by S.A. Prince @_saprince
Claire Underwood, Frank Underwood’s wife in the Netflix original series House of Cards is one of my favorite series’ characters. Each new season Beau Willimon, the House of Card’s writer, adds depth, quirks, and twist and turns to Claire Underwood. Season 4 was just released on March 4th, and I’ve already binge watched most of it. Currently at Episode 11. In honor of Claire Underwood’s greatness, which many HOC fans live vicariously through, I’m going to explain her character in detail to the plebeian HOC watcher.
Claire Underwood is ruthless. She’s a dominant and fierce woman, certainly a champion of modern day feminism. She knows what she wants, and is willing to do what’s necessary to further the Underwood’s cause. Claire willingly goes along with Frank’s agenda until Season 3 which is her Coming of Age.
I’m going to do my best to strictly speak to her character and relationships, as to avoid any plot giveaway to those who are not caught up. Through this character description you’ll learn about attraction, and the curious among you will apply these to your own relationships.
The most important relationship in House of Cards is between Claire and Frank. Claire and Frank are BOTH dominant people. Their love is contractual in a sense, strictly about business. Here’s something that you’ve probably heard before, “Opposites attract.” That statement is certainly true. Opposites attract because it is through our opposite that we become whole.
Dominant people are not opposite, and do not attract. Dominant people come together and work best under contracts and in business. It is a “higher purpose” that causes dominant people to stick together. This applies in every aspect of life, whether it is in government, business and even sports. When that “higher purpose” is no longer there, dominant people will go their separate ways and tackle a new obstacle. The Underwood’s higher purpose is best explained by this cartoon. Click here to watch the 10 second clip.
Dominant relationships in sports are very easy to see. Shaq and Kobe. Lebron James and Pat Riley. Neither of these tandems were willing to take a back seat to their partner, so they lasted for a short amount of time. After they won their championships, these dominant people went their own way.
Now, Claire’s marriage to Frank was an act of pragmatism. Frank did not promise her happiness, but did say this the following.
“Claire if all you want is happiness, say no. I’m not gonna give you a couple of kids, and count the days until retirement. I promise you freedom from that. I promise you’ll never be bored.”
And boring is not what their relationship has been. Claire even said that Frank is the only one who understood her, and of course he does, as they are both dominant types. She then goes on to tell their terminally ill secret service agent Steve (we never learn his last name) that Frank “knows what he wants.” It was his boldness that won over Claire. One of my favorite quotes from Niccolo Machiaveli explains this truth.
“I hold strongly to this: that it is better to be impetuous than circumspect; because fortune is a woman and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her.”
Frank and Claire don’t have much of a sex life. As a matter-of-fact, they get sensual pleasure from preying on the weak. I remember Frank and Claire having sex twice, and both of these “sessions” speak volumes.
First, is when Frank and Claire have sex with Meechum(S2: E11) , their head of security after the death of Steve. They both prey on Meechum like a lion would a gazelle, conquering him.
Second, is when Claire holds a position of dominance to Frank. This time it’s only Frank and Claire. Frank is completely demoralized and passive. This is one of the few times we see Frank this weak, and Claire has sex with Frank on the floor, in what seemingly was a favor (S3: E2: 24 minutes in). We immediately see life return to Frank and he regains his dominant form.
Claire’s dominance shines through in her interactions with her love interests. Her true sexual attraction is to those who are passive. It is her passive love interests that complete her, but they do not satisfy her need core need for power. Claire’s passive love interest are Steve (S1: E6: 35 minutes in), Adam Galloway (S1: E10: 23 minutes in), and Tom Yates (S4: E10: 41 minutes in).
I won’t go into much detail. Go watch these scenes, and look for her dominant cues. She dominates these men. Look for physical cues.
I’ll give you an example. In Claire’s “foreplay” scene with Tom Yates, Yates (a passive) is trying to console her. He puts his hand over hers. With tears in her eyes, Claire removes her hand from under his and puts it on top, clearly establishing dominance. Watch these scenes and enjoy!
Claire does not get along with dominant types at all. Here’s something you ought to commit to memory. Passive types often get along well, while dominant types do not. In a pack of lions there is one dominant male, while every other lion is submissive. When a male is old enough to challenge the dominant male for control of the pride, the two male lions fight with the loser dying or being banished. The same occurs among humans. Remember, dominant types only get along on a need-to basis.
With that in mind, let’s look at Claire’s relationship with her parents. Claire’s father is passive, while her mother is dominant. Claire loved her father. They got along very well. Claire was the apple of her father’s eye (we never see this, but it is alluded to in S4). Claire does not get along with her mother. The two struggle for power for much of Season 4. Watch their power struggle in Episode 3, 8 minutes and 45 seconds in. Again, watch for Claire’s physical cues exuding dominance, along with her mother’s. It is truly like watching two lions fight for control of the pride.
As a matter-of-fact, I will explain the physical cues to you, because I really want you to understand and enjoy this masterpiece.
Claire walks in, while her mother is sitting. Immediately, this is establishing Claire’s dominance as she is looking down own her mother. Claire begins to accuse her mother (Elizabeth), the large space in between them adds to the tension of this moment. Claire’s hands are clasped together, signifying that she is not there to have a discussion, and is not open to one. Elizabeth shrugs her shoulder and denies the accusation. Claire now closes the distance between the two of them, and begins to search Elizabeth’s vanity. Elizabeth continues assert herself through denial, but Claire finds the earrings inside the vanity. Claire upon finding the earrings postures up he mother. The camera cuts back to Elizabeth who is now standing up. Claire and Elizabeth are now eye to eye, as Elizabeth is looking to exert her dominance, and exert she does. Claire not acknowledging this walks away, and in a last ditch effort to preserve her dominance Elizabeth calls to Claire. Claire halfway acknowledges her this time, slightly turning her head to Elizabeth. Elizabeth says, “When you leave today, I don’t want you coming back.” Claire now having turned her torso three-quarters of the way to her mother says, “Oh, I’ll come and go as I please, Mother.” The three-quarter turn is important. If Claire turned all the way around, that would said that Claire sees her mother as an equal. But Claire doesn’t see her mother as an equal. The three-quarter turns says as much. I respect you, but you are not my equal. Claire then walks away out of focus, the sound of her heels an echoing victory song. And that’s the scene. It lasts less than a MINUTE!
Claire Underwood is an incredible character, incredible enough for me to write about. I hope this helps you understand her better, and if you don’t watch House of Cards yet, what are you waiting for?! It’s some of the best writing I’ve seen in a quite some time.