What 'Girls' Could Learn From the 'Good Wife's' Wife

Popular TV Shows Seem To Be in Dialogue With Each Other

Lena In: Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’ seem to lead lives filled with humiliation. Is this all they’ve learned from the generation represented by television’s ‘Good Wife?’
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Lena In: Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’ seem to lead lives filled with humiliation. Is this all they’ve learned from the generation represented by television’s ‘Good Wife?’

By Sharon Pomerantz

Published May 06, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.
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“The Good Wife” stands out in the way it uses technology and the law in layered plots that go far beyond the predictable legal procedural. Lockhart Gardner has handled cases involving everything from online currency to violent video games to a “rape app.” To quote The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum, “‘The Good Wife’ is to the digital debate as ‘The Wire’ is to the drug war.”

Both shows do a lot with clothes. Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) dresses impeccably, in couture or designer fare. Alicia wears a variety of tailored suits. These are aspirational outfits, the kind most women dream of wearing but can’t afford. Just like in “Girls,” this is an upper middle-class world, but one where characters work incredibly hard to get what they want, even if they’re not always honest. On “Girls,” kooky is more the order of the day; the clothing is “anti-aspirational.” Hannah, in particular, dresses in costumes — skorts (shorts as a skirt), see-through halters. And when she does put on a dress, it is often a short one with a big dirndl skirt, more the clothing of a little girl than of a grown woman. Perhaps when you’re in your 20s, you can wear anything and get away with it, but she does want to enter the working world, even the artsy one in Brooklyn. Even if Hannah has no interest in wearing someday Alicia’s corporate armor, she might, eventually, have to consider putting on pants.

It is perhaps unfair to compare a big-budget network show that appears every week for an entire season to an HBO show that runs in 10-episode segments. But “The Good Wife,” in the issues it tackles, feels more like a cable show, and “Girls” has gotten so much critical attention that, at this point, it is more significant than a half-hour of television might suggest. Critics and bloggers continue to write about the show’s frank portrayal of awkward, even degrading sexuality. Dunham is not afraid to show her body; all for the good, I say, because women have gone generations without seeing a normal-size female on television. But it’s in the show’s portrayal of eros, or the lack thereof, that I lose my way a bit and start to feel my age.

Both shows devote a lot of time to how characters are getting it on. Alicia, in the third season, sleeps with her boss, Will Gardner (Josh Charles), and her friend Kalinda Sharma, the firm investigator (Archie Panjabi), is openly bisexual and sleeps with a variety of characters, men and women, all of whom she also uses to get information. [For all the fuss about the nudity and graphic sex on “Girls,” and the way Dunham’s characters talk about acquiring experience, there are nothing but heterosexual experiences with other Brooklyn hipsters. When Hannah’s college boyfriend of two years turns out to be gay, Hannah is horrified and feels betrayed, though, as he points out, the answer was always right in front of her but she was too self-absorbed to notice.

During and after sex, the girls are often humiliated; they’re peed upon, masturbated on or offered money. Dunham has said in interviews that the men of her generation grow up watching Internet porn and that she’s sometimes suspected, in her own life, that her partners were imitating what they’d seen online.


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