Tuesday, March 4, 2014

House of Cards


Parshat Vayikra
2 Adar II, 5774
March 4th, 2014 

I was late to the House of Cards party, but am now a wholehearted fan. Could there be two greater anti-heroes than Frank and Claire? God bless exceptionally tight TV writing.

I wish that moral outrage was the only reason to watch the show. However, there is more to these characters, and one is shocked to find oneself approving as they orchestrate the downfall of yet another poor, benighted sap taken unawares by Frank’s caramel Georgia accent and Claire’s perfect elegance.

Their cruelty is attractive; it is an outlet for our fantasies; we wish that we, like them, were not possessed of the burden of feeling quite so much, nor were so much at the whim of our own emotions, nor so anxious about the thoughts of others. The pull of House of Cards is that it lets us pretend, for a moment, that we could live without caring.

We idolize those people or characters who live untroubled by compassion, insecurity, or loneliness, for those emotions are so tiring, so utterly fatiguing, and we wish that we could set them down off our shoulders for just a moment.

Know, though, that there is a difference between cruelty and strength; where we are on the spectrum between those two poles is defined by the extent to which we care about the wellbeing of other people; so, to set our caring down and ignore it is inhuman; to grow strong enough to hold our emotionality and still accomplish something in this world, divine. “and HaShem your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your child to love HaShem your God with all your heart, with your life, and with all that you own.” (Deuteronomy 30:6) 

Toughness necessitates exposing one’s heart, not cutting it out. Let cold-bloodedness live in fiction, where it belongs.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Rabbi Perlo. I needed to hear this. All the best.