The sixth season of Netflix’s political thriller House of Cards, is thankfully the last. In its final season, this once great show has devolved into absurdity, self-parody, and dare I say… unintentional misogyny. The show’s lead actor, Kevin Spacey, playing President Francis Underwood, had to be written off the show after allegations came to light during the #metoo movement that he had attempted to force himself on an underage male actor. House of Cards had already been playing up a plot line in which the first lady, Claire (played by Robin Wright), would become president, so at first glance it wouldn’t be difficult to write Spacey off the show.
Despite whatever skeletons he may have in his closet, Spacey delivered amazing performances throughout the series, depicting the dark and unseemly side of politics. Francis Underwood was evil, but he was also highly competent. The equally talented Robin Wright stepped up to fill those shoes, but something went massively awry that has nothing to do with her acting abilities. The direction the show chose to take in season six was one of attempted female empowerment but came across like the giggles of internet trolls who harass women online.
Claire Underwood is shown to be a pregnant emotional wreck of a woman — one who is out maneuvered, treated like a door mat by men and women alike, and who will launch a nuclear strike simply to prove to the world that she has enough gurl power to do the job. House of Cards was largely a show about men acting like dicks, so it would be no surprise if season six was about women acting like bitches. But on the show, Claire doesn’t act like some alpha-female she-bitch who is kicking ass and taking names.
As president, she gets manipulated by men and women alike. In one scene, a corporate megalomaniac actually holds her hands and has her sign a bill he wants her signature on. She goes along with it, like a well groomed victim. In another scene she pretends to cry, ostensibly playing the weak woman so that she can get what she wants as if she is a 16-year-old girl rather than an American president. As a decision maker, she is ineffective and her administration is constantly on the defensive.
Then, there is just the problem that a show known for raising the stakes is in it’s sixth season, and the question always becomes what they will do for an encore. When Frank Underwood threw a journalist off a train platform it came as a genuine surprise, but by season six American elites are having each other assassinated like mob bosses in Al Capone’s Chicago. It goes completely over the top, culminating with an eye-roll-inducing murder inside the oval office itself.
To top it all off, Claire Underwood has to leverage America’s nuclear arsenal in order to demonstrate that she is, in fact, a legitimate American president. While the Russian President begs her to reconsider, by the end of the series Claire is preparing to launch a nuclear first strike against an ISIS stand-in group in the Middle East, based off the flimsiest of intelligence information, and at the objection of the rest of the US government.
For a show that tries painfully hard to be progressive, it delivers this huge red flag to audiences: are you sure you want a female president? Because this is what you can expect. With almost every trope and stereotype regarding women in traditional male positions present in season six, one really has to wonder what kind of message the writers, producers, actors, and directors were really trying to convey.