Lady Love: Why Claire Underwood Leads Me Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
*Spoiler Alert: I may say something that ruins your life.
Hello again. Let’s get to it, shall we? In the wake of #InternationalWomensDay it’s only natural I continue my Lady Love series, and this is one edition my bony fingers can’t wait to tackle.
Unless you’ve resided soundly beneath a boulder for the last few months (in which case I’m very sorry), it’s near impossible to avoid the upcoming election. CNN and Fox News practically foam at the mouths each time a candidate says something stupid, smart, or generally nondescript, and I must confess I’ve found myself swept up in the political fracas. Rather than bore you with yet another political “break down,” let’s instead talk about something much more enjoyable (and less likely to induce a gag reflex).
Of course I’m talking about House of Cards.
I’ve carried along with Frank and Claire Underwood since the very beginning. Is the show a bit soap opera-y, unbelievable, and downright dark at times? You betcha. In an interesting article from Salon titled, “Hillary’s ‘House of Cards’: What Claire and Frank Underwood tell us about marriage, gender and the White House,” the author points out why so many keep coming back to this campy political drama.
[House of Card’s] cynical, chilly, dispassionate view of American politics and human relationships feels knowing, at the very least, about the truly craven depths of the human heart.
Even though I find myself snickering at the absurdity of some of the plot twists (bye bye Rachel), the show does a good job of remaining loyal to its characters, allowing them to develop to the nth degree without putting on the breaks. The characters themselves are unique and thoroughly entrenched in their own dark dramas, only looking up when they bump into another person’s dark drama. The show is twisty, plotty, and so very different from my every day life that I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved it because of the fraught escape it provides me.
Praises that the newest season is out and ready for our binging pleasure. But let’s be honest–the real person we care about is Claire. She is the stoic, calculated, and utterly classy female frontrunner that does whatever it takes to make it to the top.
It’s become clearer each season that Miss Claire is truly the brains behind Frank’s dastardly deeds. He vows to raise the banner of ruthless pragmatism —and he does—however, it’s Claire who fights, suffers, strives, and wins. Here are two reasons I’d choose Claire as my team captain, no matter the situation.
Her Ice is Real
There are times in life when you’re sad and anxiety-ridden and you need to curl up under some covers with a puppy and a mixing bowl of Cap’n Crunch and just dig the hell in. Yes life is troubling and ugly and in many situations crumbling into a heap of tears and emotions is totally understandable.
Sometimes, though, you’ve got to straighten up and do the dang thang.
Throughout the entire series, Claire is faced with triumphs and tribulations so polar they’d make even the most even-keeled person have a melt down in a Target parking lot. Her focus and commitment is undeniable. And even though her station as “wife” and “First Lady” weirdly diminishes her accomplishments time and time again (thanks society), she understands the nuances of her place and uses that in her favor. Truly, Claire has worked and sacrificed alongside Frank; however, in Season 3 the seat of the First Lady muddies her contributions in the eyes of others, relegating her to choosing the right easter egg for the White House hunt while Frank discusses matters of national security a mere few floors away. In one of the best scenes in the entire series, Claire and Frank go at each other in the oval office.
“I should’ve never made you ambassador,” Frank says.
“I should’ve never made you president,” Claire retorts.
Here we see Frank not as a cunning leader who has duped an entire nation, but as Claire’s political puppet, one she’s been manipulating from day one. This is why I love her ice. She has to be calculating and has to be consistently on. She understands her precarious position even more than Frank, and knows what is required in order to accomplish her ultimate goal.
Her Drive is Undeniable
I think that sometimes Claire gets overshadowed by Frank.
There I said it.
Yes, yes, yes, he was able to become the PRESIDENT without a single vote cast in his favor and yes, yes, yes, he did it by killing not one but two people, but let’s take a moment and think about Claire. She gave up her nonprofit, she allowed her husband to take a mistress, she denied herself a lover, and she did it not because her husband needed her to…but because she knew it was necessary. It was necessary in order to achieve the ultimate goal-a forever spot in history. Absolute power drives her just as much as it drives her husband.
Her drive allowed her to dig into her dark past. But rather than rely on her story as a crutch, she used her pain to propel her. There have been several articles touting either her utter commitment to the feminist cause or her abrasive opposition to it, namely because of how her sexual assault was handled in Season 2. It’s true that Claire evolves throughout the series, I would argue that it’s her drive that increases along with her character depth. In this article from the Atlantic, the author tackles Claire’s trajectory.
In Season One, she was her husband’s ruthless co-conspirator in advancing his career. As Season Two is reviewed and discussed, no character has been more polarizing—or so I gather from the most provocative assertions made in recent House of Cards responses: that Claire is a ‘feminist warrior anti-hero,’ as Tracy Egan Morrissey argues at Jezebel, and that, according to Amanda Marcotte’s related theory, “the show has abruptly shifted into one of TV’s most feminist offerings.’
One thing that cannot be argued is Claire’s nuanced personality. In my opinion, she sees herself as thoroughly equal to both male and female counterparts and believes she should be treated accordingly. This is a huge aspect of feminism, one that seems simple, but in a male-dominated society, is actually pretty stinking hard to carry out. Also, she doesn’t succumb to societal pressures of how her life should look; she writes her own story and adheres to that script no matter what.
What do you think about Claire Underwood? Would you choose her as your team captain?