If Claire Underwood Is An Angel

A few of the TV shows that tell the stories of the politically rich and powerful– and their women.

Meaghan Murphy

April 22, 2014 | The Future | Print #3

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN FULL IN OUR 3RD PRINT ISSUE, THE FUTURE. TO PURCHASE A COPY, CLICK HERE.

 

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Claire and Frank glide into the Kennedy Center lobby—a soaring orchestra scoring the stoic couple. Frank asks, “So I’m curious, are we patrons, benefactors, or lepers?” Claire responds, “Believe it or not, we’re angels.”

Angels, Gods. Game makers. Frank’s chapter ends with the hit-and-run dog killer picked up by police. The second chapter begins with Frank smearing barbecue sauce over the front page of the Washington “Herald,” spreading red over a picture of the freshly minted president’s inauguration wave, like fresh blood.

It makes sense, then, if Claire is an angel, that she is unlike any “strong female character” I’ve seen on television. Claire is the ruthless executive director of a clean water NGO, of all things. Yet she is just as tied to cutthroat politics as her husband. Her organization, big business donors, lobbyist obligations, and personal ambition tether her to the power brokering schemes of her husband. Yet she is not without her tropes. She’s the ice queen, and a good one at that. As the sexual politics of House of Cards more corrosively tied to the power politics— Claire’s character softens, humanizes. She’s a powerful force on screen, to be sure, but there is something about her that is lacking. Again, something is unhuman.

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Illustration by Ilenia Madelaire.

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Meaghan is a lady journo who rejects the concept of lady journalism. She’d like to think that Rory Gilmore was not the overwhelming influence on her career choices, so let’s go with Susan Sontag and Terry Gross. If you can’t tell already, feminist rants are kind of her thing. Her other interests include planning elaborate dinner parties that she never throws and making frequent trips to West Chicago in search of the perfect taco.

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