House of Cards: Season 6 has a strong female ensemble of central characters played by commanding actresses. To its strength the show was not marketed as a Gal’s Getaway or in traditional female ensemble trope. The inter-relationships between the powerful female characters drive a narrative not limited to the dialogue of pop-feminist critique or Queen Latifah punchlines. The female characters engage in scandal and power politics on domestic and global fronts. References to male dominance are laughed away as little problems to be managed. The discussions are not about men, children, and marriage but mostly career, power, politics, and legacy.
Season 6 marked actor Kevin Spacey’s firing from the show due to sexual allegations coinciding with the #metoo movement. This real world cultural episode begged an unintended socio-political gesture of feminist goodwill from the show’s writers and producers. They had to write out the lead male character who in real life had been fired from the show for alleged crimes of a nature that was being spotlighted in the cultural climate. The result was President Claire Hale (Underwood) played by Robin Wright in perhaps one of the strongest examples of leadership and power of any central character in film and TV history.
President Underwood “weaponizes” feminist rhetoric and Identity politics as a utility of power. At times even staring into the camera narrating disdain for the face-value of the actual ideology. It unnerves her to have pretend to be oppressed or a victim of male-dominance. Claire Underwood is not a feminist. She is a capitalist and a dictator. She seeks power and alliance from any means through any means. She is self-liberated through the denial of victim hood.
Does the very notion of a female ensemble film condemn the narrative to marketing, trend, and perceived audience desire?
What are the cultural implications of the most powerful female character on televisiondespising feminism while exploiting its momentum?
Does President Underwood’s gender-less approach to politics (inter-relationships; global; national; cultural…) enable her character beyond the limits of a token feminist ideal?