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Thursday Week 6 HW 30/08/18

The tension between the personal and political domains is exposed through an examination of


Fincher portrays the conflicting tension to maintain a political façade autonomous from an

individual’s personal sphere by examining the subversion of an individual’s morals for personal gain.

Made in 2013, House of Cards explores the political tension involved around the 2012 US

presidential elections which saw many politicians use scheming tactics to win the election.

Underwood presents the corruptive nature of politicians through the metaphor of ,’simply the size

of the chair’ which reflects the politicians’ desire for power regardless of whether their personal

moral conflictions impact their political sphere. . He further reveals the extent of their pursuit of

power, even at the expense of their morality, is comparable to that of a parasite through his

symbolic diction,” I latched onto him early and made myself vital”. Frank ‘latched onto’ the President

as an opportunity of political advancement instead to highlight how the US democracy is

undermined by the desire for power over the mutual desire to serve the nation. On the pursuit of

power at a political level, Frank concludes that ‘Power is a lot like real estate, it’s all about location,

location, location’ where the repetition of ‘location’ emphasises that power is held in a hierarchy in

which the closer to the president will have more value. However the rhetorical question, ‘ Who will

they see smiling at the edge of the frame?’ underscores the need to pursue this desire of power in

order to maintain a strong political figure and in doing so banishes any existing moral values. Thus,

by examining the lack of morality in House of Cards, Fincher exposes the conflicting nature of an

individuals’ personal and political domain.

The Power of Literature

Living in the 21st century, we often see many women in positions of power. Amazing figures like
Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Hillary Clinton which have all made significant impacts on the
world. Female characters that have upheld their individual values and held onto these even despite
the suffocating pressure from the constructs of their gender. Had I only been born 600 years ago, I
would never in my life have dreamed of anything like this happening. The social expectations of
femininity as well as masculinity during the 1500s and 1600s were strictly distinct and expected of
their respective genders. Shakespeare through his play, Macbeth, portrays this issue of gender
specific paradigms in their social constructs and through this manner, he utilizes the power of
literature to transform ideas, introduce new perspectives and challenge pre-existing paradigms. He
creates a powerful message about the expected behavioural characteristics of gender specific
characters in the play, and by doing so challenges the limitations of femininity and masculinity in his
respective society.
Historically, women have been stereotyped as the ‘weaker gender and has been characterized as
being less intelligent, less rational than men as well as being emotionally unstable. During the time
of Macbeth’s production, Shakespeare certainly was reflective of the belief that it was proper to
maintain in your respected gender role and not to rule over your husband or there would be
consequences. Females were expected to remain in the domestic sphere whilst the males, being
superior were the ones working. Medical theories of the Renaissance suggest that men are
“excessively hot-blooded and passionate” but social constraints demanded that he be reasonable in
his action. This conflicting view of men creates a cross-over between men and women’s roles in the
culture. Men, being while reasonable were beginning to be described with womanly terms and
softer language while women were stepping up and taking on more male roles and masculine
attitudes towards the culture and society. Shakespeare then presents this emerging concept within
his play Macbeth to question the true extent of which female and male must uphold their respective
stereotypical gender qualities.

In Macbeth, the ideals of a woman as possessing feminine qualities are surprisingly subverted with
the introduction of the 3 witches, whom directly portray the concurrent representations of witches
during that time. The first physical description of the witches portrays them as masculine, withered
and wild with Banquo going as far to say,” You should be woman. And yet your beards forbid to me
to interpret that you are”. By delegating masculine qualities to females, Shakespeare establishes a
relationship between femininity and masculinity through the dichotomy of these two distinct
concepts. Shakespeare , however, explicates in greater detail the subversion of gender roles through
Lady Macbeth. Initially, she is shown to portray all the feminine characteristics of a typical woman in
the Jacobean era, possessing qualities of love, care and devotion to her husband but eventually
reveals her relentless ambition which becomes the catalyst for the shift in the power dynamic
between her husband. Acting upon the prophecy from the witches, Macbeth knows what he must
do but needs something more to spur him because as Lady Macbeth notes, he is ‘too full o’th’ milk
of human kindness’. In uttering these words, Lady Macbeth accurses her husband of taking the
feminine quality of holding milk. The notion of children and babies represented through the idea of
milk, expresses virtues such as innocence and gentleness in the association to the image of a
motherly figure. One that Lady Macbeth views as cowardice and a display of his lack of masculinity.
Emphasising her lust for power, Lady Macbeth on the other hand even claims she would smash a
baby’s brain out, butchering any notion of maternal affection a woman would unconditionally wield.
In denouncing herself of all feminine qualities, she seeks to de-feminise herself, attempting to
replace them with strong, ‘masculine; attitudes instead in order to carry out the plans to murder
King Duncan. However, the irony is highlighted by the fact that she was trying to be the ‘good and
dutiful’ wife defined by the newly emerging middle-class culture, to ‘better’ her husband.

Shakespeare however also conveys the flaws of extreme masculinity as shown through the
protagonists. The determination and strength arising from Macbeth’s own ambition for the throne
causes him to murder those around him for fear of losing his power. This ambition that Macbeth
possesses in order to rise to power is also the cause of his doom, leading to his downfall, as he
follows it to the extreme. Additionally, the representation of masculinity in Lady Macbeth from her
desire to ‘unsex’ herself grants her the resolution to carry out the murder of King Duncan but
ultimately becomes her undoing as she becomes overwhelmed by the unbearable guilt of murdering

Therefore, while at first there seems to be a clear divide in the play between feminine influences and
manly qualities, ultimately the characters in the play present a complex relationship between
masculinity and femininity. Shakespeare suggests that perhaps it is not an absolutely masculine
posture that should be sought, but rather a careful balance between masculinity and femininity, for
only in this manner can the shortcomings of either sex be avoided.

This notion of balance between femininity and masculinity presented through literature remains
relevant in today’s society as a representation of the everchanging social constructs. Today, the
positions of women and men have shifted drastically from the past to a point where women have
more access to the same rights given to those as men. Thus Shakespeare uses the power of
literature to break down the social constructs to revolutionise the exact definitions of what it is to be
a man or a woman.