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Catie Lazarus

Catie Lazarus

Posted: October 29, 2009 04:48 PM

TV Review: The Good Wife

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"He'll know how much it costs to rape someone and get away with it," Christie Barbosa (Paloma Guzman) says to her lawyers, namely Alicia Florrick, to justify how, even as a struggling stripper, she'll turn down an almost half-million dollars in an out-of-court settlement. Fewer than two percent of women lie about sexual assault, but as the one-hour drama is art imitating life, the rape victim's motives are questioned in more detail than those of her rapist, a sleazy, entitled politician named Lloyd McKean. Alicia discovers more tidbits (also known as conflict of interest) about McKean when visiting her husband Peter in jail before work, one morning, the way one might sneak in a jog.

McKean and the District Attorney's office make it difficult for our "young" associate to secure evidence, instead explicitly deriding Alicia about her husband's infidelity. Several times, sexual violence, infidelity and rape, are mentioned as interchangeable, at least Alicia briefs her cohorts, however flatly, that how power issues and "isms" fall on a continuum.

She does feel insecure enough to ask a personal question when gather evidence at an escort service, why men pay to be sexually serviced, and why some services, like not wearing a condom, are more expensive?" The assistant at the escort service explains that boys will be boys and they ask for, "What ever they can't get at home." Men could try springing these special requests on their wives before giving them (or the escorts) HPV.

Weaved into the main story about a rape case, are the questions for the wife and children of a politician's sex scandal, including being forced to see and hear graphic images one would rather not view under kosher circumstances. Peter remains clueless to the impact of his behavior and during a visit asks her, "When are you going to stop thinking I have sex with everyone? When are you going to forgive me?" Alicia can't answer what must be a rhetorical question, although she does ask him several of her own, like, where he was at their daughter's Grace's 12th birthday party, when he "had" to leave early. Not a wisp of her hair falls out of place. (Although, this is a woman who goes to bed caked in makeup.)

The judge is a white male, so liberal, Alicia's boss, jokes that he, "makes Ralph Nader look like Rush Limbaugh." The Judge even forces the court to take a moment of silence to reflect on those in Darfur. (If some one that progressive would warm the bench, let it be known that they should sport a plastic bracelet or ribbon pen. Nothing says compassion like accessories.)

He isn't as progressive when it comes to sexual violence and refuses to re-examine a DNA sample, evidence that would better resolve a sexual assault case than eyewitness testimony. The idea that a liberal male might still be sexist is not news, but The Good Wife deftly hints at how even the most well meaning of us, men and women, aren't always well doing.

The show ends without answering why a spurned woman would be an effective champion for a sexual assault case, although it implies that empathy is one of the unwritten duties. Wives don't do good or bad acts, they are good or bad, and to be a good wife means to be sexually frustrated, able to see the imbalances of power and dance around them, but not (yet) able to solve them. The answer probably won't lie in future episodes of The Good Wife or on Oprah or a Sarah Palin bipoic, but at least The Good Wife asks substantive questions.

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