Wednesday, September 9, 2020

TV Quote of the Day (‘To Play the King,’ on Power and Loyalty)

[Prime Minister Francis Urquhart has just asked pollster Sarah Harding to become his “slave”—i.e., a political adviser whose brain he can “plunder” when needed, at his constant beck and call.]

Sarah [played by Kitty Aldridge]: “I’m interested in looking at power close-up. I want to understand the way it works.”

Francis [played by Ian Richardson]: “You know how it works, Sarah. It tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Sarah [disturbed by what she’s just heard, but trying to shake it off]: “There’s no such thing as absolute power.”

Francis [slowly, with emphasis]: “If you work for me, you’ll give me your absolute allegiance.”— To Play the King (Part 2 of the BBC House of Cards trilogy), Episode 1, original air date Nov. 21, 1993, teleplay by Andrew Davies, based on the novel by Michael Dobbs, directed by Paul Seed

While going back to the original British House of Cards from the 1990s, I have been struck by similarities with events on this side of the Atlantic in the last several years: notably, the divisions between rich and poor, the creation of scapegoats for unrest, and the lengths to which leaders will go to secure the highest office in the land.

But, given the repeated news reports during this time of a leader who demands loyalty to him personally rather than to country, this particular exchange brought me up short.

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