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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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.

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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:

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If This, Then That or Your Ultimate Guide for What Show to Watch (Netflix Edition)

Well hi there, I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day Weekend, and (for the non-vegetarians out there) ate your weight in meat.

Hamburgers for dazzze.

One thing about me that you may have ascertained from reading the blog thus far is I harbor a deep, longing love for the telly. Television, though slowly killing my brain, has been a great companion to me over the years. I find myself becoming really (unhealithly) tied to TV characters so much so that I remember ugly crying in middle school when I watched the last episode of the Wonder Years.

“B-b-b-ut I need more!!!” I recall wailing.

Yeah, totally normal reaction.

Since I’m an enabler and misery loves company, I’m going to recommend shows like other shows you’ve most likely binged on via Netflix. That way, the heartache once the final episode is watched can be soothed, not by a box of Hot N’ Spicy Cheez-Its, but by more TV.

If you’ve already watched the recommended show, then these options can be switched. I’m a genius like that.

If you like Scandal

Handled.

Handled.

If you’re like the thousands of people who bring a notepad and pen to the couch and furiously write down Olivia Pope’s incredible outfits only to realize that they and she are out of your league—oh is that just me?—then you know Ms. Pope’s insane “handling” of all the things is tough to resist. Scandal’s fast paced D.C. politics, the cliff hanger after cliff hanger after laptop screaming cliff hanger, and, yes, the lip-quivering relationship between Fitz and Olivia all combine to form one of the most addictive show on Netflix. Olivia Pope is a boss lady with a capital B.  I absolutely love how she manages to get more done in an hour than I do in a productive month. I compare my relationship with Scandal to my relationship with Uggs. For a while I snootily thought they were nice, just not for me, but then after sliding my feet into the oh so soft, luxurious sheep skin booties, the next thing I knew I was walking out of a gas station with Cheeto puffs and Uggs ala Britney, and refusing to take them off even though, you know, I had a job.

Stretched that analogy pretty thin.

Point being, Scandal is a great show, and if you want more delicious Scandal-esq drama…

Watch House of Cards

In my humble opinion, House of Cards is the best show out there right now. Watching Frank Underwood’s twisted, grueling rise to power despite his adversaries, despite things like the law or common decency, is surprisingly gratifying and a little terrifying. The similarities between Scandal and HOC’s cut-throat setting of Washington D.C. are undeniable. People are slimy, politics are shifty, and everyone gets. theirs. yafeel?

ruthless pragmatism

Ruthless pragmatism.

Although some believe HOC goes a bit down after the first season, I see it more as the first season is so insanely good and different from any other show out there, that it’s nearly impossible to trump. Watching the creators of HOC try to top the drama cornucopia that is season one, is pretty fun, though.

Also, I would love to see Claire Underwood (Frank’s fashionably icy wife) and Olivia Pope have a stand off of wills because both of those women are so cunning, so powerful, so intelligent, and so very fabulous that I feel like I’d turn to stone just watching the two of them in the same room. Similar to Scandal, the plot of HOC takes you down a winding labyrinth.  HOC is definitely darker, most likely because it doesn’t have the lively motown score that Scandal playfully employs. If you in any way feel intrigued by the human condition and how far people are willing to go to get what they want, then tune into HOC and thank me later.

If you like New Girl...

anigif_enhanced-buzz-23971-1375453571-5Who’s that girl? It’s your best friend who you’re obsessed with, Jess. New Girl is a show that I can come back to again and again. I find myself laughing at the roommates’ nutty lives with the same satisfaction I did the first time I watched it.  What makes New Girl great, is the characters.  Zoe Deschanel’s portrayal of Jess is so easy breezy, you feel like it’s gotta be life imitating art imitating life. Seeing Jess interact with people so very different from herself is sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes shocking, but always hilarious.

The show is about roommates trying (and usually failing) to survive as adults, a concept that I can totally get behind. Jess is the smart, wacky voice of reason when it seems the rest of her roommates will crumble without her telling them not to plunger the sink or to stop being so grumpy about every.stinking.thing (Nick). It’s the characters that hold the, sometimes overzealous plot, together.  Winston is the scapegoat friend who isn’t funny and then suddenly is the most hilarious character on the show. Schmidt is the curly haired nerotic after my own heart who loves pop culture, ze lay-deez, and himself, above all.  Nick is a hopeless doof that you can’t help but root for even as he bumbles through life and love without money, health insurance, or common sense. If there’s a warm space in your heart for New Girl then…

Watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Y’all I finished Kimmy Schmidt in a day. It was a Saturday. I think. Anyway, the show is tough to stop watching for a similar reason to New Girl–the characters.

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My main man, Titus.

Yes, the plot is pretty genius–Kimmy lived a good chunk of her life in an Indiana bunker after a charismatic preacher tells her and three other women that the world has ended. The series opens after Kimmy leaves the bunker and tries to make her way in the most difficult place for an adjusting “mole woman,” New York City. Even though I love the plot, I love the plucky, unflappable, determined characterization of Kimmy Schmidt more. Seeing her adjust to the information age after having been given the wrong information for the last 15 years is heartbreakingly hilarious.

You can’t talk about Kimmy Schmidt without mentioning Titus Andromedon, a striving star in the making who is one part crazy, one part self-centered, and an entire helping of divalicious. Titus is Kimmy’s roommate, and the trouble they find while trying to survive the big city life is addictive.  Music videos get made and self-actualization almost happens. Oh and Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline Voorhies is everything, especially if you liked 30 Rock, especially if you know any self-centered rich middle aged women going through a midlife crisis.

Now get to watching, loves!

What are your favorite Netflix shows on which to binge shamelessly?

Part 2 coming attacha soon…

Phot Cred:

Image 1: http://www.hammerandgem.com/get-look-olivia-pope-scandal/

Image 2: http://www.salon.com/2013/03/12/why_is_francis_underwood_a_democrat/

Image 3: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/the-27-most-relatable-jessica-day-quotes#.rjYDRgAQV

Image 4: http://www.tvinsider.com/article/1139/unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-titus-burgess/