Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Object! the depiction of women in new lawyer shows.

Somewhere between my British TV kick and my SyFy TV kick, there was the Lawyer TV kick. You'll remember that two new lawyer shows came out over the summer. Actually, probably more did, but shut up -- I'm the blogger here. These two shows are particularly interesting because they are practically the same show.

They revolve around two hot, edgy, unorthodox, yet brilliant lawyers who have or form the perfect bromance while winning un-winnable cases. Yep, you guessed them! USA's Suits and TNT's Franklin and Bash. In the former, badass lawyer and cutie-pie Gabriel Macht takes fake lawyer and mini-cutie-pie Patrick J. Adams under his wing at a plate glass law firm in New York. In the latter, hetero-lifemates Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar join a cushy law firm in Los Angeles, where their frat-boy demeanor never stops them from winning a case.


At first, I was really impressed with these shows because they had women -- even women of color -- holding high ranking and seemingly significant positions. But, as I kept watching, I became more and more unimpressed.

Enter, The Good Wife. The Good Wife is an awesome show, currently in its third season, about Alicia, played by Julianna Margulies, who goes back to work at a big law firm after her politician husband is caught in a sex scandal. On The Good Wife, the main character is obviously a woman. One of the name partners in her firm is also a woman, played by Christine Baranski, as is the firm's investigator, Kalinda, played by Archie Panjabi.

Now, I'm no expert, but this is the first time I have seen an investigator play a vital role on a lawyer show. Seeing how well that worked out for The Good Wife, the others followed suit. And hey! Apparently all investigators are women! It's like they said, "See how important and indispensable Kalinda is. Well we have one and she's a woman too! Look, feminists -- important. indispensable. woman." And on F&B, she's even black! Yep, that will distract us from the bikini clad asses you zoom in on. Who cares if your main characters are misogynists -- you have a black chick.

On F&B, a high ranking member of the firm is played by Gabrielle Beauvais. Likewise, a name partner on Suits is played by Gina Torres (hmmm...I blog about Gina Torres a lot). And that is great. Images like these in the media make people recognize powerful women as normal. But it's not that great because, on both of these shows, these powerful women are just tools for the men on the show.

Again, Woah.
And...does it seem to anyone else that these shows are bundling their minorities so their main characters can still be white men?

Yes, if you met these women in real life, you'd never dare to question their authority. But you won't meet them in real life because they aren't real. As important as their positions in the diegetic world of the show may be, their depiction on the show is more important. On Suits, Gina Torres is badass, but she is still a means to an end for the male characters. Gabriel Macht is lagging so she whips him into shape so that he can go forward and win the day. The audience needs to know that he isn't completely cold-hearted, so he expresses his loyalty and gratitude to her. Suits also features a black female paralegal Rachel who, while better developed, does much the same thing for Patrick J. Adams as Gina Torres does for Gabriel Macht. PJA needs help so he can win the day, so Rachel goes into mega-research mode for him. Etc. Etc.

Likewise, on F&B, Gabrielle Beauvais sleeps with Bash (or was it Franklin?) in the first episode. I don't have a problem with women being promiscuous, because I call it being comfortable with sexuality. I have a problem with her promiscuity being a plot point and, consequently, a means of tension between two other male characters. And after a whole season, I know that she doesn't take shit (because she practically told me) and that she slept with Bash (or was it Franklin?) after dating the other lawyer. That's all I know about her. The black female investigator plays more of a role, but she is still unsatisfying.

Now, let's hear it for The Good Wife! Not only is the main character a smart, sexy, confident woman, but a couple of the supporting characters are smart, sexy, confident women too! And I know that because they have their own storylines. They actually make decisions for themselves and have unique voices, rather than cookie-cutter personalities. On this show, even Alicia's daughter, at 15ish, is a great character. She opinionated and open-minded.

Not only does The Good Wife have great female characters, but Kalinda is also bi-sexual. This depiction of a LGBT woman is getting props all over the place.

So, if you just love lawyer shows, tune into The Good Wife and, in the summer, pick Suits over Franklin and Bash. At least you won't hate yourself.

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