's boundaries, it might be tempting to draw from reality. But whether House of Cards Season 5 was influenced by Donald Trump is more complicated than that. At the very least, it would appear that those marketing the show want us to think so. After all, it hardly seemed coincidental that the creepy first trailer for the upcoming fifth season, featuring an upside down American flag and children chanting the Pledge of Allegiance, dropped on Trump's Inauguration Day.
Then, of course, there was that trailer, in which Underwood states "The American people don't know what's best for them. I do," accompanied by shots of protestors holding signs like "Never Underwood." This is something that Bustle writer Jefferson Grubbs has previously observed plays on the "Never My President" slogan that's grown popular in the left-wing community post-Trump. Underwood then makes his autocratic aims crystal clear when he goes on to predict the future: "“Lucky for [the American people] they have me…Underwood 2016. 2020. 2024. 2028. 2032. 2036.”
Of course, Trump has never stated anything like that. But he has sacked James Comey, the man leading the agency investigating the President's connections to Russia. While he publicly stated this was due to Comey mishandling the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, Politico and The New York Times reported that White House document showed that Trump had told the Russians he had fired Comey due to “pressure” he was facing from the FBI. (White House Press Secretary Sean Spice responded to the account in a statement to the Times that read, "By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.")
If you're getting rid of the people who are meant to be serving as a form of checks and balance on your power for reasons that are allegedly different to those you publicly cite, or you're hoping to influence what is said about you by those who are supposed to be holding your power in check, some might describe your style of leadership as autocratic — much like Frank's.
Which brings us to what we know about Season 5: Claire is the President's running partner for the 2016 elections. The fact that Underwood is ripping up the established rule book with an unorthodox choice of a political partner isn't dissimilar to Trump's own campaign for office, in which he went against the established wisdom on how best to run for the Presidency. According to The Hill, he advertised less and offended vast electoral demographics.
But it also echoes the way those close to Trump have won a seat at the table, despite their lack of political experience. There were concerns from the likes of The New York Times about Ivanka Trump's presence at political meetings when she and her father met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan following Trump's election in November and the potential for conflict of interests. In March, CNN reported that the First Daughter would be given an official (albeit unpaid) role as an adviser and "employee in the White House Office."
Still, at least one House of Cards actor has stated that this is all just one huge coincidence. While visiting Stephen Colbert's Late Show, Spacey denied that all of this was directly taken from Trump:
"At some point between when we shot the season and before it dropped, three to four to five things happened in the real world, and we go, 'Everyone's going to assume we stole it from the headlines... We've never been more relevant."
But he doesn't clarify exactly which parts were written prior to taking place in real life and which parts really have drawn inspiration from the actual political climate.
Whether it was intentional or unintentional, there seem too many parallels for the writers to have completely invented every detail of the show that seems similar to that of the Trump administration. And no matter what, that realism and relevance is sure to make the fifth season the creepiest installment yet.