This year during the Hollywood Reporter’s Drama Actresses Emmy Roundtable, Julianna Margulies, star of CBS’s hit show The Good Wife, had this to say about women in television:
“I haven’t seen that many roles in film that even can put a light up to the roles I see for women on television and it’s not to say I don’t love films. I love them, but they don’t seem to celebrate women the way that television does.”
And Ms. Margulies would know. On The Good Wife, a show for which Margulies recently won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, the way the women characters (both leading and supporting) are portrayed is an aspect of the show I particularly enjoy. In fact, I am hard pressed to find another show currently on the air with female characters as complex and multi-layered as Alicia Florrick, Diane Lockhart and Kalinda Sharma, three of the main characters on The Good Wife.
I recently started watching The Good Wife in late September. I worked my way from the beginning of season one up until the point we are at now in season three.
When we first meet Alicia Florrick (Margulies), she is standing by her husband Peter in a press conference as he announces that he will be stepping down as State’s Attorney of Illinois. The reason: a sex tape of him sleeping with a hooker is released and among other things, he is now being accused of using state money to pay for sexual favors. He is sent to prison and Alicia is left to fend for herself and her two children.
Six months later, Alicia is starting back at work again in the law offices of Stern, Lockhart & Gardner and competing with a slew of twentysomethings straight out of law school. Through the seasons we see Alicia have to fight for her position at work and support her family all on her own while her husband fights the charges brought against him. Alicia is stoic and represses many of her emotions; not because that’s just how she is, but because she’s been hurt deeply and betrayed by the only person she knew she could trust.
In the end of season two she finds out that her husband slept with her now best friend, Kalinda Sharma, in the past when she was an employee in the State’s Attorney’s office. Naturally, this absolutely destroys Alicia and she calls it quits with both Peter and her trusted friend, opening her up to a relationship with Will Gardner, a partner at the firm and old college friend with whom she has had a mutual attraction to since day one. In season three, we see that they are still engaging in their relationship and Alicia has taken on a whole new persona. She is more confident, stronger, and sure of herself.
What I’ve liked a lot about season three is that Alicia has been almost put in the role of the male when it comes to her and Will’s relationship. It is clear that he has feelings for her, but she refuses to talk about it. In many relationships portrayed on television it is typically the man the only wants to keep the relationship detached and purely physical, while the woman begins to form deep feelings. Alicia is excelling at her job in the law firm and doesn’t want anything to get in the way of her work. Personally, I like seeing a woman on television concerned with her career and family, and less concerned with her relationships with men.
Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) is one half of the powerful firm Lockhart & Gardner. In the pilot of season one, she tells Alicia on her first day of work “Men can afford to be lazy. Women can’t.” And that was when I fell in love with the character. Diane doesn’t try to pretend that women are equal to men in the workplace, but she knows how to succeed and show that she can do a man’s job just as good if not better.
I think the writers of The Good Wife could have easily made this character the career-driven, bitchy, executive type but instead they have given her dimension. She has a life outside of work. She has love interests. She has many different facets to her all while running one of the most successful firms in Chicago. I think that is definitely something to be admired.
Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) is the in-house private investigator for Lockhart/Gardner. As mysterious as she is beautiful, Kalinda is considered to be one of the best private investigators in Chicago. From day one, it is clear that Kalinda isn’t the type of person to wear her heart on her sleeve. It’s clear that she doesn’t let her emotions effect her work in any way and will manipulate others however she can to get what she wants; often using her sexuality.
As the seasons go on, Kalinda forms a friendship with Alicia. Through that friendship we see her open up and behave less like a robot. She’s one of the most complicated characters that I’ve ever encountered on a television show. The way that the writers have developed her character is fascinating to me. There is still so much that the audience doesn’t know about the character of Kalinda yet she has developed emotionally in so many ways since the pilot.
I think The Good Wife portrays it’s female characters in a very different light than most shows. They never fall into stereotypes and it’s refreshing to see a show where women are of equal importance as men in the workplace.