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

house-of-cards-kids2

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

frank-and-claire

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? 

Sources:

Photo 1Gif 1, Photo2Source

Advertisements

Lady Love Part 3: The Many Talents of Lorelai Gilmore

So I have a bit of a confession. In my spare time, instead of solving issues of world hunger or tearing through my (GROWING!) reading list or trying new, exotic cuisine or showering, I’ve gone rogue. I’ve went through the looking glass, and there’s really no turning back.

Yep, I’m re-watching all of the seasons of Gilmore Girls. I went back to the very beginning (a very fine place to start) of Rory and Stars Hollow and Dean (the boy she SHOULD have broken up with much earlier) and Jess (the boy she SHOULDN’T have broken up with…at least until Junior year of college). It’s such a frothy, fast-paced world of perpetual fall days and festivities and old timey barber shop quartets and cars that stay unlocked because, heck, there aren’t any felonies in Stars Hollow.

And Lorelai. Beautiful, batty Lorelai.

Sometimes when life is getting me down, when I feel extra paranoid or kind of blue I remember that one time when Lorelai turned on her car lights because her porch light went out and the yard needed illumination and think, hey kiddo, you’re doing just fine. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from the coolest lady around:

get. it. girl.

get. it. girl.

1.) Staying true to yourself is the only real option.

Kooky, oddball, hilarious, weird. These are all words that consistently come to mind when describing Lorelai. Obviously she’s striking and lovely to look at, but that’s not who Lorelai is, yafeel? She doesn’t cook (at one point she becomes upset with Luke for making her stir), she doesn’t people please (one look at Emily Gilmore’s perpetual side-eye at her daughter and you know Lorelai honestly doesn’t care), and she raises her kid the way she sees fit. Pizza, Twizzlers and coffee for dinner? NBD. Lorelai is Lorelai and won’t be bothered with who she is supposed to be…or who she’s supposed to be with.  That’s actually a really powerful quality in an Instagram filtered society bent on being perceived as perfectly perfect. For the record, if Loreli had an Instagram I feel like it would be filled with photos of piles of dirty laundry and unflattering shots of Michel.

635481327341260013-339702484_hughhefner

2.) Pop culture is actually pretty powerful.

Pop culture gets a bad rap.  The thinking goes, if you have enough time to make E! news and People magazine your daily bread then there isn’t enough brain space for things like global warming, politics or existential questions. It’s a valid argument, but one that fails to give credit to the lack of sleep many pop culture fiends can live on. I like to think my existential thoughts in the morning and leave the Marry, Do, Kill Celebrity Style for my late night ruminations.

The thing about Lorelai is she is QUICK. Not only in her talking speed, but in her wit. She’ll drop a reference to Anna Karenina and in the same breath deconstruct the meaning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And it works. It works in a scary kind of way. Similarly, my knowledge of pop culture occasionally scares me. I frequently find myself asking How in the hell do I know this much about Gwen Stefani or The Kardashians or Ina Garten. Sometimes I feel like I should dedicate my brain to other things, but then Lorelai reminds me it’s okay to have copious amounts of frivolous knowledge. In fact…it might make you a more well-rounded person.  Go with me for a second, pop culture is the great connector. I can’t tell you how many awkward conversations the mention of Blue Ivy has gotten me out of. It relaxes people and allows them to open up, much, much more than global warming does, for the record.  So maybe Lorelai was on to something…or maybe she just really, really liked “Breakfast Club.”

3.) Never underestimate the power of a strong woman. 

Lorelai is one tough broad. She raised a child on her own when she was basically a child herself. Yeah she was privileged growing up and yeah she wound up in a pretty idyllic little town, but for a good chunk of her life, it was just her. She is incredibly self-reliant. I on the other hand tend to lean toward leach-hood when it comes to people I really care about. I think Lorelai appreciates her friends and family (kind of), but when it comes down to it she’s able to create a life in solo fashion. This is a powerful example, not only for women, but also for everyone.

Do you watch Gilmore Girls? Who is your GG character spirit animal? If you don’t watch it, why are you crazy?

Citing erraday:

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Lady Love: 2 Reasons Peggy Olson is the Cat’s Pajamas

Well hello there. We’re off to the races with another Lady Love post because we all need a little motivation during the summer months. Especially when some mornings, the alarm is your arch nemesis. Especially if you walked out of the house wearing two different shoes.

Adulting is tough, y’all.

So for those who have been snoozing beneath a rock or another heavy object, Peggy Olson is one of the main characters (the main character? Ah, now there’s an argument) on AMC’s uber popular show, Mad Men. The show’s about a glamorous advertising agency filled with exciting clients and unstoppable people brimming with business acumen…oh yeah and alcoholism, depression, addiction, infidelity, and egregious, never-ending sexism toward women each time they try and, you know, use their brains. Peggy Olson goes from a meek lil’ secretary to a BAMF copy editor with her own money, her own office, and her own set of lucrative clients…in the 1960s…when women were basically seen as shiny, skirted baby making housemaids without the capability of having ideas.

Wherever Peggy goes, the tunes of Destiny’s Child plays faintly in the background.

So because inspiration is good and showing some lady love is better, here are 2 reasons why copying my girl Pegs is a good idea.

She has Confidence

anigif_enhanced-buzz-4582-1362965968-3

Peggy knows what she’s worth. She understands her value and her talent and she doesn’t shy away or demur from her successes. This wasn’t really the case in the beginning of the show, but soon after taking a job as a secretary it becomes evident that Peggy has a good case of the believesinherself.

Even though we live in a time where women are kicking butt and taking names, I think it’s so easy to fall silent when someone asks “Who wrote this?” or “Who made this happen?” It’s so easy to strive for being liked.  Make no mistake, this happens with men, too, but it happens way more with ze lay-deez. As a lay-dee, I would know. Though being a total toolbag is not something for which I advocate, I think being likable will only get you so far.

Gasp.

This is such a difficult concept for a born again, recovering people pleaser, but the older I get the more I realize this.  Being liked is nice, it’s comfortable, and sometimes, it’s necessary. Heck, everyone wants to be liked! From childhood we are taught to make friends and play nice, but the kind of like-driven striving I’m vying against is the kind that comes at a price.  Because y’all, there’s a big difference between being liked and being respected. I think we owe it to the world to be kind and selfless; however, when we sell our souls and our futures at the altar of people pleasing (maybe a little dramatic?), the next thing you know you’ve forgotten who you are and what you’re worth in the process.  For example, you may be a super capable employee, but out of fear of standing out or showing off, you hide, you put your head down, you keep your mouth shut.

This is no bueno.

Peggy is a fabulous illustration of this because there are many times over the course of the show when her coworkers, friends, and family don’t really like her. Her family thinks she’s too wild, her coworkers think she’s too ambitious, her friends think she’s too busy, but when copy needs to be written you can bet they call Peggy. Peggy understands her worth; by season 7 she walks into her office with purpose and swagger. It’s her confidence that allows her to be seen, and then, respected…and then RICH. (muahahaha)

anigif_enhanced-buzz-5644-1362966782-1

She’s Willing to Change

cha-cha-changing

The Peggy from episode 1 of Mad Men is most definitely not the confident, talented Peggy at the end of the show.  Yes, the culture around Peggy shifts and moves, but Peggy changes, too. Her wide eyes grow harder, more astute, and through her experiences with Don Draper, Joan, Pete Campbell (what a twisted, perfect friendship) Sterling Cooper (then Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, then SCDP Cutler Gleason & Chaough, then SCDP and Partners…whew) she grows. Over the course of the show it’s evident that Peggy is a good person and that stays true, but she definitely transforms; there’s a very obvious arc to her character.

Peggy is open to change. She’s willing to see when she’s wrong, when she isn’t giving herself enough credit, when she trusts too much (or not enough) and she learns from it and adapts. Let’s not forget Peggy was the one who both (briefly!) doted on Don as his secretary and later became his rock, saving him with tough love and empathy on numerous occasions.  If she wasn’t willing to change, to see both Don and herself through a new lens, their relationship wouldn’t be what it was at the end of the show.

The show itself is obsessed with change. Changing identities, changing marriages, changing jobs, changing fashion (I die for the 70s fashion), and I think Peggy’s strength comes from that change. NPR agrees with me on this!

The show’s main fascination, of course, is change: whether it’s possible, what it does to people, and who pays the price for it. Holmes, NPR

In Mad Men, if you don’t change, you get left behind. We see this with Betty (poor, poor Betty) and Rodger, at times. Seeing Peggy successfully navigate life’s many shifts and shift with them is liberating. She chameleons her way to the top,and it’s awesome.  I mean the cigarette smoking, dirty painting wheeling, late for work Peggy that saunters into her new job is not the same little mouse that squeaked into Don’s office in episode one.

It’s kind of nice knowing I’m not expected to be exactly the same person for the rest of my life, because, you know, the shoe incident of 2015 was pretty embarrassing.

Photo Cred

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3