Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Good Wife and The Gays

When The Good Wife -- a woman (Julianna Margulies) whose politician husband (Chris Noth) is disgraced by scandal and jailed goes back to work as a lawyer -- first aired I thought it was an interesting and excellent program. In its second season it's still a reasonably good show, but I've come to realize that virtually all of its characters are pretty unlikable.

But I'd like to spend a short time discussing the LGBT characters on the program. First we have Kalinda (Archie Panjabi, a woman), who seems to be an investigator for the law firm that the title character works for. Kalinda seems to wear nothing but the same leather skirt every day. We saw her kissing guys on some episodes and passionately making out with a woman on another. It wasn't clear if she was a lesbian who was struggling to accept herself and come out, or what was meant to be a bisexual (or at least bisexually active) character. Just a week or so ago she admitted she was bisexual with no preference, that she doesn't -- if I remember correctly -- distinguish between the sexes. The trouble is that some of her words and deeds on previous programs make her seem a bit skittish about her gay feelings and relationships. Whether this will ever be addressed on the show or not remains to be seen. Lily Taylor played an ex-girlfriend of Kalinda's -- she seemed to have her own issues -- but it was never made clear exactly how serious a relationship they might have had. Probably not very serious as far as Kalinda is concerned, but whether it was because Taylor wasn't the right woman or because she simply was a woman went unexplored. [Internalized homophobia anyone?]

There has been some sexual tension between Kalinda and a male investigator who joined the firm this season. Discovering that this guy was investigating her, Kalinda took a bat to his car [amazing that he never sued her or had her arrested!]. On a recent episode the two nearly got together, but just when you thought Kalinda was going to smooch the guy she fisted him in the stomach instead. I'm glad the show didn't go in the predictable direction.

A brief digression. I remember a lesbian on a message board who admitted that it bothered her when a bi-identified person in real life or a bi character on a TV show opted to enter into a hetero relationship. She bemoaned the fact that she was "biphobic" and felt she was no different from a redneck who hated gay people or blacks. I thought she was being politically correct to a ludicrous degree! She wasn't being biphobic, she was just being gay. It's perfectly understandable that she would relate better to and feel more comfortable with a bi person or character who decided it was Good to Be Gay -- in other words, who felt comfortable in a homo relationship -- just as a straight person, even a gay-friendly one, might respond more favorably if the bi person entered into a hetero relationship. [Gay/Bi or whatever actor Alan Cumming is also on the show but he's apparently playing a straight character, and why not?)

But back to The Good Wife. Recently the show has added a second queer character, the protagonist's brother, who is gay, but, alas, not in a good way. I really hate having to say this but honestly, if you looked up faggot in an old-fashioned dictionary this guy's picture would be there. That is to say he pushes all the stereotype buttons: epicene, bitchy, blase, unwholesome, unattractive, just arch and unpleasant and unmanly and well, untrustworthy, as gay men were often depicted and thought of as being [even today]. You wouldn't trust this guy as far as you could throw him and I can't imagine anyone even wanting to have a drink with him. He's just a big yucch. I have no idea of the personal life of the actor who plays him, if he's just doing a really good -- or bad -- acting job or simply playing his own reality, but if they had to have a gay man on the show -- not a bad idea, of course -- did it have to be this guy? The problem isn't so much with his whole demeanor, as negative as it is, but he just doesn't come off like a particularly nice or likable person. [For this show, maybe he's just joining the club.] Who am I kidding, it's everything about this guy.

But when it comes to gay characters in films and on TV it's always been two steps forward and three steps backward.

note: The Good Wife was created by Michelle King and Robert King.


Jared Drury said...

On another note did you see Mike and Molly about a week ago? There is another stereotypical gay bar scene. You would think on a show about fat acceptance they could have at least had a couple of bears in the background.

Bill Samuels said...

I haven't seen Mike and Molly yet and I've been avoiding Modern Family [which does have gay bear characters] for fear it would only irritate me with stereotypes. But you're right, Mike and Molly should certainly have had a couple of big bears in the gay bar scene considering the show's theme.

Thanks for your comment.