“The Good Wife” Only Portrays Black Women as Antagonists

By | March 18, 2013

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.

5 thoughts on ““The Good Wife” Only Portrays Black Women as Antagonists

  1. Anonymous

    A perceptive critique on what is otherwise a very good show. However, it’s not just its black female characters that are pigeonholed. The show really does have a problem in depicting any black characters in a positive light.

  2. vic s. ancheta

    To avoid the criticism of the British TV series Midsomer Murders, that had no black characters–male or female–the good wife tv show should use condi rice or star jones or michelle obama as recurring female, black lawyer characters.

  3. Monica

    You are ABSOLUTELY correct. I had put off watching this heralded series, but “binged-watched” with my husband. I’m sorry I did so. It had such potential, but the constant juxtaposition of the “antagonistic” black women and men with the morally bankrupt, yet forgivable and empathetic white characters was absolutely disgusting. They believe whole-heartedly in the “White female innocent, if young” who is to be cherished, even if guilty, or the flighty, but innocent and brilliant white female lawyers (the blonder the better), young and old, or the super charismatic, brilliant young white teen girls… it just never ends, including the lead character’s perfection. The fact that most of their cases deal with young white female victims, for what I have to guess, is meant to pull at our heartstrings is sadly predictable and if the victim was a man, they paid more attention to his delicate white wife and, likely, her daughter(s), because apparently, white families give birth to girls at a rate of 20 to 1 whereas black families only give birth to boys (lest another type of “girl” take attention away). It’s shameful, actually. The black women “victims” have either lied, put their children at risk (making even the drug dealer appear to have more scruples than his wife whom he eventually had killed – but of course, she deserved it) while the father’s were attentive and endearing, were murdered for having affairs. The bias is so obvious, yet it is sad because they will have the privilege of denying it and being heard, the obvious truth, be damned. Racial bias has never been proven in any of their cases, but bias against young white women with tattoos and piercings, yes… Not to mention how they use the wonderful Kalinda character with no care. There is not filter for her dignity. They are not protective of the characters “character”. Whatever vices they would hesitate to use with a Mamie Gummer, they gladly through at “Kalinda” with the kitchen sink. Shameful.

  4. Sam Njoroge

    I completely agree with Monica. This show has a problem depicting black characters in good light. It highlights their errors while it plays down the errors of the white and other races characters. The only sort of positive character, Nissa, has never been developed at all. Its like it has a sublimal message, “Educated or powerful blacks are egotistical maniacs, and if they are not, they are either drug dealers or kids or sth is just wrong with them. Unsophisticated ones are just liars, thieves or plain uncouth.”

  5. True Ted

    This is a great piece. Even though the series is over I’ve watched old eps recently and wondered what the hell was going on with the black women. Nessa barely says a word but they all seem to hate her lol

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