House of Cards/Final Thoughts

            I was originally excited to start the process of the blogging for Mass Media because I’ve always pretty good at writing and have always been commended for my writing abilities on papers. I assumed that this skill would naturally carry over into the blogging process and it definitely did not. Through this process I quickly learned how much more difficult it is to write something formally, but not too formally, and sound educated, which is how I think of successful blogs or ones that I enjoy reading. It is still really difficult for me to write something without it sounding like an essay, but still getting the point across. I enjoyed the process, but it was very anxiety provoking for me, which came from the fact that there is a sense of vulnerability connected to the process of blogging, possibly because it allows for more opinions and more personality along with whatever the topic being discussed is. That being said, having option one and posting weekly, as opposed to binge watching House of Cards, created a bit more pressure because each post was shorter and more frequent.

            Besides the aspect of the blog and watching HOC week to week, I found that I had to take notes for myself while watching or else I would forget certain things that happened, something which I don’t believe would have been necessary if binge watching. For a show like House of Cards where a lot happens, characters are constantly backstabbing each other, and Frank is revealing himself more and more, I would prefer to binge-watch so everything would be fresh in my mind. Especially for the addictive world that HOC immerses the viewer in, the effect is felt more without the break in between episodes.  I find this especially true for other shows I have binge-watched which create a fascinating world outside reality, such as Boardwalk Empire, because you can dedicate yourself to the  world that is created and feel like you are experiencing it in real-time without the real-world interruptions. An important point that was made in Aaron Riccio’s article “Binge-watching makes TV better,” was that “The more we change our viewing habits, the more the networks will adapt to fit them, and the higher the level of long-term programming networks will have to provide, no longer spider-webbing up plots on the fly in an attempt to deceptively tangle us into tuning in next week.”¹ This point is something that bothers me about a lot of shows that are on cable, that the same storylines are recycled along with a cheap ploy to try to draw in viewers or whatever will create the greatest shock value they can think of, like killing off a main character. For Netflix to release HOC all at once makes a statement for how good the show is because there are no gimmicks involved, such as a weekly break with a teaser for the next week meant leaving viewers in suspense on whether or not the main character of the show will get killed or narrowly escape yet again.

            When it comes to House of Cards as a show, I definitely fell in love with it. I appreciate the complex characters, especially Claire, from the beginning of season one to the end. By the end of season one Claire was so much more than the cold-hearted witch she seemed to be in the first few episodes. Over the course of the first season we see Claire struggle with herself and the two men that she loves, the desire to finally have children, and be respected as the head of her organization, making her anything but a one-dimensional character. Most of these personal struggles Claire faces come about because she is constantly trying to be strong for Frank and his plans for the two of them, but her desires to be happy as a woman who is also independent continuously come back to haunt her. Basically, she struggles with being a woman in a man’s world. This element of the show of which other female characters could relate to as well, including Zoe in trying to make it as a journalist and Linda asserting herself in Washington. In an interview, Robin Wright described her character of Claire Underwood as “…a marble bust, you don’t know anything about her, she’s an enigma – she, the woman, is going to start to crack through this marble, she’s going to emerge, and that fascinated me.”² I can’t imagine a better description of Claire and it is why the character is so fascinating to watch. Frank is constantly talking to us when “breaking the fourth wall,” but I can’t help but imagine a world in which we would get this input from Claire instead. I understand that it wouldn’t be the same because getting into Frank’s head tells us details about many other characters and their motives. I still always want to know what Claire is thinking, which I feel is part of her allure.

            Another aspect of the show that I find important is the fact that it takes the characters beyond such stereotypes that could make the show boring. Nothing is black and white when it comes to the characters and their motives, so the show creates a richer experience because there isn’t always the typical “good guy” or “bad guy.” Frank Underwood is a clear example of this because you either love him or hate him, but if you hate him I can’t imagine how you could continue watching the show in general. Frank does some downright evil things throughout the show, but I still find myself rooting for him no matter how many lives he ruins. At least when Frank does something terrible, it is completely understandable why he would, especially because the audience gets more insight into his head than with most other shows. Frank is troubled on the inside and he has such a thirst for power that it is practically all he lives for, but his genius and charm of being able to deceive everyone around him is part of what is so addictive about the show. The title of the show basically foreshadows how it will end, yet I still am dying to see what happens and how this “house of cards” that Frank has built, will ultimately come down.

I suppose after being introduced to House of Cards this semester, I only have one question…

Is it February yet?…

References:

¹            Riccio, Aaron. “Binge-watching Makes TV Better.” CNN. Cable News Network, 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/06/opinion/riccio-binge-tv-watching/?hpt=hp_c3>.

²            Jeffery, Morgan. “Digital Spy.” Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK, 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Dec. 2013. <http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/interviews/a452966/robin-wright-house-of-cards-qa-its-definitely-fincher-esque.html>.

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Keller v. Greenwald

             After reading everything Bill Keller and Glenn Greenwald had to say, both sides make excellent points, but I would have to say I agree slightly more with Keller. I think it is better to focus on what felt like the heart of the debate, their opposing views on how to approach journalism. While Greenwald believes in taking a more subjective approach to journalism and basically not hiding the fact that one, as a journalist, has any opinion at all, as he feels news outlets such as the New York Times, do try to stifle, Keller was expressing that this is not the best way to deliver the news. My issue with the idea of the new journalistic venture with eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, is the definitive statements used to describe it. Describing the project in terms such as to “throw out all the old rules,” and that “audiences want to connect with personalities,” as Omidyar has said, just doesn’t sound so positive.¹ The example that Greenwald provided on his vision for the newer approach towards news makes much more sense because it sounds like something more understandable, not like a giant business venture. One example of this approach is when Greenwald describes reporting a story in terms of “’Official A said X, Y and Z today: now let’s see if that’s true.’”¹ Especially when he says his wish to approach “claims from the most powerful factions with skepticism, not reverence,” it is understandable why this feels necessary for today’s world.¹ Perhaps what Greenwald is describing is a reach back to an ideal of papers being more like the fourth estate that the media is meant to be, not an outpost for protecting the public against what the government or those in power want them to see. I don’t think Keller disagrees with this, he just seems to disagree that this is the reason for why the American public would have lost trust in journalists.

            One argument which convinced me to lean towards Keller slightly more was that he offered how the release of a story has consequences from both the left and the right, “Critics on the left… were indignant to learn that we held the N.S.A. eavesdropping story for more than a year, until I was satisfied that the public interest outweighed any potential damage to national security. Critics on the right were even more furious when, in 2005, we published.”¹ As opposed to the “fealty to the U.S. government” Greenwald accuses in the discussion, Keller explains that the careful consideration of when to publish such an important story’s consequences for anyone involved. Keller also accuses that Greenwald seems “to reserve [the] sharpest scorn for moderation,” which I can’t exactly disagree with partly because of the definitive statements with which the venture he’s associated with has been described, but I do slightly disagree with Keller because Greenwald does express desire to “welcome and want anyone devoted to true adversarial journalism regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.”¹ I believe what convinced me the most out of the argument was one of Keller’s final main points that “…impartiality is a worthwhile aspiration in journalism, even if it is not perfectly achieved. I believe that in most cases it gets you closer to the truth, because it imposes a discipline of testing all assumptions, very much including your own.”¹ This is what I would want to know, personally, what is behind the composition of a news story, especially an important or controversial one.  I don’t think it is as simple as knowing what side you stand on and making sure that comes through in a story because no matter how hard one tries to steer clear from an unwanted manipulation of the facts, such an approach may very well lead to exactly that.

¹            Keller, Bill. “Is Glenn Greenwald the Future of News?” Editorial. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/28/opinion/a-conversation-in-lieu-of-a-column.html>.

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Blackfish- Thoughts/Review

            From the first time I saw the trailer for Blackfish, I was extremely interested in watching the film for myself. The first time I saw the film was when it was recently aired on CNN and I was excited to watch it for a second time in class, without the 40 minutes of commercial interruption. After watching the film I can say with confidence that I will never return to SeaWorld or think of it as the happy place for families to vacation. I can remember hearing about the death of Dawn Brancheau when it first happened, an event which leads up to the climax of the film when more of her story is revealed.

            The film was extremely persuasive, especially the suspense created by releasing more details of the harsh captivity the killer whales go through at SeaWorld and revealing details of numerous attacks. One of the more emotional stories, featured towards the end of the film, was of Alexis and his death at Loro Parque. It was pretty disturbing to hear his wife and mother tell their stories of how his death was handled and how the initial call his wife received said that he was “fine.” At this point in the film, I cried and I had not expected to at all before watching. The real story of Dawn’s death, which was told shortly after this story, was scary to watch. It is just sad that Dawn was blamed for a mistake that caused her death, much like the past “trainer error” excuses that had been used by SeaWorld in prior trainer/whale incidents. One main issue that gives even more of a reason to be suspicious is that the film said SeaWorld had continuously refused their efforts to hold an interview. The lack of an interview by SeaWorld reinforces that if there is suspicious activity and the people in charge do not provide the truth to the public or even an explanation, than there is reason to believe something is up.

            After experiencing what Blackfish has shown and uncovered, it feels like there could easily be another incident at the SeaWorld parks, even with the decision enforced to have barriers between the trainers and whales. Blackfish makes me hope that each person who sees the film is another person who will, at the very least, never give SeaWorld any of their money as a patron in the future. Just because SeaWorld parks have become such staples as American tourist attractions, I do not think that the continuation of such inhumane acts towards animals, disrespect to the trainers who put their lives on the line, and misinforming the public of facts, is any way a business should be run.

           

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House of Cards “Chapter 13″

            One important thing I noticed in the season one finale of House of Cards was how it highlighted how complex of a character Frank Underwood is. In “Chapter 13,” Frank is shown walking into a church, which is somewhere I never expected to see Frank. At first, this scene made Frank seem more human because I thought he would actually be praying and it seemed as if he was going to church out of desperation. Frank proceeding to say that he prays to himself for himself, which was kind of disturbing, but I can’t say I was surprised. Frank lives for power and this scene takes this idea even further with the element of a God complex in him. The side of Frank that is shown in this scene is taken to another level when Frank goes to leave and blows out the other prayer candles that have been lit in the church. This could symbolize several things about Frank, such as committing himself wholeheartedly to the “dark side” and an absolute hopelessness for the future. This being said, it still surprises me that even after Frank has literally killed to get in the position to be VP, I’m like “Woohoo!” when President Walker makes the offer. I also like that the season ended basically where it began, with Frank expecting good news, except  with Frank getting what he wants (for now) and with a lot of mess in-between. At the end of the episode, Claire asks Frank if he’s ready, meaning to go running, and he says “Yes.” This is also like asking Frank if he’s ready for the veritable storm left ahead for him, which he can be blissfully ignorant of for a short time, until he comes home from his run. The ending was one moment that was quite different from the rest of the season because we know something Frank doesn’t know, as opposed to him filling us in on what he’s experiencing.

            One other significant development this episode brought up was how Claire is going to handle the lawsuit Gillian is bringing against her. This impending lawsuit, which Gillian claimed to be utilizing as a platform to get her message out, and Claire inquiring about having kids leads me to think that there may be a change in her character in the upcoming season. Gillian says she is pursuing this lawsuit because she learned from the best, meaning Claire, which I believe affected Claire even if she doesn’t show it. Also, the fact that we learn about Claire having three abortions makes me think that there is definitely a piece missing to the puzzle that Frank and Claire never had kids, besides just that they have focused so much on themselves and their personal goals. If Claire really did have three abortions, this could be taking a toll on her mentally, especially since she is feeling such a desire to have them now. She obviously feels doubt and worry about such a decision because she stops herself from telling Frank that she spoke to a doctor when he comes home with his good news, possibly because she knows Frank still has his mind set on not wanting kids. Now that Frank is getting what he wants, I can’t help but think that Claire may resent him more, which may make it harder for Claire to continue making compromises if Frank doesn’t do the same for her desires.

Review:          

            I would rate “Chapter 13” of HOC a 4.5/5 because it revealed elements of Frank and Claire that can be a good indicator of next season, but managed to be suspenseful and exciting as Zoe and Janine get closer and closer to finding the truth about Frank’s insanely methodical tactics.

 

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House of Cards “Chapter 12″

            Two elements of “Chapter 12” stuck with me after watching, one of which was Frank’s story about tapping his ring on a surface twice. Frank basically explains that tapping his ring twice when he leaves a room comes from his father and is meant to represent “preparation” and “luck.” The tapping is meant to strengthen the hand in case of a fight, or preparation, and counts as a knock on wood, or luck. This habit formed by Frank is an ode to his father, someone he says didn’t have much luck, and in a way, reminds him where he came from. At the time Frank tells Raymond Tusk this, he still thinks he is trying to convince him to consider the Vice Presidency, so I’m not sure how true the story is, but there isn’t necessarily a reason for it not to be true. It’s interesting that Frank found out that President Walker and Tusk knew each other quite well because it seemed suspicious that the President would nominate someone he barely knows to be VP. I don’t really know how Tusk expected Frank to leave without finding out about what was actually going on, but that could be what he wanted. Since Tusk basically offered Frank the ultimatum of  helping Frank secure VP in return for Frank granting him a “blank check,” Tusk could’ve waited for Frank to learn the truth just to get this offer on the table sooner.

            The second important element of “Chapter 12” was Tusk’s anecdote, spoken while he and Frank are in his backyard woods, about the rational and irrational. Tusk says “Decisions based on emotion aren’t decisions at all. They’re instincts. Which can be of value. The rational and the irrational complement each other. Individually, they’re far less powerful.”¹ I think this idea can be applied to Frank particularly because many of the decisions Frank makes are based on his thirst for power, which can be seen as emotional, but become rational to him because he is so accustomed to that hunt for power that it has become his instinct. With “Chapter 12” jumping to a month after Peter’s death, a murder that was a calculated move based on a dangerous combination of the rational and irrational, nothing has changed in Frank and he is probably more determined than ever. Tusk stating this idea to him was interesting because the lines are so blurred with Frank, yet it’s a concept Tusk sees so clearly.

 Review:

            I would rate “Chapter 12” of House of Cards a 3.9/5 because I like the unpredictability of what will happen next, but with the plot line of Gillian and Claire’s fight, it just seems like a weird element to bring into the story with one episode left. So much seems unresolved right now that I can’t believe there’s only one episode left of season one, but I hope it makes some sense of what has been established in episode twelve.

¹ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2555986/quotes?item=qt1864587

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House of Cards “Chapter 11″

            Along with Peter, I really appreciate how human Claire was in this episode because, just as Zoe described Claire’s gala dress, she has been “like steel” throughout the show. Claire’s expression of her true feelings explains the situation very well because she says she has a future with Frank and that they have history, while Adam represents the life she could’ve chosen, but ultimately never will. Her struggle of being with Frank and becoming “significant,” as she said she always wanted to be, and being genuinely happy with Adam is what makes her human because it shows she is not as perfect as she seems.  I also liked the contrast of Claire trying to say that she is alone and without the presence of Frank at Adam’s apartment because she says this while she is smoking a cigarette, something she always does with Frank. When she and Frank share a cigarette it is usually quite intimately, so this scene exemplifies how torn Claire is between the two men that she loves.  She tries to forget Frank even exists when she is with Adam, yet doing so while smoking makes it like Frank is directly in the room with them. No matter how temporary the moments Claire has with Adam are, it is obvious she’ll never stop loving him. 

            I started playing episode eleven right after I finished episode ten of HOC because I wanted to see if Peter’s whereabouts would be revealed. I thought when Doug opened the bathroom door after Peter bombed his radio interview and his campaign hopes that he might have killed himself. Nonetheless, the entire episode foreshadowed a grim ending for Peter because he seemed very hopeless, he called his kids for what was sounding like a final goodbye and I knew Frank was planning something for Peter, I just didn’t necessarily think it was death. I don’t think I exactly know why Frank wanted Peter dead, but it does make me think of how power-hungry Frank is to anyone who undermines his authority. The way that Frank did it was what was most disturbing because he acted as a friend getting Peter from the police station, he told Peter he was a brave man for having kids ( as he was about to take the life of their father) and he killed Peter in the most disrespectful way by staging it as a suicide. Peter loved his kids and now they have to live with the pain that their father took his own life, possibly justified in Frank’s twisted mind by telling Peter that his kids will forgive him someday.

Review:

            I would rate “Chapter 11” of House of Cards a 4.8/5 because it symbolized the end of the volatile sexual relationship of Zoe and Frank, the relationship of Claire and Adam (for now,) and Peter and Frank. Now that Frank is getting exactly what he wants, I’m eager to see who he will take down next.

           

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House of Cards “Chapter 10″

            Everyone was out for blood in episode ten of HOC and it made for a really exciting episode. Between Frank vs. Peter, Frank vs. Claire and Claire vs. Zoe, there was almost too much conflict to keep track of. I loved the contrast between Claire and Zoe that was provided when Claire paid Zoe a visit because when Claire walked into Zoe’s tiny apartment she seemed to tower over everything in it, like her presence was larger than life. Having Claire in her dress and heels while Zoe stood cowering in her pajamas created a sort of mother/daughter situation, for example, when Claire told Zoe the truth and what she thought of her, Zoe thought Claire was doing it to punish her. Even though Claire looked as if she were about to cry as she hailed a taxi, I love how much power she exudes just by walking in a room and using her skills of manipulation.

            In terms of the other conflicts Frank is battling, Frank setting Peter up for failure proved that Peter was weak and probably wouldn’t have made it even if he did become Governor. As he was clinking champagne glasses with Rachel, I couldn’t help but yell at my computer screen “NO! Someone is definitely gonna take a picture of that…” I never really had sympathy for Peter throughout this whole season, but even I was disappointed that he fell into the trap Frank crafted so perfectly for him and I don’t see how he could come back from this. One of the final issues brought to light in episode ten is that Frank finds out for sure that Claire has gone to New York to see Adam Galloway. I think his next step at handling the situation can go in a few different ways. He could possibly understand why Claire would go to see Adam and leave things be when she comes back, or he could try to get back at Claire somehow, but he will most likely try to assert his dominance and power again. Claire said she didn’t feel that they had been standing beside each other as equals lately and Frank proved that he did think that in the way he spoke to her in her office. He basically said that her work was important, but not as important as what he was trying to do for them. Hopefully “Chapter 11” will give me some of the answers I’m looking for.

Review:

            I would rate “Chapter Ten” a 4/5 because a lot of exciting situations were set up that highlighted the actual meaning of “House of cards.” Nothing is as stable as the characters make it seem to the outside world and all of the conflicts are foreshadowing a collapse in the near future.

Favorite Quote: “Is it the hot flashes?…”- Frank to Claire

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