The Villainization of Claire Underwood
Abby Norman

I think that it is not necessary for Claire Underwood to be a naive, warm woman to be a hero in some sense. Besides witches there are not other instances of women as the villain that pop up to my mind now and I think it is an interesting view of womanhood to consider villains that have the moral complexity of Claire U. As you pointed out Steve Jobs is an example of the revered (and reviled) male that had no consideration for others when pursuing his goals but it is respected for his extraordinaire productivity.

Of the House of Cards’ characters I also find Claire U to be one of the most interesting ones (if not the more interesting). Another unusual ‘hero’ of the series is Doug Stamper, for example. He also should be hated by his blind allegiance to Frank U, but I find myself rooting for his happiness and I suffered when he almost lost his boss in the last season. Obviously there is a lot of self-interest in him of the worst kind. But the way the show shows his emotional complexity and attachment even to his victims is somehow moving.

Claire U maybe the example of a human character that is not heroic by the measure of selflessness, but she is a hero of human richness as she has her own agenda that she pursues with the same manipulative mastery of her husband. She was the main character of the last season and I think feminism also needs interesting fictional villains that have goals that have the same scope than male anti-heroes. In the case of Claire U is political power and the desire of being a person of historical importance. This is one of these narcissistic flaws that a lot of males in power possess and nobody thinks less of them because of it if they have some dazzling abilities and habits.

Of course I am not an apologist for psychopaths and power corrupted humans and the problems they create. If in the universe of House of Cards Frank U is ever forced to relinquish power and pay for his crimes, she should be punished too. But you can have some empathy for the psyche of the person that is inebriated by power and loses her moral compass because of that. If Frank and Claire are both rotten, this is somehow more feminist than a fictional world where Frank is the rotten apple that corrupts the innocent Claire. But House of Cards is not -in my opinion- black and white and you can see a lot of mad (as in amazingly good) political skills in Claire. For example, when she handles the vice-president and the negotiation with the Russian president when Frank is hospitalized.

I also agree that the writers are into something with a first (fictional) couple without kids. In our current political environment this is sort of impossible (the Underwoods were not popularly elected), but it is interesting that they juggle the possibility of them not having kids on purpose to prioritize their political dreams.

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