Why Women Hate Zoe Barnes …

… OR ARE INDIFFERENT TO HER So I’m on episode twelve of Netflix’s second season of House of Cards (way behind the vast majority of Palmetto politicos, it would appear). Just one episode away from finishing the season, though … less than a week after it came out. Last night I…


So I’m on episode twelve of Netflix’s second season of House of Cards (way behind the vast majority of Palmetto politicos, it would appear).

Just one episode away from finishing the season, though … less than a week after it came out.

Last night I texted a good friend of mine … interested to see where she was in the series.

“I’m done, dude …” came the reply.

Race. Lost.

Other friends have expressed shock that I haven’t yet finished the show’s thirteen newest episodes … uploaded in a batch last Friday.

In fairness, I’d probably be done were it not for a certain nine-week-old cutie who enjoys taking her little lungs out for a test drive whenever my lovely wife and I decide to fire up the digital Blu Ray player.

Excuses, excuses … I know.

Even though everybody I know has already finished the House of Cards race, I’m not going to give away any spoilers – least of all the shocking plot twist that opened the second, darker installment of what is arguably the most compelling political drama ever filmed (all apologies to Aaron Sorkin).

That’s because as I write this there are still several hundred people furious at me for ruining a certain Downton Abbey episode last year with an ill-fated tweet … a gauntlet I’m not about to run again.

So … without giving anything away for the three or four of you who haven’t finished House of Cards‘ second season yet (or at least its jarring first episode), I wanted to take a moment to address the character at the center of the conversation: reporter Zoe Barnes (portrayed by actress Kate Mara).

Barnes was a controversial figure during the first season of House of Cardsdrawing the ire of real female journalists owing to the fact she used sex to advance her career.

You know … because that’s never happened before in real life.

But the angst directed toward Barnes extends beyond female reporters … as lots of women don’t particularly care for her character (or for Mara, apparently).

“Not a fan,” one told me flatly.

“Never liked the role – or the girl who plays her,” another said.

“She’s a mousy, backstabbing bitch,” yet another opined.

Well, now …

“Her sister is the real talent in that family,” another told me, referring to Mara’s sister Rooney, star of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Wow … other comments specifically linked to the second season’s surprise plot twist were even harsher.

Initially I hypothesized that female critics of Barnes (and/or Mara) were just jealous – covetous of her attractiveness, her success, her freedom or her lack of sexual inhibition. But when I started taking inventory of the women providing me with these critical perspectives … I realized most of them are (like Barnes) attractive, successful and exceedingly free/ uninhibited in their sexuality.

Secure, intelligent sexy women.

Hmmmmm …. so what gives?

I’m not sure …

Another observation worth considering? Among the women I spoke with, the second most common response to Zoe Barnes (behind a pervasive dislike) was … indifference.

“The show’s other stars – especially Robin Wright’s character – are way more intriguing to women,” one of my friends explained. “There’s more depth there.”

That’s interesting … and perhaps instructive as to the rationale behind the second season’s plot twist (although series producers swear it was planned well in advance of the first season airing last February).

Are you a House of Cards fan? If so, what are your thoughts on Zoe Barnes? Feel free to post them in our comments section below …

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GrandTango February 19, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Good Lord..and you Dumb!$$ liberals take political dictation from this pop culture idiot???…It D@*n sure figures…

johnq February 19, 2014 at 7:21 pm

No way T. He’s one of you guys. Teabagger disguised as a libertarian this week next week, who knows. Depends on who throws a couple bucks his way. Looks like Nut Right Daily is his current pimp.

cuvinny February 19, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Haven’t watched season 2 yet but I never cared for her in season 1. Came off annoying to much and there didn’t seem like much depth to the character.

Original Good Old Boy February 20, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I’m in the same boat. Haven’t watched season 2 but I just found her a boring and shallow character in season 1.

SenseLikeChaps February 19, 2014 at 4:32 pm

People hate Zoe Barnes because there isn’t much of a character to like (or dislike). She is mostly a plot device who makes little emotional impact on House of Card’s Richard III universe. Dying guy who turned down sexual favors was more memorable and dying guy was only on screen for maybe 3 minutes.

Freddy the Lobster February 19, 2014 at 8:50 pm

I still haven’t forgiven her for microwaving the dog in American Horror Story.

Mark K February 20, 2014 at 2:38 am

“That’s interesting … and perhaps instructive as to the rationale behind the second season’s plot twist (although series producers swear it was planned well in advance of the first season airing last February).”

It’s been planned for 23 years, as this is just following the same broad story arc as the original TV series, and, I imagine, the novels before that. The show is up on Youtube for anyone to watch if they’re interested.

The “twist” (honestly, this spoiler-fear nonsense really has to stop) was a moment I watched the whole first season waiting for, as it occurs at the end of the first series of the original and sets up the subsequent series’.

As another commenter above says, the reason Barnes is not a particularly liked (I, like many others it seems, could not stand her, and will not miss her) or interesting is because she is little more than a plot device. Her equivalent in the original BBC series was the same, though portrayed more as a doe-eyed, starstruck schoolgirl and less the combative, bolshy figure that Barnes appears to be.

I thought the producers of the American version might’ve excised this turn of events in their adaptation, but the series would be poorer for such a decision (I’m not really sure how subsequent series would work without it tbh), and I was glad to see s02ep1 slowly build to this moment.

Overall, I thought the first series of the American adaptation started slowly and I felt a little underwhelmed at first, but around the mid-point of the series I got hooked, and now enjoy Francis Underwood’s cynical asides almost as much as I did Francis
Urqhart’s in the original.

One thing the British version benefits from, however, is its satirical intent is far more prominent than the US version due to how “camped up” it all is. The show is filled with grotesque caricatures of recognisable political figures and stereotypes, characters that are so exaggerated that no one would bother complaining about how “realistic” the show is or isn’t because there is clearly no intention that should appear realistic, they are meant to be cartoonish, exaggerated, absurd depictions of political archetypes.

One common complaint I’ve seen about HoC US is that it is “ridiculous”, “unbelievable”, and so on, to which the appropriate answer ought to be “yes, it is, that’s the point of the show!” The problem is that the US version adopts a sombre, serious tone that is at odds with the exaggerated, campy burlesque of the source material. It seems some of satirical edge has been lost somewhere during the transfer across the Atlantic, but it is still an enjoyable watch.

idcydm February 20, 2014 at 8:59 am

Zoe who?

Pat February 20, 2014 at 10:52 am

In this age I am not surprised “successful” women prefer the ice queen to the regular Jane

Feminism for the lose.

girl July 3, 2014 at 10:14 am

In this day and age? Why do people speak about Feminism in such negative terms – I find That very sexist. Feminism is about equality. Anything beyond that is not feminism, it’s female sexism. Second Robin’s Wright character is not just an ice queen – she is icy, but she also a layered character. Zoe’s character is not layered – she is just negative. She has no tragic flaw, no remorse, no internal struggle…with anything in a very matter of fact, one dimensional way. And she has a bitchy personality. Think of people you’ve met with her personality, in person, you would call that person bitchy. No one likes a bitch. Makes the show interesting and I suppose she is a good actress for embracing the bitch.

Male July 29, 2014 at 1:51 am

People speak in negative terms about feminism, because in this country women abuse it and it’s mono-gender (women only).

Boys are still told to grow up and be men before they have pubic hair. They’re not allowed to like anything “girly” or act feminine, the point of feminism.

Feminism in the US is actually sexism. That’s why it’s seen as negative by those whom it is forced upon (men).

Philip Branton February 20, 2014 at 11:07 am

Why watch the House of CARDS…when the real action is happening in the “House of Hicks”….?

….to bad that WIl FOlks does not understand how to “show” those episodes…….

Morgan Laird February 21, 2014 at 5:08 am

I am a woman and I’ve always loved Zoe Barnes. I had no idea that most women felt that way. Sex is power and sex sells, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out and Zoe was just utilizing her power. Francis and Zoe both used each other to advance their careers, that’s politics. Of course it didn’t end up working in her favor but I had always viewed Zoe as very intelligent and ambitious, I admired her resilience. Unfortunately, it turned out her best qualities were also her downfall.

Vinod March 10, 2014 at 4:33 am

I liked Zoe Barnes….

Kenan July 2, 2014 at 12:45 am

I hate her guts. The fact that she uses her sexuality for power is just one of her many unlikable traits. Mostly I despise her because she is utterly vapid and soulless. There is no complexity to her character–she uses people, she is entitled, she has no friends and she does whatever she wants to get ahead (for no apparent reason that can be discerned). Her character is one dimensional and that dimension is not likable.

Samantha August 2, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I’m a woman and I actually really liked Zoe, even for using her sexuality. She’s a journalist trying to achieve what she wants by any means possible. That’s what makes her an interesting character, despite her perhaps not being as deep or layered as Claire Underwood (who is also a great character). To quote the creator of the show from an interview in the New York Observer, “…it is not our job to portray a character that everyone is going to condone. A lot of the focus on the media does come from Zoe Barnes, because they do feel assaulted. They don’t want to admit that there are Zoe Barnes in their midst, or they resent that there are. It’s abhorrent to them. And they should be, that’s fine. It is absolutely your right to say that our portrayal of Zoe Barnes is sexist. That is within your right. But I think that ambition is gender-blind. Like one of my favorite authors is Balzac. In all of his novels, the women are all as conniving and ruthless as the men. Why shouldn’t they be in House of Cards?” – Beau Willimon

Rhiannon Welles September 10, 2014 at 12:17 am

Hated her. She was every kind of awful I can think of and her boss called her the exact word that described her best.

dhunt December 7, 2014 at 10:22 pm

she plays the role splendidly and I’ll miss her. Of course she’s despising and singularly focused on her career ambitions and willing to do pretty much anything to get there, including using anyone along the way. But that’s an intriguing reflection of much of our culture – she does it well with great sex appeal.

AuroraBorealis January 28, 2015 at 3:01 am

To be completely frank, I think it’s Kate Mara’s face. It looks smug by default.

dave March 1, 2015 at 7:57 pm

zoe barnes is anything but intelligent. otherwise she wouldnt have gotten herself in so far above what she could even possibly comprehend

V Romero July 14, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Kate Mara does not have a likable personality. She doesn’t seem warm and she isn’t charming, that’s why no one is responding to her well.

Guri Bugge August 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Im a man and I hate Zoe Barnes so much! WHY-DID-THEY-PUT-HER-IN-THE-FRACKING-SHOW?! *raaaaaaaage* D:


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