The Good Wife is supposed to be set in Chicago (it’s really filmed in New York) and is a pretty realistic depiction of politics and power in that city. And yet…black recurring characters are few and far between, odd for a city that is known for having a strong base of African-American influence (Obama said he felt more at home there than he ever did in New York). Even worse, I can’t find a single black female recurring character that hasn’t been an antagonist. Very odd for a show that seems so nuanced and intuitive to its portrayals of its white female characters.
I posted this on a message board last week…
“That I can remember, this show has had three regularly recurring black female characters.
Dana Lodge (Monica Raymund), who I really liked, and actually cared about her relationship with Carey. But, she’s ultimately made to look like sort-of a bad girl, just trying to use Kalinda to get information (when Kalinda does nothing but use people all day, every day), and then abruptly put out to pasture, ending both her job, relationship with Carey, and her entire run on the show because of one scene where Carey is promoted over her.
Then there’s the other black female at the state’s attorney’s office, Geneva Pine, who regularly comes off as a terrible lawyer (her primary job is getting whooped by Lockhart/Gardner) and usually as a first class *****, always being a fly in the ointment for various other characters. She argues with Peter regularly, she called Carey out for receiving a promotion (also dumped on him for dating Dana), and is the reason Lockhart/Gardner didn’t get the recent bid for the state’s attorney’s business. [Contrast her treatment with the depiction of the white female prosecutor played by Amanda Peet, who’s allowed to be likable, flirty, and fun.]
Then there’s Wendy Scott Carr, who is without question an antagonist, regularly screwing with Peter, Eli, and even saint Alicia, whose interactions with all of the above characters (as well as recent guest star Audra Macdonald) bristle with white privilege and outrage that they have the audacity to, gasp, try to win a case against her.
Then there was Nicole Behari as Imani, who guested for two episodes as someone whose sole purpose was to monitor the district attorney’s office, and then Audra Macdonald, on last night’s episode where she played, you guessed it, Alicia’s old law-school nemesis.
[In the last few episodes alone, a black female’s death from an energy drink antagonized the firm’s corporate client and Lemont Bishop’s sister lied on her testimony, being the chief obstacle to his release from prison…Not to mention he murdered his wife when she similarly tried to be rid of him.]
The only remotely positive portrayal of a major black female character on the show is Zach’s girlfriend Nessa, but she’s also very young and incredibly mousy. And the show has handled her quite awkwardly, making her relationship with Zach a big deal with his grandmother and Alicia even though she’s barely kissed him from what we’ve seen…It’s a bit like they’re afraid to show them as a real couple, and never let her do much more than talk softly for an occasional scene every ten episodes or so. She’s more of a racial plot device to teach the white characters a very important lesson, than a true character the writers have invested in.”
AND NOW, Nessa has been written off the show with her character’s breakup with Zach. I guess the writers discovered they still had a black female character that was 1. Not an antagonist, 2. Still on the show, and decided to “fix” that problem immediately by 1. Making her character’s Muslim background (which has never been an issue or, to my knowledge, even mentioned on the show before) a “problem” for Peter’s campaign, 2. Having Zach dump her immediately, although he claims it’s because they’re moving too fast and he’s headed to college…on what planet does a teenage boy think he’s “moving too fast” with his long-term high school girlfriend that he’s never slept with?
So congratulations Good Wife, even as you break down barriers for white women and regularly address their issues, you’re seemingly unwilling or incapable of portraying black female characters as anything other than “problems” for the white characters.