(Part I of a two-part series)
Beginning of the Beginning
Trump’s rise and fall have only exposed the cracks in the ‘biased’ (his words and mine) media.
As fact and fiction blend in everyday life, America keeps generating myths about itself because the nation has a peculiar inward-looking, navel-gazing tendency. This spills over to its media content. The media and mediated economies that run the shows sing a similar tune; for the past two decades, corporate overlords have been calling for America first, self-generation, and so on.
This is the zeitgeist of the times in politics as well. All these things stem from the USA being so full of itself that it has blinded itself to its crumbling economy, ecological disasters, and nuclear threats. But its open eyes gorge on entertainment. Its returns on the diminishing goods are so low, that – That’s All Folks!
America watched the 1992 Gulf War in primetime and found it boring even though it was shot entirely from their perspective – *now imagine the next line in Trump’s voice* – ‘Where there was so much winning for America, folks, you would not believe it!’ At least a few students and human rights activists stood up against the Vietnam War.
Post 9/11, in another hand-wringing media incident, Bill Maher deemed America’s actions of bombing and drone strikes of places either geo-strategically vital or resource-abundant as courageous. HBO cancelled Maher’s show immediately after backlash.
America, then in the 60s and 70s, 1992, 2001, and now in 2020, is precisely what it has been! We hear routinely on American television news terms such as ‘unamerican!’, ‘Fake News,’ ‘land of the free,’ and ‘home of the brave.’
With its arrogant leaders, USA has had a colonial tinge, an imperial power with conquests of land to plant capital. America has interfered in the elections of at least 45 nations since WW-II. It is a nation that imposes an ‘imported’ democracy upon other countries.
Some of these questions find their way into The Good Wife (TGW) (2009-2016) and its spin-off The Good Fight (TGF) (2017-present), albeit with a self-reflexivity. TGW and the TGF have tried to bring some sanity to America’s debates for 11 years in this environment. Both shows are inclined to the liberal-left, but they step out of their comfort zones and ask hard questions about the intersection of Media, Law, and Politics, with Law firmly at the thick of it.
Although, when it comes to asking real, challenging questions to capital, the show ends up mincing its words, not because it’s afraid of corporate capitalism, but because it has internalized the nature of capital very well.
Following a prostitution scandal of her husband-politician Peter Florrick, Alicia, a lawyer by profession, is trying to understand what Truth means to her and her two children, as she restarts her legal practice.
Initially, ambivalent to her husband’s guilt, Alicia sees the murkier politics in the Chicago-based law firm, Lockhart & Gardner. Will Gardner, her batchmate, ex-flame, and now boss, runs the show with a left-liberal feminist – Diane Lockhart. Alicia is in the throes of the scandal, thrown in politics and caught in the media limelight. She wants to get away from all of it initially, but she bites the dust, rises from it, then, loves the attention and seeks more of it. Will, a seemingly natural ally in the law firm, becomes more than an ally – an illicit lover, a mentor, a shoulder to cry on.
Little does Alicia know that Will has more than one skeleton in his closet. By the end of season 7, we see Alicia’s marriage is a sham (much like the Clintons’ lives were scandalized!) and that the couple is together only for the political benefits. She first wins and then loses the local election because of voter fraud (sounds familiar?!). She is also sensing an empty nest when her children have moved away. She has had meaningless affairs, and like all others in the series, she has lied, cheated, poached clients, and told ‘untruths’ to both herself and to people close to her. And after a point, she is a true-blue American; she does not care – because that would be unamerican!
Along the way, she ends up betraying Diane’s trust. Diane slaps Alicia, just like Alicia slapped Peter Florrick for his betrayal at the show’s beginning. Therein lie the seeds of the spin-off of The Good Fight.
The story in season 1 of TGF shifts to Diane as the protagonist, who has come out of the legal scandal, like Alicia did in season 1 of TGW, and is about to retire. But then, as Donald Trump swears in as the 45th President of the United States of America, we see a grim Diane leave retirement aside and jump back into Law.
Diane now joins a newly emerging all-black firm as their diversity hire, and Lucca Quinn, a bi-racial lawyer, is ready to take on the Trump administration and its racist policies. Unlike Alicia in seasons 6 and 7, who is almost sleepwalking with no sign of soul in her heart, Diane starts losing her head, and begins micro-dosing on drugs, learns a new hobby every season, until she finds left-leaning activists who want to take Trump down. Soon she realizes that most of these activists are no different from the crazy right-wing ones, who would start a rumour on social media just to get someone killed for their politics.
Season 4 begins with an unusual episode, in which Diane lands up in a dream-like state because of a blow to the head. Hillary Clinton is the President, cancer is cured (but the administration is accused of curing it too late), Jeffrey Epstein is dead, and the Weinstein Company is still roaring.
Owing to the pandemic, the show could not shoot its last three episodes. The final episode of season 4, or the first episode of season 5, was supposed to be a split-screen on how the world of these Chicago lawyers turns out to be if, on one side, Trump gets re-elected and, on the other, if Biden wins.
Again, there are no easy answers.
(Read Part II of the two-part series here)
Hrishikesh Arvikar is a film researcher at The School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland. He is also a scenarist working on two screenplays, and a web series.
The views and opinions expressed in the above article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official opinion, policy or position of Lokmaanya.