The Ultimate Flaw of The Good Wife

Good Wife Slap.jpg
By Tara Cavanaugh
Well, that was a slap in the face.
Literally, yes. As has been lauded in many write-ups, The Good Wife’s series finale ending scene mirrors its pilot one, this time with Alicia herself getting slapped for a brutal, if strategic, transgression against her friend Diane, in a move that ultimately “won” Alicia her freedom.
It was a depressing ending to a tedious episode and increasingly tedious season. The finale, as many have pointed out, hideously failed the Bechdel test, as its entirety was about Peter’s trial, Peter’s cheating (again), Diane’s husband’s cheating (oh come on), Cary’s noble search for missing bullets and The Truth, and the waffling between Jason and Alicia that has gone from clever and sexy to downright annoying. How many times this episode did they “have a talk” that consisted of hemming and hawing and middle school fidgeting? I stopped counting.
I shouldn’t have had high hopes for the finale. I used to watch the show with rapt attention, endlessly amused by the intertwining of storylines and the wonderful, zany characters. But after Will left and then Kalinda, the show never fully regained its momentum. Sure, there were still some excellent episodes, but I started to wonder about, and then get completely distracted by, Alicia’s true aims: What does she want, really? What is she even doing all this for?
We still don’t know.
Alicia is a woman who, at first, was the victim. Her husband had a high-profile downfall and prison sentence resulting from soliciting prostitutes, on top of affairs with other women. Alicia was forced into the public eye, humiliated, standing by her man. And then she had to go back to work after a 15-year-hiatus and suffer the hazing of life at a law firm. But all that trauma made a formidable character: ambitious, ruthless, complex. We watched her struggle with defending less than laudable clients. We watched her fight falling in love with Will and then have a delicious affair of her own. We watched her complicated relationship with Peter balance contempt, duty and tenderness. We saw her stand tough, we saw her cry, we saw her throw plates at Eli.
But we never really figured out what she wants.
Did she want to start an all-women’s firm with Diane? Not really, that was Diane’s idea. Did she truly want to be State’s Attorney? That was Eli’s idea and he bullied her into it. Did she want to stay shackled to Peter? No, but her career and political aims necessitated staying the wife. The only thing she ever truly seemed to want was Will, and he died.
Back to that monumental episode of Eli and the plate-hurling: she found out that Eli, so long ago, had deleted a confessional voicemail from Will that professed his love and devotion. When Eli finally admitted this to Alicia, she was livid. But even if she had heard that voicemail back then, would she have done anything about it? Probably not. She probably would have stayed latched to Peter for her career, or his career, or for some other duty.
After all, the show was always about duty and desire. Alicia had a duty to her clients, to her children, her husband. And she fulfilled those duties, while sometimes giving into her desires, sometimes even getting consumed by them, but she always was interrupted by her phone—and she always answered the call.
But what was always apparent, and never fully answered, was the call of her own desires. Sure, there were some episodes in which she did exactly what she wanted. Those moments of stubbornness were few and strange. (Grace to Alicia on a tour bus ride during Peter’s presidential bid: “What are you reading?” “Jane Eyre.” Puzzled: “Why?” Pointed: “Because I want to.”) It was odd to see her selfish. A dutiful woman is never selfish because her duties are always to someone other than herself.
So in the final episode, we saw Alicia leave Jason a confessional voicemail, which eerily reminded me of Will’s ill-fated voicemail to Alicia. We saw her stand by Peter as he resigns, effectively ending his political career and his marriage, and then run off stage after the shadow of Jason. Only it isn’t Jason, he’s nowhere to be found. It’s just her, alone in the hallway, and then she gets the vicious and deserved slap from Diane.
Alicia winces, whelps, soothes herself and recovers, moving resolutely forward. To what? Jason? We know he’s not the answer—a lasting relationship with him is as likely as living on Mars. To another political race that Eli is planning without her input, and that he’ll bully her into? Running after Jason is a sign that maybe she knows now that she has a right to go after what she wants, but I can’t shake the feeling that for her, it’s just too late.
In one episode during her State’s Attorney campaign, a high-profile potential donor asked Alicia what she wanted. Alicia, surprised by the impromptu meeting and a little buzzed, said: “I want to be happy,” looking a little incredulous at herself. After the brief meeting ended, Alicia collapsed into a chair. No, that wasn’t the right thing to say at the time. But it is an okay thing to want—no, it’s an important thing to want. And an important thing to go after. Too bad Alicia never really did.

Fail of the Week: Breaking Dawn, Breaking Bad

K.Stew, oh, K.Stew. What are we to do with you? It’s like you put on lingerie added a see-through skirt and call it a dress. It’s like a game of let’s pretend to be naked on the red carpet without being naked. But K.Stew, I did not want to play peek-a-boo with your lady bits.

Bonus Bad: Julianne Hough, what is this bondage for your boobs?! Even your hair isn’t on board with this plan. Continue reading

Badass women of fiction

Much has been written about awesome heroines.  Princess Leia, Lara Croft, and Wonder Woman get the limelight, but anyone who’s pop culture savvy already knows how great they are.  This list features heroines from TV series, movies, and books that don’t always top the charts.

Marion Ravenwood is the most badass of all Indy’s girlfriends.  Besides not being a ninny or Nazi, Marion outsmarts and outdrinks the bad guys.

Idgie Threadegood (Fried Green Tomatoes) befriends homeless and African-American customers at the café she owns.  She’s also an “out” lesbian (more so in the novel than the film version) and rescues her partner from an abusive husband.

Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) is another amazing heroine from 1930s Alabama.  Atticus raises her to think for herself and she doesn’t give a damn what her ignorant neighbors think.  Also, she won’t wear frills―not because she’s rebelling against the system, but because playing outside in a dress sucks.

Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen (A Game of Thrones)  fend for themselves in a medieval, patriarchal world.  Even better, Arya fights with a sword and Danerys has dragons.  Maybe I’m just a nerd girl, but…sniff sniff…I want a sword and some dragons…

Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series lives up to her name―on her own terms.  Instead of the Grim Reaper, Gaiman’s Death is a spunky goth chick who can intimidate the Furies and still have a heart.  Death also has a floppy hat collection and two goldfish named Slim and Wandsworth  Never though I’d say this about “death,” but how cute (in a weird, Helena Bonham Carter way).

Zoe Washburne…no, wait―the entire female cast of Firefly…or just make that every female character invented by Joss Whedon.  Zoe gets the limelight because no matter what kind of mess she and the Serenity crew are in, she stays cool and rarely misses a shot.

How can this list be complete without a girl who’s badass for her brains?  Hermione Granger is a klutz on a broomstick, but without her clever resourcefulness Harry might have met an untimely demise, prophecy be damned.

–By Jenna Cooper

Yes, yes, I’m in a guild AND have a vagina

Type in “girl gamer” and this is the first image that Google lists. The stereotype of the girl gamer has transcended into memedom.

As a gamer, whenever I discover I’m speaking with a fellow gamer I immediately feel like I can shrug off my inhibitions over geeking out.   But because I’m definitely a girl as far as biology and gender go and don’t fit the stereotype of girl gamers, I surprise some people.   I’m physically active, like fashion beyond the Japanese Lolita look, and I don’t game to attract attention from guys.  I like a few flash games and apps, but I’m really all about PC and console RPGs (role-playing games) such as Fable, the Elder Scrolls series, and World of Warcraft.

In my experience, I notice that the most notorious stereotypes for female gamers are: the basket case who spends more time on her guild than on her hygiene, what I call the “Vanity Gamer” (i.e. a girl who posts her pics on sites like or who plays only to please her boyfriend), and the casual girl gamer who sticks to the Wii and apps.  Furthermore, the stereotypes normally portray girl gamers as Asian or white, not women of color.

However, when you play online games oftentimes your avatar is that all other players see, which should allow for more neutrality and equality (unless you’re speaking into a headset).  When you play online games, you’re only judged on how skilled you are and not because of your sex, race, or sexual orientation.  Unfortunately, because of that anonymity, some users let their consciences take a nosedive. Bigoted or inflammatory users typically don’t target individual girls or women—instead, they usually make boorish blanket statements about girl gamers and reiterate the aforementioned stereotypes either to get a rise out of other users or to express opinions they can’t articulate in real life without making themselves pariahs.  In “real life” I’m sure the users making sexist comments probably don’t spew prejudiced rhetoric in public, but in-game is a different story.  For girl gamers, including myself, who enjoy gaming online, the dialogue that goes on in the chat interfaces can range from aggravating to rage-inducing.  It’s ironic that one few “places” girls and women can go where people won’t judge them based on appearances is also a place where bigotry, particularly sexism, runs rampant.

Play WoW on any server and you’ll sometimes see talk of girl gamers in the chat interface—statements like “girls don’t play WoW,” “only fugly chicks play MMOs (massive multiplayer online games),” and “lolz only girls who can’t get laid play (insert game title here).”  Other misconceptions include the idea that girls suck at “real” games (especially first-person shooter games like Call of Duty or Halo) or that they identify as gamers so that lonely nerd boys will lust over them.

But what about the facts of the gamer girl demographic, and how do they compare to the stereotypes?  From 2009-2010, the Lifetime network, strangely enough, executed a thorough, thought-provoking study of women gamers and created a dichotomy of female gaming “types.”   The diagram below shows five gaming personalities for women based on how much social interaction they prefer in games and how much time and energy they invest in them:

The percentages come from a survey of over 1,000 women and a pool of men conducted by Kris Soumas, head of games for AETN Digital Media, and Matt Lashey, vice president of strategic insights for Lifetime.  Contrary to popular belief, the highest percentage of women gamers fell into the Competitors category—meaning you can find these social, challenge-driven women playing anything from Wii Sports to Halo: Reach.  Furthermore, 38 percent of the “Competitors” identified as either African-American or Hispanic, which shows that the population of serious gamer girls is fairly racially diverse.

Also, according to the survey results, the least common female gaming types consist of two extremes: Immersives (overwhelmingly introverted, stressed-out escapists), and Dabblers (women who play simple, non-interactive games to slack off).  The Lifetime study shows that the “stereotypical” female gamers—Immersives and Dabblers—don’t constitute the majority of female gamers.

So now what?  The Lifetime study, along with a slew of studies published in the last five years, provides hard evidence that the population of female gamers is a motley one that defies stereotypes.  True, widespread knowledge of such studies won’t put an end to the juvenile and mean-spirited talk on chat interfaces, intercoms, and message boards—this is one of the big reasons why in-game customer support exists in the first place.  I’d like to see this enlightening information as a sign that recognition of girl gamers as a viable force in the consumer market is on the upswing, and that that will help pave the way for women to have more agency in the gaming industry in the future.

For more on the Lifetime network’s study, go to Business Insider’s piece entitled “Inside The Minds Of Girl Gamers.”

–By Jenna Cooper