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House of Cards Reminds Us to Be Careful of What We Wish For

I can justify my poor TV watching habits. Whether it is the boardroom in Celebrity Apprentice or the fitting room in Say Yes to the Dress, they all offer lessons in effective and less than effective communication. When I hold up House of Cards as a teaching moment, it is not for the murder, backstabbing or social climbing. It is for the observations we can apply to our more mundane lives.

In Season 1 The New York Times described Claire Underwood as the conniving wife. She was a woman “who will stop at nothing to conquer everything.” Hank Stuever of The Washington Post described her as an “ice-queen wife.” [5] The Independent’s Sarah Hughes echoed this description, saying she is so dedicated to the couple’s schemes that it is clear she will execute them herself if Frank wavers.

In Season 2 Claire “is still ruthlessly pursuing her own agenda as well as her husband’s”. When Gillian, a pregnant former employee, returns from season 1 to fight for health care, Claire states “I am willing to let your child wither and die inside you, if that’s what’s required.”

In Season 3 she becomes this spineless wimpy piece of partially cooked spaghetti unable to articulate her thinking any more effectively than a 19th century debutante. Will the real Claire please come back!

The real Claire, or the Claire of Seasons 1 & 2, would have had to have been pried out of the White House using the jaws of death. That Claire would never have willingly walked out of the Oval Office in her stiletto heels. This season she became this wishy-washy unfamiliar spoiled child, who when she lost the last chair in Musical Chairs, she simply took her purse and left. The Claire from 1 & 2, the Claire I thought was the real Claire, would have fought for that chair till death do you part.

Perhaps we need to see that even the most conniving ice-queen in the world still can be conflicted. That is an OK lesson to learn. Rarely are people all good or all bad, except for Hitler.

My problem with her character in this season of House of Cards, is how she articulated her feelings. I understand that the most articulate person may be less effective at times, but she was so infantile that I can’t put all the parts together into one piece called Claire. To complain that there was only one chair and it wasn’t hers, is like a child complaining when they lost the final chair in Musical Chairs.

Claire knew all along that it would come down to one chair. In the child’s game, their disappointment may come when they realize they lost the last chair. Claire knew all along there was one chair and one puppeteer. What it appears she lost sight of was her power as the puppeteer. In many ways, she had more power than her husband in the chair. He found out that as president he was more marginalized than he was as congressman or vice-president.

I binge-watched Season 3 but I didn’t love it. I didn’t like the time spent on Doug and I didn’t like seeing one of the few strong woman characters on TV turned into jello. Even though all of us are jello at times. Her jello should have been articulated better.

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About Leslie Ungar

A communication expert, Leslie ignites clients and audiences to believe in the singular conviction that they are their own best solution. She creates a personalized strategy to electrify the journey to performance potential through developing new communication patterns and implementing methods that make things happen and help executives, business owners, leaders, and sales teams prosper.…