The Good Wife
Episode 9: A Defense of Marriage
By: Carlos Uribe
The Good Wife is a show about Alicia Florrick and her career and scandalous personal life.
This week The Good Wife decided to tackle the issue of gay marriage. It specifically decides to explore the current status of the Defense of Marriage Act. It makes it clearer when it brings in a new character who is known as a Supreme Court veteran. This liberal lawyer character likes to take cases that could potentially go to the Supreme Court that challenge some law he doesn't approve of. He joins up with our lawyers because of the spousal shield that doesn't apply to married homosexual couples. At this point, most series would take the entire episode to express it's support of repealing Defense of Marriage Act. It would become more of a piece of political propaganda than an actual episode that makes you think about an issue. The Good Wife isn't most shows. It's true that it makes it perfectly clear where it stands on the issue and on the surface it appears to be about the act. It's just that the episode actually puts the agenda of the Supreme Court lawyer in direct contrast with the agenda of our favorite characters. In doing so, the episode is able to pit the idea of taking the issue to the Supreme Court versus doing what is actually right for the client. Do they throw the case so they can appeal it later or do they set the client free because of his actual innocence? It's not the weekly case that drives the conflict but this question.
It is kind of ironic that an episode titled “A Defense of Marriage” is one that seemingly seems to attack the institution. The gay man that our characters are defending has “Free Fridays” where he can sleep with any man he wants with his spouse's permission. His married and straight boss has had twelve affairs. The two marriages presented in the case are equally on shaky grounds. The show hounds that idea when it introduces Alicia's mother. Alicia's mom has gone through three marriages. She cheated on her latest husband. Alicia's relationship with Peter and her old affair with Will is brought up in this episode. It's as if the show is suggesting that marriage is an institution that has failed. At the same time, most of the characters haven't gotten divorced. Alicia is still with Peter despite his affairs and vice versa. It's like the show is stating that despite all of the problems that a marriage can have, it can still be worth saving. The episode title therefore doesn't just refer to the law but to it's own cynical and even warped view on marriage itself. This view helps elevate A Defense of Marriage beyond being an episode where the writers get to express their political opinions to their viewers but into an actual piece of entertainment with value.
A Defense of Marriage is an episode that primarily focused on the weekly case but it was also about Alicia's personal life. Her mother comes to visit because her last husband has just died. She believes that he has left her everything but his son is challenging the will because he never liked her. This is a perfect excuse for the series to bring in David Lee, so that he can represent Alicia's mom. So who is this person that raised Alicia? She's the kind of person who likes to live larger than life and believes that everybody should do what makes them happy. She gives Alicia a biography titled Vagina and gives larger-than-life presents to her grandchildren. The two characters are directly contrasted not only in their different fashion and design senses but also in their very personality. Alicia is stoic and usually in control. Her mother is carefree and loose. It was particularly entertaining to see Alicia's mother interact with the cast but it was beneficial in that it helped to shed light on Alicia's past. It helps to explain just why Alicia refuses to give up on her own marriage and it's partly because her mother has gone through multiple husbands.
A Defense of Marriage is a pretty good episode of The Good Wife. It wanders into potentially dangerous political preaching but it manages to be more than that by using the agenda to create conflict. This is an episode that is very much about marriage as it completely revolves around it but it's also one that explores the life of family. It shouldn't come as a surprise that this is an episode that ends with a scene involving Alicia's mom and Peter's mom. Marriage isn't just two people who get married but about the combination of family. That family might not always like each other, or even approve, but it's one that is formed regardless. A Defense of Marriage attacks marriage but in doing so it defends it's existence.