Borgen vs House of Cards

3 May

When I first started watching House of Cards, I was quite impressed. The political intrigues and manipulations that got Frank Underwood, a power-crazed psychopath, into the White House were fascinating to follow.


But apart from fascinating, they were also disturbing. Watching this series, it doesn´t seem hard to believe that this is how things work in the real world. And you might even take this line of thoughts one dangerous step further and conclude that this is how things inevitably work, due to the character of the profession. That there is no place for kindness in politics, and that every demonstration of humaneness is a tactical move.


Gradually I started to realise that after an episode of House of Cards, I would feel uneasy, skeptical and with my faith in the world at a lower level than it was before.


Then I started watching Borgen, a Danish tv-series about a Danish Prime Minister.


The main character here is Brigitte Nyborg, a woman with good intentions and high moral standards, who simply wants to do her job well. The series starts when she becomes Prime Minister and shows us the many challenges the job implies: the assertion of her role as a leader, the juggling of different party-lines in her government, the media-strategies, the vultures out to get her.

We are also made witness of the heavy demands that her holding office has on her private life and the many difficulties she has to face while trying to balance work and family.


After an hour of Borgen, I feel like I´ve learned something about human life, and that slowly but surely the human race is making progress. (*)


I think that´s a nicer effect to have on your viewers and a better message to send into the world, don´t you agree? Because the world will eventually become the way we picture it. I´d rather have the politicians of tomorrow follow the example of Borgen, and not that of House of Cards.


And there are more reasons why, in my opinion, Borgen beats House of Cards.


The photographical perfection of House of Cards lends the show something so cool and clean that it becomes almost sterile, whereas Borgen shows us a more realistic setting, where we can imagine actual people living an actual life.


When it comes to dialogues, half of the time I can´t follow what on earth they´re talking about in that White House, and I honestly believe that has nothing to do with my understanding of English. It is a lot less tiring to watch Borgen in original version (I actually pay attention to the Danish -what a peachy language) and simultaneously read the English subtitles.


On a psychological level both scripts have their merit, but here too, Borgen wins. Let me explain why.


House of Cards grant us a look inside the mind of a psychopath, which is interesting. But the psychopath becomes boring. An egocentric person only thinks about himself, and all he wants is power. Not much more can be told about that. This series misses one of the most important tools in story-telling, which is character development. In the end it´s just about tactics. Like watching a game of chess.


Borgen on the other hand has a lot of psychological nuances. Nyborg has to keep testing her actions against her values, and correct herself when she gets carried away by political game-playing. She has to harmonize the needs of her country, her family and herself. This is a tricky balancing act, that doesn´t become boring at all.


So thank you, Denmark, for this gem you have given us.



(*) I have to admit I haven´t seen Borgen´s season 3 yet, but I can´t imagine them suddenly turning the whole thing around.





7 Responses to “Borgen vs House of Cards”

  1. Mrs. Brubeck May 3, 2016 at 13:11 #

    Borgen is zowat het beste wat ooit gemaakt is en we hebben genoten van elk moment!!
    Maar ook HOC is geweldig gemaakt, je kan en mag de 2 gewoon niet vergelijken!! Het is en blijft alletwee fictie en briljant gemaakt en geacteerd!

    • Kathleen May 3, 2016 at 13:54 #

      Misschien mag je ze inderdaad niet vergelijken, maar ik vond het wel eens een interessante denkoefening 😉

      • Mrs. Brubeck May 3, 2016 at 14:59 #

        Je moet Borgen 3 echt snel kijken hoor 🙂

      • Kathleen May 4, 2016 at 13:54 #

        Ik ga er meteen mee beginnen! 🙂

  2. prinses op de kikkererwt May 3, 2016 at 18:53 #

    Borgen 3 is heel goed. Er komt oa een heel realistische verhaallijn van een single mom die tussen ouderschap en carriere geprangd zit en te maken krijgt met oordelen vanuit haar omgeving. 🙂

    • Kathleen May 4, 2016 at 13:54 #

      No kidding… They ticked all the right boxes 😉
      Ik ben vree benieuwd!

  3. Joke May 24, 2016 at 18:33 #

    I couldn’t agrree more! 😉

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