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

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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

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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

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A Book & A Show

Oh this is January, and what have you done?

I think I just spliced several different concepts, songs, quotes but we’re all good with that right? Right. Happy New Year everyone! Times they are a changing and it’s 2016 in the big town baby.

Wow, my brain is just one giant pop culture machine.

So, as you may have noticed I haven’t blogged in a while. There I said it. The old me would be obsessing over this fact, but obsessing is so yesterday people (thanks Hilary Duff). Also, as part of my job I have to blog for 4-7 other entities, post to a myriad of social media accounts as a ghost writer (spooky), and type until my little fingers chap (yum), but I know, I know…I should dutifully blog for the few folks who love books, television, traveling, more books, and general craziness.

Guess what, though? This blog is for you, yes, but it’s also for me. It’s a way for me to be bonkers and discuss the things that make me happy—the same things that I think might make you happy—and so I’m not going to apologize because enough women out there have apologized for lame reasons (I’m sorry for you bumping into me. I’m sorry for serving food that’s too hot. I’m sorry for being smarter than you.) so I’ll just refrain this time.

Whew, now that that’s over with, let’s get down to biz-naz.

Everyone loves talking about goals and resolutions and new beginnings in January. Not sure if you’ve noticed that…

Normally I love digging into a good cliche and tearing it to pieces through thinly veiled sarcasm and biting apathy but this time, you guessed it, I’ll refrain. I mean what’s wrong with trying to be better? What’s wrong with trying to push yourself to learn a new language, try a new workout, stop guzzling Diet Coke (too good, though, y’all.  Just…too good), or make an online dating profile (a personal nightmare of mine).  The new year is exciting and fresh so it’s kind of a no-brainer people would grab on to it with all of their might, even if that zest only lasts a month or so. 

There was my (second?) soapbox and now on to what you really want—recommendations. Let’s start the new year off on the right foot with some quality. We get enough trash already with the internet and television (even though, when one consumes trash willingly say, by binge watching Real Housewives…that’s, like, a whole other thing) so why not try out a few things with some substance?

The Book

After finishing this book I had that thick teary glob that gets stuck in the throat and kind of hurts but also kind of reminds you you’re alive. Anyone tracking with me?

When I get the glob, I know it’s a good book.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the real deal people. J. Ryan Stradal brings to life the food, the flair, and the people of America’s Midwest through weaving the lives of each character around the story’s protagonist—Eva Thorvald, a cooking savant.

Each character that is introduced is real and engrossing and their stories, although varied and unique, seem to somehow orbit cohesively around Eva and her cooking abilities. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy the book, though. The way Stradal shifts from lighthearted tales of young love to deeper situations like the death of a mother or divorce will keep you guessing and prevent you from feeling complacent.  Even though, if you’re a foodie, you’ll definitely enjoy the descriptions of every type of food from new age organic concoctions to homemade butter-laden “dessert bars” passed down from generation to generation. There are even recipes in the book!  Kitchens has a whole lot of heart and exhibits deep, beautiful knowledge of the unique Midwestern culture. It’s the perfect way to begin your reading journey for the new year.

The Show

I’m a self-proclaimed Netflix fangirl. Also, I adore Parks and Rec. So when Aziz Ansari came out with his show on Netflix called Master of None, I was sold. The show chronicles Dev (played by Ansari) and his dating experiences in New York.  It’s a whole lot more than “The Bachelor: New York Edition,” though.

Firstly, it’s not total garbage.

Secondly, it’s got range.  From what happens when everyone around you starts having kids, to dealing with racism and sexism, to trying to navigate how to live with someone, Master of None strikes the perfect balance of biting commentary and farce—the writers acknowledge that millennials are self-centered and insecure while creating endearing, hilarious characters you can’t help but love. Master‘s wit is biting and the stories are memorable which is basically what everyone is looking for in a television show.

So there you have it, a couple worthwhile things that can fill up your time without making you feel like a total sloth.

 

3 Books for Fall

The secret is out.

I’m so basic.

I know it in my bones, and now that we’ve cleared that up we can move on to more important things.

Too much of a good thing is a great thing.

Too much of a good thing is a great thing.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved the fall. Growing up in rural Oklahoma, I think I felt fall-the real fall-more than those who grew up in a more urban (read civilized) environment. My house was surrounded by trees, and I spent most of my time outside, so when the tiniest hint of crispness in the air wafted through my nostrils I’d feel myself becoming giddy. The trees would blast their colors and I could finally go outside without fearing 3rd degree burns from the Oklahoma summer heat. My grandparents would organize hay rides and the entire community would pile into a trailer and ride around presumably in one big circle because the weather was just too good and the moon was just too full not to. There were bonfires, there was cider, there were babies wrapped in homemade quilts. It was divine.

That deep love for the fall has now manifested in me buying too many chintzy pumpkins, eating candy corn like it’s my life source, and burning every pumpkin scented candle the good folks of Bath and Body Works can crank out. Fall allows my home to become a campy and overly scented shrine to fall, but you know what, it makes me happy, so I keep on keepin’ on.

With fall comes hot drinks and with hot drinks comes cozying up on a couch and with cozying up on a couch comes reading (or if you’re me, with breathing comes coffee with coffee comes life with life comes reading). Naturally, I’m going to give you 3 book recommendations for the fall and even though these are absolutely not fall themed at all, they are awesome, and I think a lot of my blog readers enjoy awesome.

1.) EileenOtessa Moshfegh

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Y’all this book is twisted in the best way possible. It’s dark and hilarious. At one point while reading it I said “Holy hell!” out loud at a Starbucks at the absurdity of it all. If you consider yourself even a little twisted, and let’s be real, we’re all a little twisted, then you should try out Eileen on for size. The story is told through the perspective of Eileen Dunlop at the age of 70 as she looks back on the days around Christmas when her twenty something self flew the coop on her drab, desolate life as a secretary at a boys detention center and a caretaker (kind of) to her alcoholic, abusive father. Her drab, depressing life changes when a new woman comes to work at the detention facility, and what happens next is sickening, seductive, and downright shocking.

Sounds like a nice, frothy read, eh? What’s impressive is how Moshfegh manages to create such despicable and, at times, disgusting, characterizations for Eileen, but somehow, in the end, we root for her.  Moshfegh delivers doozies like this:

Some families are so sick, so twisted, the only way out is for someone to die.
― Eileen

So just in time for the spooky season is this dark read that will leave you both disturbed and thoroughly entertained.


Spinster-book

2.) Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, Kate Bolick

I love a book that details the ins and outs (okay let’s be real the outs) of a woman navigating through her life. As a woman, it’s almost like I’m able to chart my own course in tandem with the women I read.

In Spinster, Bolick doesn’t shy away from the questions many of us have asked, and are probably still asking. What is my place in the world? What is my place in the world as a woman? What is my place in the world as a woman who may or may not see marriage as something I care to pursue? Her book is deliciously structured around 5 incredibly successful “spinsters” (literary and history buffs alike will rejoice) who served as inspirations as she navigated through life, love, and loss. The 5 women (writers Maeve BrennanNeith BoyceEdith WhartonCharlotte Perkins Gilman and Edna St Vincent Millay) were considered her “awakeners” and provide a unique cultural and historical edge to the memoir.

Bolick challenges culture norms that insists women must be married and mothers first, and then fill in the gaps if possible, later.  She writes:

You are born, you grow up, you become a wife. But what if it wasn’t this way? What if a girl grew up like a boy, with marriage an abstract, someday thought, a thing to think about when she became an adult, a thing she could do, or not do, depending? What would that look and feel like?
― Spinster

Spinster is a challenging read, but one that is worth the time. Especially for women. Especially for women who are consistently pushing back against what society deems appropriate for them. You know the type 😉 (read, me)

3.) Sense and SensibilityJane Austen

This book forever holds a special place in my heart/mind/soul. It’s one of those books that, because I began reading it during the fall, I instantly associate it with the season. d0a7a26f5f9cf0347c676788360b92edDo you have any books like that?

For those who’ve been living under a large rock, Sense and Sensibility was written by the incomparable Jane Austen, and, in my humble opinion, is one of her best books. I’m too  much of a wuss to say it’s her best book because I’m constantly vacillating between S&S and Mansfield Park.  It’s also a book with a beautiful film companion (Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, you know just the bottom of the barrel kind of cast) that stays true to the book.

It’s a lovely tale of two sisters as they try and navigate through their family, monetary, and love drama after they are left with little money and barely any prospects for marriage (which, as you know, during that time was seen as basically a woman’s purpose for being).

The relationship between Marianne and Willoughby is one for the books. If you love drama, like Real Housewives chair flipping level drama, then they are the couple for you.  The other sister, Elinor, is maybe one of the most honest, kindest characters I’ve ever read (right up there with Atticus Finch in TKAM) and the way she navigates through her environment, her distressed love, and her station in life is really very beautiful.  If you’re looking for a wonderfully written work that will whisk you away from your everyday life, Sense and Sensibility is for you. It’s also a nice dip into the Jane Austen pond, for those who’ve only read Pride and Prejudice (not judging you…but kind of judging you).

So there you have it. Three books to take you through the lovely fall months. Which books do you enjoy reading in the fall? Have you read any of these three?