I’m Leaving You

In a late scene from House of Cards third season Claire Underwood knocks at the door of a stressed mother to ask for her vote in the upcoming elections. She comes in to find out the sort of life awaiting behind motherhood, chaos and loneliness. The mother dreams with the possibility of all of it gone, her husband and even her own child, a chance to “start anew”. And that’s paradoxically (since her sacrifice was precisely motherhood) Claire’s last straw, the image of a desperate woman renouncing to her happiness for her family’s sake, a life of nothingness just so others can keep up with their goals.

Frank Underwood is no Uncle Sam, he’s actually more of a father figure, the top of the patriarchal state and society. Just think about the relationship between Frank and his underlings: Doug enters in the Oval Office and leans over Frank’s lap yearning for forgiveness like a kid. Meechum is completely submissive to his “father’s” will and Yates only avoids becoming his next “son” after really knowing Claire. Because if this season has got something right is that Claire’s goals were ultimately not the same as her husband’s as we were led to think in the first two years. The Underwood’s binomial is broken.

Why has Claire’s abortion always been such a source of shame for her? We may believe it would be a big issue in a very conservative society (familywise) such as the American and we do have noticed the relevance of the children in the episode centered around a political debate with Frank, Jackie and Duran. However, some moments from this last batch of episodes have proven that there may be something else. We saw Claire in complete distress after hearing Doug may have leaked the truth about her abortion to Frank’s political opponent, and we saw her truthfully smiling reading to a group of little kids, enjoying herself (something we rarely see) until Frank made an appearance and her face changed completely. We obviously sense how relevant the loss of her motherhood was for her beyond the trauma of undergoing an abortion. It was not an easy sacrifice but in the patriarchal family and political scheme that defines the western world, women’s goals keep being subjugated to their husband’s.

But Claire Underwood has had enough. Her newly found fulfillment as UN ambassador was cut short in order to, once again, satisfy her husband. Their lack of understanding was first hinted in a grandiloquent exchange, “I shouldn’t have made you ambassador” Frank reproached her, “I shouldn’t have made you president”, she replied. And, later, it was a third party who finally showed her the reality behind her deal with Frank: “Legacy is their only child” says the first chapter of Yates’ book, and what a legacy we may think, but it will never be their legacy (not the one she wanted nor her legacy), History will only remember his legacy. The supposed biography about President Underwood was ultimately revealed to be about Claire. The supposed series about Frank Underwood’s rise to power was ultimately revealed to be about Claire’s emancipation of the patriarchy.

“I don’t need your help, I want to earn it on my own”. “I’m leaving you”.

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J.

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