I was grading and watching House of Cards out of the corner of my eye yesterday. My wife is addicted to the show, but it unnerves me somehow. Worse than Saw or 30 Days of Night, House of Cards disrupts me. It unravels my day and intrudes on my sleep. Gone Girl moved through me in the same ways.
At first, I could not spot what it was about the series, the movie, that left me anxious and disturbed. But this morning, getting my coffee and warming my breakfast, the epiphany slid up on me.
It is the chaos the genre engenders (and it is a genre–emotional horror or some such) . Engender isn’t the right word. Invokes is the word. It calls forth chaos like some ancient necromancer. It calls forth chaos, using the emotions of the characters as the ingredients of some sort of brew.
Underwood, the protagonist of House of Cards, and whatever the name of the girl who is gone wade into the emotional chaos of those around them and unleash that chaos. Give it form.
Interesting. Underwood confesses that he has relied to much on his wife. I do not remember if he used the word “fed” but the image was clear. His wife was the basis of his abilities, his power, his mastery.
Someone has been reading Jung or Neumann. Underwood is a satellite of the Terrible Mother. He is an agent of chaos. At first I thought he was immoral when he eliminated his threats with brutal efficiency. He is not. Nor is he amoral. He is primordial. “A force of nature” is a trite phrase used to bookend an energetic child or a devastating storm. Underwood is not a force of nature.
He and Gone Girl are nature unleashed from within civilization. Unintentionally, unwittingly, they reveal the fragility of civilization’s thin veneer slapped over the abyss.
Underwood revealed his true nature in the last episode I saw before I retreated back to Big Bang. Standing in a church, he inadvertently knocks over a crucifix. Of course the symbolism is there. The allegory is there. But, just like in a Frost poem, the symbolism should not obscure the literal. The earth god cannot move through a room without bumping into the sky god.
Unlike John Carpenter’s vampires or even Ridley Scott’s alien, the chaos Underwood invokes is not an outsider. It does not have to wait at the door for an invitation or worm its way into somebody’s chest. I, we, the people around me, have brought it in. And it is waiting for the opportunity to burst out and devour.