On the surface The Good Wife held very little appeal for me. Basing my opinion on the numerous adverts I had seen on TV I, wrongly, presumed that the drama featured plenty of melodrama and hyperbolic action with very little depth or complexity. It looked showy, with its marketing revelling in the presupposed glamour of a law career.
As ever, upon actually viewing the show, the marketing campaign proves to be entirely incongruous with the actual content. The Good Wife is, in actuality, not only intelligent and well-judged, but refreshingly progressive its in portrayal of women.
The drama focuses on the life of Alicia Florrick (Julianne Margulies), an estranged wife, who after discovering her husband has not only engaged with some ill-judged illegal activities but has also indulged in several affairs, is forced to return to work. To make matters more difficult for Alicia, her husband is the state attorney for Cook County and Alicia finds herself having to submit to the inevitable scrutiny that such a political scandal incurs.
It would have been so easy for the character of Alicia to be made simplistically sympathetic, with the writers using her husband’s infractions to promote the idea of the wronged and ergo entirely sympathetic wronged wife. Thankfully, The Good Wife is far more intelligent in its approach to its character development. Alicia is a fully-formed, intelligent, incisive character. She is obviously hurt by her husband’s actions but doesn’t for one moment question herself, nor does she allow herself to feel defeated.
She proves to be incredibly successful at her job, despite not practising the law since the birth of her two children, and is more than willing to work hard. Alicia finds her re-entry into the law gratifying. She loves being a mother but, progressively, does not define herself as such. When her daughter attempts to blame Alicia’s new role as breadwinner as a form of abandonment, she will not even entertain the idea that this could be the case. Alicia may not be able to have it all, denying herself a relationship for the sake of her children, but she very nearly does.
Similarly Kalinda, a private investigator for the law firm that Alicia works for, is satisfyingly intelligent and capable. She proves herself to be truly excellent at her job, and is increasingly relied on by her colleagues to aid their cases. Whilst there have been some issues in her interactions with a previous lover in season 4, the writers quickly rectified the problematic relationship, recognising that such a relationship had no place in the show.
The Good Wife’s women are shown to be entirely capable, self-assured and highly intelligent. For me, the real issue is the fact that such a drama, which features women at its helm, is not only still considered to be a female orientated programme, but is still rare.