The Good Wife s6 ep 12

image“You know what’s really stupid? You’re two white people arguing about why black people are rioting.”

Deep breath.

Here’s the thing. I love The Good Wife. You know I love The Good Wife. I think it’s incredibly smart, often very brave, ferociously feminist and regularly very, very funny. And I loved a lot of things about “The Debate.” Eli’s assistant Nora. Peter kicking the Mayor’s ass via the Mayor’s assistant. Eli realising he works very hard and isn’t appreciated. Peter’s chat with Pastor Isaiah in the car. Johnny being all bashful around Alicia. And yes, even parts of the debate itself.

But – and it’s a big but – Alicia and Prady, rich Caucasian politicians, being called out legitimately by the African-American waiter watching them have their “let’s do the debate show right here!” in the hotel kitchen was, on the one hand, wryly amusing, but on the other, a little too uncomfortably meta a point to slip down all that easily. The Good Wife has proven itself to be intelligent and thoughtful on race issues before – the slow-burn sub-plot on racial bias in recruitment at the SA’s office, for instance – and there was a lot of intelligent, thoughtful and well-meaning writing in this episode too. This is a show trying to explore things that need to be explored and make the viewer think about things that need to be thought about.

But, while this show has plenty of guest characters and supporting characters who’re from ethnic minorities, apart from the increasingly marginalised Kalinda, the main cast is Caucasian. (Lemond Bishop is amazing, but I’d still say he’s a guest character, rather than a main player.) This is not unique on TV, by any means, and it doesn’t mean the show shouldn’t talk about racial issues, because the only way to address racial issues is for EVERYONE, minorities and majorities, to talk about them, but it did mean TGW’s attempt to look at the issues highlighted by the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson was always going to be something of a tricky thing to pull off without coming off as, at best, patronising, and at worst, hypocritical. In the end, it all fell somewhere in between.

It felt like it wasn’t just Eli deploying Nora as a “black shield,” as the show itself rolled out the “duelling pastors,” the victim’s mother…. The irony, of course, is that this was all entirely realistic and telling the story that way made complete sense. This is what happens when terrible things like this affect one community more than another. But still: in trying to, laudably and legitimately, argue for more diverse racial representation and community engagement, the episode ended up feeling a little too meta, unconsciously or otherwise, to entirely stick the landing.

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4 thoughts on “The Good Wife s6 ep 12

  1. CPS April 23, 2015 / 3:45 am

    This Ferguson inspired episode was so patronizing that I cringed throughout it. Also highlighted was the fact that the few actors of color on this show randomly appear and disappear. I’m constantly wondering what happened to these characters. Let’s not even mentioned the minimalization of the Kalinda character.

    The Good Wife is based in Chicago which is a very diverse city and the major power players are politicians of color but you would never know that from watching this show. Sort of like the New York City shown back in the day on Friends, Seinfeld and Sex and the City.

    • CJ Cregg April 23, 2015 / 9:15 pm

      Yep, I know they have a lot of guest actors and loads of storylines to get through but I agree with you that the disappearance of certain characters of colour is becoming a bit weird. I’ve been wondering what happened to Julius for a couple of seasons now and then they had all that fanfare to bring in Dean for what, 3 eps, and *Whoosh* he’s disappeared too . Bring back Julius, he was great! Wasn’t he a family law guy, too? It would have made more sense to have him at Florrick Agos instead of this random no-name Family Law guy we’ve never heard of that they fired this week.

  2. Jed Bartlet April 23, 2015 / 8:13 am

    I thought it was honourable and well-intentioned, but it could never be successful for the reasons that you’ve both given. In fairness it kind of accepted that: at precisely the point where I was thinking “Surely they’re not going to frame the entire debate as a choice between the views of two white people?” they had the African-American character say that, more or less. But as I’ve said a million times about other (lesser) shows, acknowledging a problem doesn’t get round the existence of the problem.

    And yes, Lemond Bishop is amazing, but whether he’s a main or guest character he’s still Chicago’s leading drug dealer.

    • CJ Cregg April 23, 2015 / 9:16 pm

      “But as I’ve said a million times about other (lesser) shows, acknowledging a problem doesn’t get round the existence of the problem.”

      THIS. A thousand times, this.

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