TV

Life Lessons from The Good Wife

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The Good Wife premieres its seventh and possibly last season this Sunday (October 4, 9pm, CBS) and to get ready I did a partial rewatch of seasons one through six over the summer.  As I followed along on the ‘Education of Alicia Florrick’ as creators Robert and Michelle King describe their series, I found myself identifying more and more with, well, not the specific character but with the idea of her education. Here are five life lessons I picked up from The Good Wife:

Work with people who challenge you.

This is best illustrated by the saga of Cary & Alicia. In the beginning they were rivals, deliberately pitted against each other by their mentors and the named partners of the law firm, Diane Lockhart and Will Gardner. Cary’s greatest strength was his ambition and Alicia her sincerity and both were exploited by their superiors. Four years later they orchestrated a preemptive strike against the firm as they split off and it made for one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen. Alicia and Cary realized they were stronger, and better lawyers, working together because they approached the law and worked the system differently.

Cary & Alicia

Other examples: Diane has or has had contentious if advantageous partnerships with Alicia, Cary, David Lee, R.D., and even Will, a pattern which suggests she lives by this particular rule.

Sleep with people who challenge you.

Diane’s flirtation with and eventual marriage to expert witness Kurt McVeigh represents the only healthy romance on the show (and even here they blur boundaries a teeny bit when he sometimes works for her). In political terms they’re a study in opposites: Democrat/Republican, Liberal/Conservative, Gun Control/NRA, Hillary Clinton/Sarah Palin. But in emotional terms they’re much alike: incredibly passionate, fiercely independent, undaunted and driven. He stands for truth and she stands for justice and together they’re unbeatable (and healthy).

Diane & Kurt

Other examples: In their brief relationship, Eli Gold and Natalie Flores challenged the status quo in a delightful way. As gross as I feel saying it, this is why Alicia and Peter are together, and can be good together.

Own your look.

‘Image is everything’ is a recurring theme in The Good Wife and while I certainly don’t think we should abide by it, cultivating your own sartorial persona can be empowering (also fun). Kalinda is my favourite example of this on the series and I will miss her leather jackets and tall boots almost as much as I will miss her! Kalinda’s fashion, and the way she wears it, broadcasts that she is not to be trifled with. It’s her her weapon and her armor and she makes good use of both.

kalinda

Other examples: Diane Lockhart understands the worth of a power suit and a mean looking accessory better than anyone. Her wardrobe is expansive and inspiring. Alicia’s fashion trajectory follows her story, becoming more savvy as she goes — I secretly hope her new position will result in a slight change…I would love to see her get messy in a plotline unrelated to death or depression.

Do what must be done.

The sixth season cliffhanger is Alicia opening her door to Louis Canning asking “Wanna partner?” so I paid a lot of attention to Canning in my rewatch. He epitomizes this rule — which may make you think it’s a bad one. But ‘what must be done’ is up to the person doing it. In Canning’s case he puts getting the outcome his clients want ahead of everything else and is willing to prey on individual’s and society’s flaws to get it done. But he doesn’t hide any of it from Alicia, instead he invites her to learn how.

Louis Canning

Other examples: In contrast but similarly, Finn strive to do what’s right often puts his conception of the greater good ahead of individual needs. Alicia was more like Finn in the beginning and is closer to being like Canning now, it’s clearly part of her education. But Finn left because it was what he had to do. So did Kalinda. So did Cary and Alicia in season five. Diane and Will and Peter and Eli and David Lee, even Zack and Jackie — everyone on this show lives this rule in one way or another.

Be true to yourself.

This is the message at the heart of most fiction and The Good Wife is no exception. I’d like to highlight Grace’s quiet exploration of religion, politics and identity with regards to both her family and herself. Grace is often overlooked and maligned by the audience and even the show, but she is on a parallel track to her mother’s and I think that’s brilliant. She has been Alicia’s cheerleader, conscience, and magic mirror in all cases her message is: be true to you, and maybe that can be enough.

Alicia and Grace

Other examples: Will Gardner lived and breathed and ultimately died for this ideal.

 

Anika Dane works at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She is a writer of words. A dancer of dreams. A pop culture blogger. A feminist and a fashionista. A Social Justice Klingon Warrior Princess who fell in love with the Skywalker family when she was seven years old. Mother of girls. Secretly a dragon.

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