Both female main characters from House of Cards and The Americans have lived similar traumatic experiences with unexpected consequences in the last episodes. Death, treason, marriage… what else do they have in common?
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.
“Let me tell ya something. Nowadays, everybody’s gotta go to shrinks, and counselors, and go on “Sally Jessy Raphael” and talk about their problems. What happened to Gary Cooper? The strong, silent type. That was an American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do. See, what they didn’t know was once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings that they wouldn’t be able to shut him up! And then it’s dysfunction this, and dysfunction that, and dysfunction vaffancul!” – Tony Soprano
Modern cinema took off with two stares into camera: Harriet Andersson challenged the audience to judge her for her new affair in Summer with Monika (Bergman, 1953), and Jean Seberg did the same thing seven years later in À bout de souffle (Godard), probably a direct quotation of the previous film, when in its last shot she pretended to be something she was not. The look at the camera was thus established as a breach in form, the characters acknowledge their own performative act, related also to a subversion of the social and genre conventions, both women betray their lovers. Cinema would never be the same again, self-consciousness and reflexivity would become the main features of contemporary cinema, from films about the essence of cinema and acting (Persona) to studies of the generic and the thin barrier between reality and fiction disappearing in our current society (Synecdoche New York). Viewer, actor and character converge into one single entity.