House of Cards

Reflection on Dark Eros as Creative Action


  • Joli Hamilton Pacifica Graduate Institute



House of Cards (TV program), dark eros, psychological image, sadism


This essay turns a depth-psychological lens upon the drug abuse, sexual manipulation, and murder scenes in the American television rendition of House of Cards. The Underwoods, who are obsessed with power, yet strangely enticing, invite the viewer to upend their moralistic perspective challenging notions of innocence and evil. By applying post-Freudian Lacan’s Phallus theory, the unconscious and persistent desire for power in some individuals is explored. Then, in a move toward understanding why audiences flock to such grotesque imagery, post-Jungian Moore’s notion of dark eros is extended to argue for the necessity of accepting the sadistic aspect of psyche. The notion of libertine consciousness is used to illuminate why the darkness draws us in even as it is repulsive and suggest the cautious, reflective digestion of these grotesque images as a creative action for those challenged by current political darkness. Bringing Lacan and Moore into dialogue, it is suggested that sexually toned darkness may necessarily balance the pull toward light aspects of psyche. Through close reading, intense scenes are reimagined as more than just Jungian shadow material. They also illustrate the sacrifice of innocence required as one attempts to increase consciousness.