|House of Cards Will Rise or Fall on Its Best Lines; PR is the Same
By: Jeannine Wheeler
If you want to rule the waves of PR, you’ve got to write the best lines. No one knows that better than the producers of the Netflix blockbuster House of Cards, the award-winning political drama set amid the intrigues of Washington, DC (and a remake of a BBC miniseries focused on the British Parliament). Below are some of the best.
As in PR — whether it’s a launch pitch, CEO speech, EDM header, creative content, or social media plug — you’ve got to write it well to make it memorable and effective.
In anticipation of its long-anticipated second season this February 14, here are House Majority Whip Frank Underwood’s (played by Keven Spacey) top nuggets — with some of the greatest lines ever written about that one-horse political town: Washington, DC.
Hint: these lines are best delivered with the charming drawl of a South Carolinian.
“I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood.”
“I almost pity him. He didn’t choose to be put on my platter. When I carve him up and toss him to the dogs, only then will he confront that brutal inescapable truth — My God. All I ever amounted to was chitlins!”
“Did you smell that? The smugness. The false deference. She thinks I can be bought with a pair of tickets. What am I, a whore in post-war Berlin, salivating over free stockings and chocolates? What she’s asking will cost far more than that.”
“I hope you’ll understand that I want to sleep on all this. I never make such big decisions so long after sunset, and so far from dawn.”
“Nobody’s a Boy Scout. Not even Boy Scouts.”
“We’re in the same boat now, Zoe. Take care not to tip it over. I can only save one of us from drowning.”
“Power is a bit like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value. Centuries from now, when people watch this footage. Who will they see smiling just at the edge of the frame?”
“You know what I like about people? They stack so well.”
“In a town where everyone is so carefully reinventing themselves, what I like about Freddy is that he doesn’t even pretend to change.”
“Every Tuesday I sit down with the speaker and the majority leader to discuss the week’s agenda. Well, discuss is probably the wrong word. They talk while I sit quietly and imagine their lightly salted faces frying in a skillet.”
“Such a waste of time. He chose money over power. In this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn’t see the difference.”
“What a martyr craves more than anything is a sword to fall on. So you sharpen the blade, hold it at just the right angle, and then 3, 2, 1 …”
“I just hate this small-ball crap.”
“You may despise me, Orrin, but the classy thing to do would’ve been to invite us up for some of that iced tea.”
“You see, Freddy believes that if a fridge falls off a minivan, you better swerve out of its way. I believe it’s the fridge’s job to swerve out of mine.”
“Not an easy thing to say no to the most powerful man in the free world. But sometimes, the only way to gain your superior’s respect is to defy him.”
“There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth.”
“There’s a value in having secrets. Creatures like myself, like Claire, like Zoe, we wouldn’t be ourselves without them. But Peter Russo, on the other hand — he’s trapped by his secrets. What I’m trying to do is give him the opportunity to set himself free. After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal.”
“The Sentinel. South Carolina’s premiere military college. They taught me the values of honor, duty, and respect. They also hazed me, tried to break me, and senior year, nearly expelled me when I volunteered for a senate race and my studies suffered. But that didn’t stop them from soliciting a hefty sum for their new library 30 years later. How quickly poor grades are forgotten in the shadow of power and wealth.”
“As they used to say in Gaffney, never slap a man while he’s chewing tobacco.”
“Proximity to power deludes some into believing they wield it. I put an end to that sort of thinking before it begins.”
“She was never more than a faint blip on my radar. We’ve served each other’s purpose. If she wants to be an adult, let her see how she can fly once she leaves the nest.”
“I have often found that bleeding hearts have an ironic fear of their own blood. One drop and they seize up. But offer them a caring hand and massage them back to life, and they soon start beating to the right drum.”
“Rebellion on all fronts — Claire, Zoe, Russo. I must not lose my resolve. I will march forward, even if I have to do so…alone.”
“It only takes 10 seconds to crush a man’s ambitions. I need to take care that I protect mine.”
“I must gamble everything I have right now. If I’m honest, she may use it against me. If I’m not, she won’t lift a finger. I’ve used the same tactic myself. Once someone is exposed, they’re at your mercy. She wants to hear me say the words. Yes. I want to be Vice President. And yes, I helped your son get into college in the hopes that you would return the favor.”
“Tusk understands the difference between power and money. That’s precisely what makes him dangerous. He doesn’t measure his wealth in private jets, but purchased souls. I’ve worked too hard to get within arm’s reach of the prize only to have my hand cut off just before I seize it.”
“Of all the things I hold in high regards, rules are not one of them. I will not place my fate solely in the hands of the middleman if I can go directly to the supplier.”
“There is no solace above or below. Only us — small, solitary, striving, battling one another. I pray to myself. For myself.”
NOTE: The lines and drama of House of Cards are so good that Netflix has now signed for a third season of this fascinating series, which is great PR for Washington, DC, as in "I don’t care what you say about me; just spell my name right.”
Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of Pure Energy PR, a full-service boutique communications firm with a focus on the energy, healthcare, technology, construction, real estate & land development, tourism & hospitality and food & beverage industries. Jeannine is in the firm's Austin, Texas office.