More Travels & House of Cards

Sorry folks, I’m off travelling again, this time to Nantes for a few days. Friday is Bastille Day and a public holiday in France, so I’m turning it into a 4-day weekend.

To keep you entertained, I’ll leave you with a post from last July on what I thought of seasons 1-4 of House of Cards. It may explain why I’ve not bothered watching Season 5 (spoilers follow).

I recently finished the fourth and most recent season of the American TV series House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and nobody else who can act.  Several people had recommended it to me, with one or two saying it was “amazing”.  Perhaps I should have been forewarned by the fact that two of these people were women of a feminist persuasion.

Seasons 1 and 2 weren’t bad, and depicted an utterly unscrupulous and ruthless Kevin Spacey manipulating situations and people as he wormed his way from Democratic party whip to Vice President and finally to President of the United States.  What I found most interesting about the first two seasons was that it showed what I suspect is the true nature of politics, i.e. politicians making decisions which affect millions of people purely to further their own personal ambitions.  The series lays bare the corrupt and unprincipled nature of politicians and politics for all to see, yet the show is loved by people who favour big government and believe politicians should have ever-more involvement in people’s lives.  I know at least one fan who decries the antics of Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood yet intends to vote for Hillary Clinton in November.  Go figure.

But somewhere between Seasons 2 and 3 the feminists got hold of the script and effectively made the show all about Frank Underwood’s wife, played by Robin Wright.  She played a reasonable supporting role in the first two seasons, ably assisting her husband in his rise to the top (but also betraying him in more ways than one), but during Season 3 she revealed her own political ambitions and contrived to land herself the position of US ambassador to the UN.  During the nomination process her opponents pointed to her utter lack of experience yet she obtains the position anyway thanks to her husband’s prerogative to just appoint somebody of his choosing – whereupon she promptly makes a complete idiot of herself and the United States by being played like a fiddle by the Russians.  I thought at this point she’d be relegated to a supporting role again, her character having been shown to lack experience or competence in a political role –  as her opponents were saying (and any reasonably viewer thinking) all along.

But no.  The feminists who had hijacked the script were having none of it.  Season 4 saw Frank Underwood lying in a coma having been shot in an assassination attempt, a weak VP in temporary charge, and First Lady Claire Underwood running about doing what she likes as though she had some constitutional authority to do so.  A strong, experienced, and somewhat ruthless female secretary of state allows herself to be bullied by Claire into submission, to the ridiculous extent that it is Claire who is sent into a room alone with the Russian president to negotiate a solution to some strategic issue of vital importance.  And of course, Claire gets the notoriously stubborn Putin-a-like to capitulate by browbeating him in a manner in which I suspect feminists think women should speak to their husbands.  As the season advances, Claire finds herself able to order members of the presidential staff around on whim, involving herself in matters of national security even to the point of being in the situation room, and not a single person in the administration raises a squeak in protest.

This wouldn’t be so irritating were it not for the fact that each scene of Claire’s brilliance takes on exactly the same form.  She wears the same arse-hugging style of dress or skirt in every shot, she manages a single facial expression throughout the entire series, and for each pivotal scene the only thing that changes are the words being spoken.  It quickly becomes repetitive, and not a little tedious.  But not content with that, the feminists have to ramp it up by making Claire the object of seemingly every key man’s sexual desire as well.  In Seasons 1 and 2 she is shagging a rather hip British photographer who is world famous, the type that would in real life be hanging around models from Eastern Europe.  But in House of Cards he’s pining after the ageing wife of a US senator.  She finds herself fending off the advances of the (divorced) Russian president, who tells Frank that she is truly beautiful, or something like that.  Because prominent Russians are well known for flattering American women and have difficulty picking up stunners back home.  Uh-huh.  In Season 4 Claire is shagging a famous author, a younger man hired by Frank to write their speeches or biographies, or something.  When Frank finds out he doesn’t mind, and this ruthless motherfucker who committed two murders in his ascendancy to the White House doesn’t just accept it, but gives the couple his blessing.  Again, the idea that a famous author would fall in love with the older wife of the US president instead of having a beautiful, loving partner of his own doesn’t even get questioned.  Despite various betrayals on her part of her husband’s political maneuverings plus the aforementioned infidelities, Frank wakes from his coma praising her to the heavens, forgiving her in full, and stating in unequivocal terms that she is the most important person in the entire series.  Even the wife of the Republican presidential nominee is forced by the scriptwriters to shower her with gushing praise during a visit to the White House.  Season 4 ends with her being nominated as the VP on her husband’s ticket, having seen off seasoned and ruthless female opponents by making hackneyed speeches in a figure-hugging dress.

The audience, by having it rammed down their throats every episode, is expected to unconditionally accept that Claire Underwood is a brilliant politician, responsible for every success her husband has achieved, desired sexually by every man who meets her, and is easily capable as a president herself (there is a Season 5 on the way).  By contrast, despite a brief affair with a young journalist in Season 1, her husband Frank is a greying, cuckolded, semi-invalid who owes her everything.  It is the definition of tedious, and I almost didn’t make it to the end of the series.  Watching this rubbish during the current buildup to the US presidential election, I got the feeling that the scriptwriters were fantasizing about what Michelle Obama could do in her position as First Lady.  Now I see the progressive media praising her speech at the Democratic National Convention for all its worth, I am wondering if a section of the American liberal left haven’t confused real-life politics for a TV show.

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17 thoughts on “More Travels & House of Cards

  1. “First Lady Claire Underwood running about doing what she likes as though she had some constitutional authority to do so.” Do remember that when Pres Wilson was helpless from a stroke his wife and doctor ran the Executive, successfully disguising his condition from Congress.

  2. Just like “Yes, [prime]minister”, they tell you to your face how they screw you over and people think it’s fiction.

  3. The audience, by having it rammed down their throats every episode, is expected to unconditionally accept that Claire Underwood is a […]

    There’s a term for that in geekdom: the Mary Sue. It used to be risible and confined to bad fanfic; now it’s rampant in popular media. The thing to remember is that TV is about ratings, not writing; and TV is written for women because that’s who watches it. Broadly, women watch TV dramas, men watch sports and movies.

    Now even so, I’d be embarrassed if a show pandered to my demographic as shamelessly as most TV shows pander to women who have never accomplished anything.

  4. his wife and doctor ran the Executive

    While that’s true, it’s also true that this was done with the knowledge and cooperation of the White House staff and no small number of senators and congressmen. I have no doubt that the HoC plotlines are drawing directly from this incident, but there’s no way that kind of naked usurpation of power could happen as a one-woman show. Note that Edith Wilson had to maintain the fiction that she was making no decisions of her own but merely acting as a form of secretary, prioritizing the information President Wilson reviewed.

  5. Hmmm… having watched season 5 of House of Cardigans, I have to say I don’t find Robin Wright as unpalatable as all that. Yes, she is a clothes horse but she is slowly rising through the substrata. I won’t issue spoilers here suffice to say rising goes on apace.

    One line in season 5 worthy of note: A former political rock on his way permanently out of the door turns to Claire Underwood and tells her the missing initials after her name are N and T. As has already emerged in the series Frank Underwood’s initials can be regarded as Fuck U then maybe there is a theme here…

    In a very Dickensian way ‘Underwood’ is a great name for someone who operates entirely in the dark, insect-crawling undergrowth of Washington.

    The one thing that irks me about HoC however is that no one in this fictional world notices what Spacey and his henchman, Stamper, are up to. Yes, there are a couple of nosey journalists (which may actually be a real indictment of today’s media state in that they either can’t or won’t see what is happening) but they aren’t a direct threat. Spacey and confederates (see what I did there, mentioning Frank Underwood’s connections to the American civil war? Go me!) have pretty much free rein and while politics is as dirty as hell there are apparently plenty of people waiting to leap on to the gravy train even if they get shoved off again real fast. Maybe that is exactly how it is. Dunno, I merely watch these things with mouth a little open and hardly any drooling.

    In some ways HoC is slightly up on West Wing as the whole basis of all Aaron Sorkin’s writing is that all good people instantly know what is in the mind of the boss and leap into swift and effective 44-minute action. This was noticeable when the West Wing chief of staff would simply say “fix it” and that’s all it takes to explain a bad situation. At least HoC doesn’t get that. In HoC only Stamper and Mrs Underwood have that telepathic connection with FU. In which case HoC is 3 parts unlikely to West Wing’s 10 unlikely virtuous angels.

    But if you want to see how shitty Democrat politics are you would be hard pressed to beat how the struggling lawyer character Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife whose run for political office is shat upon by the Dems with such a force that she basically loses just about everything. The husband and wife combo that wrote The Good Wife are probably Dems themselves but essentially they could see that their favourite party is all crap.

    But yes, it’s all femdom these days.

    Oh yes, and Fargo is way better as already mentioned. Closely followed by Better call Saul.

  6. ” The series lays bare the corrupt and unprincipled nature of politicians and politics for all to see, yet the show is loved by people who favour big government and believe politicians should have ever-more involvement in people’s lives. ”

    This seems incongruous until you realise the true nature of people who desire Big Government.

    They are mostly blind to the monstrosity of giving evil people political power because they cast themselves as the one in power, and of course, under their wise and benign hand, the world would be a wonderful and just place. They can keep this frame right up until the moment the state machine tortures them into confession and stand them in front of a firing squad in a damp basement.

  7. Just to add, the real magic of the original House of Cards was that it cast the audience as a co-conspirator. This US series seems to have only dabbled with that, and it’s been long since lost now Claire Underwood seems to have become the main focus. The first series was promising, but it’s quickly become a dud since then.

  8. I watched Seasons 1 & 2 and started 3 but lost interest. I did wonder if it got better but clearly it got excruciatingly worse! Robin Wright was gorgeous in ‘The Princess Bride’ but is hardly a screen siren nowadays. It used to be old men in American movies that still pulled the hot young chicks and as a viewer I’d be thinking, ‘Yeah right’. Now, with feminism the order of the day, it is the older women pulling the hunky guys. Too funny! Ah, silly gullible women.

  9. “Now even so, I’d be embarrassed if a show pandered to my demographic as shamelessly as most TV shows pander to women who have never accomplished anything.”

    I dunno, I like the Walking Dead. I fancy that I’d fit right in.

  10. You’re not missing much with season 5, Tim. Russian president is as good fun as ever, but otherwise it’s turned into a daft soap.

  11. There’s a term for that in geekdom: the Mary Sue.

    Ah, I came across that term when writing a rather rambling review of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium, cross-referencing a particularly awful book I’d read back in university. Somebody used the term in an Amazon review, and I wondered what it meant.

    The thing to remember is that TV is about ratings, not writing; and TV is written for women because that’s who watches it. Broadly, women watch TV dramas, men watch sports and movies.

    Indeed.

    Now even so, I’d be embarrassed if a show pandered to my demographic as shamelessly as most TV shows pander to women who have never accomplished anything.

    Me too. I have found that one of the drawbacks of trying to write a good plot of my own is I find weaknesses and holes in those of others, particularly TV series. Some of them you could drive a coach and horses through. Cliched characters are a particular bugbear.

  12. Time to continue your jazz education.

    If a genre of music requires an education, explanation, or somebody going off on a ten minute monologue which begins with “Ah, but it depends on what you mean by….” then it is probably best avoided.

    I’ll watch the videos though, and see if I can spot a banjo. 😉

  13. Since you are in town can you do me a favour and check out this nearby gaff. If the building front is south facing and the orangery checks out okay, make an unconditional quick settlement cash offer of €500k on my behalf.

    Nice pile. They only accept French francs, though. Traditionalists, it seems.

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