Hillary Clinton, The Good Wife, and “Weinergate”

Curator's Note

This past June, culture watchers spilled much ironic ink over the fact that former president Bill Clinton officiated at the wedding of (now) former New York congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin. Abedin, who began as an intern for Hillary Clinton during the same period as Monica Lewinsky, works as the Secretary of State’s deputy chief of staff. Much like other recent sex-and-corruption scandals involving philandering husbands Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and John Edwards, “Weinergate” begged for comparison to The Good Wife, which famously began its pilot episode with a press conference in which the wronged wife stands beside her disgraced husband and then promptly slaps him behind the scenes. As if to intone a similar sense of frustration, Abedin was conspicuously not by Weiner’s side at his press conference, an absence Weiner answers rather sarcastically in this clip: “She is not here.” From all reports, however, Abedin was not there because she was doing what Hillary was doing, and what Alicia Florrick learns to do on The Good Wife: she was working.

Surely the Weiner incident, like the myriad others involved politicians’ seemingly endless parade of sexual humiliations, will continue to hover in the margins of The Good Wife. Referring explicitly to Weiner in “The Death Zone” episode which aired on October 2, 2011, crisis manager Eli Gold offered the following exasperated dismissal: “Oh god, the day politicians discover Twitter.” Yet, it is Hillary who has—as she was rumored to be for Abedin—become The Good Wife’s muse. On Alicia’s first day of work, firm partner Diane Lockhart gestures to a picture of herself with Hillary Clinton (also visible in the episode which references Weiner) and says to Alicia, “If she can do it, so can you.” From the sometimes morally questionable ways that Alicia’s own career has advanced thanks to backdoor deals greased by her now estranged husband’s political connections, to the moment in the first season when Alicia pointedly rejects her spouse’s messianic intimation that he, like Bill, has been “crucified” for sex, the Clintons and their compromises are ever present on the show. In turn the suggestion, a lá Hillary, that professional power imbues resiliency seems, in this new season especially, all the more regularly embodied by Alicia.

Comments

Noel Kirkpatrick's picture

The value of working

Hi Suzanne. Thanks for a great post.

I’m curious if you’d be willing to expand a bit on the idea of "professional power imbu[ing] resiliency" within the show. While Alicia’s growing confidence within the her professional life has helped her exert more power within her personal life, I think there are points where the two are coming into increasing conflict that still cause anxiety for her, particularly in "The Death Zone" when Diane shows up at her door and in last Sunday’s "Get a Room" when Owen calls her out for using work to avoid addressing her personal problems.

And, if you can, I’d also be curious as to where (if at all) you’d place Kalinda in this configuration of work, resiliency, and scandal.

Aviva Dove-Viebahn's picture

school for scandal

Great post, Suzanne. The fact that TGW renders a fictional version of the behind-the-scenes family drama of the (incredibly ubiquitious) political scandal saga we’re so familiar with these days has long been at the heart of my interest in the show (as I’m sure it is for many viewers). One thing I find particularily interesting about your post is your invocation of Hillary Clinton; in some ways, it’s as if TGW offers us a fantasy of what goes on the lives and minds of real-life "good wives" like Clinton.  That said, I’d also be interested (like Noel mentioned) in how you think your ideas transfer over to a character like Kalinda. If Peter and Alicia are Bill and Hillary, does that make Kalinda a kind of Monica Lewinsky figure?

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