It took me a day and a half to demolish the first season of this heated-clickedseries. When I was watching the last episode of the first series, in whichFrancis goes to the church to pay to himself, it suddenly occurred to me thatisn’t Francis Underwood the modern Übermensch?
The word Übermensch first came up to me when I was watching theanimated comic “EVA” in senior middle school. Later I read some philosophybooks, some of which referring to Nietzsche, enriching my understanding to Übermensch.Lately, I watched another animated comic “Monster”, enhancing my impressionabout this word. In this animated comic, there is an orphanage for Nazieducation experiment. The operation principle is just following “Übermensch”,to make a superman, or more exactly, an overman among the gifted children. AndJohn, one of the characters in the comic the production of the so calledoverman.
TheÜbermensch of Nietzsche came up when he confronted the Western World at thebeginning of 20th century that divinity and morality has longcollapsed. In literature field, T.S. Eliot called that Western world is a pieceof “waste land”, sterile and lifeless. Standing against the world where God isdead, Nietzsche proposed Übermensch, diverting from another current solution, positivism.To get rid of the state of nihilism, Nietzsche said that human must become Übermenschto create their own values, constantly self-enhancing, ceaselessly exceedingthemselves, and finally become the “NEW Human”, the overman, the Übermensch. Übermenschdoes not have morality, nor good or evil, worship nothing or by nothing. Theworld has no God, neither Hardy’s Indifferent eye watching the world. What wewill have is the callous Übermensch, the stronger striding over the weak.
A perspective of Francis Underwood, the Übermensch
（To heaven or God）Every timeI’ve spoken to you, you’ve never spoken back. Although given our mutualdisdain, I can’t blame you for the silent treatment. Perhaps I am speaking tothe wrong audience.
(To Hell or Demons and then the dead) Can you hear me?Are you even capable of language, or do you only understand depravity？Come out, look in the eye and say what you need to say.
(To the audience and himself) There is no solace aboveor below, only us… small, solitary, striving, battling one another. I pray tomyself, for myself.
There is nodoubt that Francis Underwood is one of the so-called Übermensch. The story allstarts when the majority whip Underwood found himself betrayed and lost hispromised power as the Secretary of State. And he resorts to all sorts of artificesand finally becomes the Vice President. It is a story about how a callouspolitician, through his delicate conspiracy, seizes power. For me, thehighlight of this story is not his delicate plot, but how he, in spite of allthe moralities and ethics and his conscience, “callously” plotting, bribing loyalty, giving up unwanted pawns toget his goals.
So what does ithave to do with Übermensch? As discussed above, Übermensch is a philosophyregardless of dying religion and other ethics, tries to derive values withinoneself and self-enhancing and finally overtops the others. (Though thisversion is not exactly what Nietzsche trying to convince, but it is actuallypracticed by a lot of practitioners.) And this “will to power”, according toNietzsche is the “unexhausted procreative will to life” that make human get ridof nihilism. We can see Francis permeating this kind of power when he has ahunger for the best Washington D.C. ribs. It is a hunger for power, unexhaustedand procreative. Just like Francis in S1E1 did, he felt much hunger and wantsanother portion of rib.
For the will topower, Francis abandons ethics. (For Übermensch the nihilistic world has God ormoral.) Ranging from his wife, congressmen to cub reporter are all his pawns.For example, his wife, Clare’s non-profit program Clean Water Initiativebecomes a tool for Francis to achieve power. Clare herself is a kind of toolfor Francis, although they really love each other but at the same time Francisis really using Clare. More than that, his wife gives up happy marriage life andget three abortions for their common course. Congressman Russo is plotted diedand Zoe becomes a tool for propaganda and a whore to let off Androgens. Touseful pawns, he coerce, compels, intimidate and possess; and useless, hesimply abandon and strides over.
Religion becomesFrank’s weapon to smooth the bereaved parents who intends to sue him for theirlost daughter. When his wife wanders if they should leave something behind theworld, （probably something contributive or humane or specifically a child,）they bothrealize that is being silly. The world, for them, is nihilistic, nothing afore,nothing behind, only Übermensch surpassing the world. (And it is the samephilosophy of John in the animated comic “Monster”. ) There are more than onescene that Francis rowing the boating machine. Actually it is a very trickysymbol, hinting Frank’s philosophy that the world is operating at his rowing,that he is the God of the world, and world is operating within his hand. Hence,Francis says:” I pray to myself, for myself.”
However, doesFrancis never doubt his Übermensch philosophy? He does not afraid of thenemesis despite all the bloodshed on his altar throne? The answer is NO.Actually he thinks of this more than once. Nemesis occurred in one of theepisode when Francis was at a low ebb and partly because of this he helped hisbodyguard keep his job and at the same time bribes another loyalty. In the lastepisode of the first season, Francis comes to the church to pray. Actually hefirst waver from his philosophy, but at last he regains his regal and blows outthe candlelight.
About other perspective of this series
CanFrancis sit tight on his bloody altar throne? It remains (at least for me) tosee how this series develops. There are other perspectives to watch thisseries, like the “condition” of modern man. The characters in this series andminiature of modern man’s dilemma, Zoe, Russo, Clare are among the typicalcases. They live in the crevice of ego and id. It is a condition of I being notmyself, that I lead not my life, but I choose to live like this and have to takethis responsibility, a kind of existential not being myself dilemma is onetypical condition of modern man status of quo.