Friday, June 27, 2014

Frank Underwood as the Purely Strategic Mind

My wife and I started watching "House of Cards," and we are very much enjoying it. It's an excellent piece of literary fiction, and everyone should watch it for it's story, characters, and truths.

The most fascinating aspect of the show is Frank Underwood's purely strategic reasoning. I have never seen a character who takes a pure-strategy approach. Most people have at least some mixture of strategic and analytical thinking. Those with autism are much more strongly analytical, of course. But Frank Underwood is literally the opposite of autistic.

Of course, one can immediately see the problems that will arise through a pure-strategy approach. The show is, after all, called "House of Cards," and that is precisely what you will get if you are strategic-only in the way you deal with others and with reality. Analysis provides a foundation for what you want to do, and the stronger one's analytical abilities, the stronger one's foundation. Of course, there are some who end up doing nothing but build foundations and fail to erect the building. But Underwood builds his house without any foundation. He hopes the cards he leans against each other will each hold all the others up. That is what strategy-only will get you.

For someone who is on the Spectrum, watching Underwood at work is fascinating. He is my opposite in almost every way. Yet I recognize that many of the things he does are things it would benefit me to be able to do. Each of us are extremes in our ways of thinking; between the two is a golden mean which, because of our respective neural structures (can a fictional character have neural structures? They would be fictionalized as well, but as true as any fictional character is true, meaning they are idealized).

A great deal of literature is dominated by analytical minds. Hamlet is a great example. He analyzes for 4 hours of stage time. And most literature since Hamlet has been dominated by such characters mulling over every little thing. It's the sort of fiction I have written -- not surprisingly, given the way I think and view the world. Thus, Frank Underwood is an unusual character in literature. But he is also perhaps a little more realistic in the sense that most people are more strategic in their thinking than they are analytical. That he is an extreme of this style of thinking is hardly a problem -- literature should purify to clarify and shed light on the truth of things. No, in many ways Underwood is a breath of fresh air to literature. The highly strategic thinker needs to be understood (and, dare I say, analyzed) through literary representation. Only then can we see the kinds of worlds such minds build. Only then can we really see how badly such people, such ways of thinking need to be balanced.
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