If the fictional representatives, senators, and political wannabes we've looked at so far in this series have been limited by sexist stereotyping—emotional instability, petty greed, and weakness among these ideas—some of the women who are portrayed working outside of the spotlight come off a bit better. I want to take a look at a few shows, anticipating Shonda Rhimes' new series, Scandal, debuting next month, and express some hopes for what her show may have in store if she follows form from these other narratives.
It's something of an understatement to say that politicians have spent a lot of legislative and stump speech time this year talking about women. More specifically, about women's personal lives. If anyone thought that we'd hear about jobs and the economy, or the pressing need to roll back "Obamacare," there may have been some level of surprise when decades-old settled matters like contraception came trotting out onto the national stage instead. Why so much fuss over birth control, which is employed by the majority of women in this country? And how did so many people come to rally around one law student who had her reputation attacked by a man many people already had dismissed and ignored?
Well, perhaps we've never stopped overanalyzing women's personal lives.
The psyche of the political wife in the modern era - which is to say, post-defining oneself by one's husband - is the kind of thing I sort of wish feminists talked about more often. And when I say that, I mean talk about in a way that does not ultimately devolve to Hillary, Hillary, and also Hillary, who has become the sine qua non of political wife-fights. In fact, I'd be cooler with these chats being all Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, and Judy Dean, Judy Dean, Judy Dean, each of whom present different models of how to deal with being, in essence, a necessary accessory to your husband's career when you in fact have quite the career of your own. And you aren't, you know, a robot. The frankly far too frequent infidelities of political men (and oh I could go on about this ultimate exercise of male privilege, this "I am important and I shall PROVE THIS WITH MY VIRILITY" and the non-apologies about "what happened" that inevitably follow, but I shall not) throw these issues into sharp relief.
So when I heard about The Good Wife I was kind of excited. I was also excited that someone was handing Christine Baranski a paycheck, and there was even the small bonus of seeing Julianna Margulies though it disturbed my fantasy of her living a secret life with George Clooney and the twins in Seattle. Margulies is in some ways perfect for this role: gravelly and serious. The shoe of a professional woman whose life and priorities were eventually subordinated to that of her husband fits her pretty well, because there's something vaguely dissatisfied in her demeanour too. And do I like that Chris Noth is embracing his slime post-hot-L&O-detective and in the shadow of supposedly-dashing Mr. Big? I do. I really do.