Division II: Work Friends
#8 Ally & Renée v. #9 Alicia & Kalinda
One of these days I’m going to write a post devoted to my love for The Good Wife. (The courtroom drama! The feminism! Josh Charles!) And since Alicia and Kalinda will be in the same 2nd round as Meredith and Christina (who I think have a good chance to go all the way), this is my chance to talk them up.
Alicia and Kalinda’s friendship has been tested. Kalinda took Alicia seriously and they quickly proved to be a fantastic investigative team for the law firm. Alicia needed a strong female friend more than ever–her bourgie friends in the suburbs abandoned her, and she was just getting back into practicing law. Alicia is an excellent friend: she has an innate moral compass and she is there for you when you need her. As for Kalinda–let me go on record here–I think Kalinda Sharma is one of the most complex and embodied characters on TV today. Kalinda is the type of person who doesn’t trust others. She doesn’t like to show her vulnerability by demonstrating that she cares. But she cares about Alicia. Which is why it was so heart-breaking when Alicia found out about Kalinda and Peter. Since that discovery (and other subsequent set-backs), they have patched their friendship back together slowly. Things aren’t all better. The trust has been permanently damaged. But that’s what makes The Good Wife so compelling to me–it’s the reality of it all. I hope they can patch it all up by the end of the series. Heck, I hope they have a sexual encounter. But if they don’t, I totally understand. This isn’t strong female friendship as it could be, it’s strong female friendship as it is.
#8 Ally & Renée, by Christina
Well, shit. I’m not sure I’m the right person to be fighting for Ally and Renée–because I can’t remember much more than ‘skinny lawyer and woman who wasn’t Lucy Liu or Jenna Marony or Lindsay Bleuth’. Look–the late 90s were a different time. A time when the skinniness of Ally and the shortness of her skirts were pondered as serious issues of feminist debate by major news magazines. A time when our most celebrated images of feminism on television were of white women as written by white men. 1998 was a weird year for women in news and media, and it’s hard (if unfair) not to remember Ally as tainted by some of this nastiness. I’m not really delving into the friendship, am I? Well, I’m not going to Netflix binge the show (I do have my pride), so I’ll turn to the higher powers. Entertainment Weekley calls Renee ‘enigmatic’ and Ally ‘polarizing’. Vulture is much kinder, arguing that Ally’s neuroses aren’t as selfish or frivolous or ‘un-feminist’ as Time magazine suggested (although pinning the fate of feminism on one fictional character might be called frivolous, or something less kind). In her review, Margaret Lyons also argues that Ally’s selfishness and naval-gazing, is, if not justified, at least human and believable, and the type of character trait that goes uncriticized when the character is male. Again, I’m not talking about the friendship. But if you can, right this second, remember Renee’s last name, I’ll owe you a dollar. But you can’t, so this contest is going to rest on Ally’s shoulders. Although I should note that Hello Giggles lists Renee as number 5 on ‘ Top 10 TV characters that would make great big-sisters’ and describes how great she was at “calming her friend down when she was freaking out and reminding her to be strong in the face of high drama”… which is a nice thing for a friend to do, but also hints at a problematic trope. As I said, 1998 was a weird time, when suddenly Buffy, Ally, and Sex and the City appeared to fill a void left with the end of Murphy Brown. Of these three shows, Ally was arguably the weakest, but also for a time the most prominent. This prominence led to a deluge of feminist analysis and criticism the show couldn’t bear–a problem I think of as the ‘Lena Dunham landscape void’ issue. I find Lena irritating, in a way I don’t find her male peers, mostly because the media landscape is littered with updated feminist analyses and criticism of an omnipresent Lena and her material, because she stands alone in popular media as a twenty-something female artist and feminist (I know that Issa Rae is amazing, but I’d argue that she’s still too unknown to count…so I’m going to add to the problem by not discussing her….). Were Jonah Hill and Seth Rogan and Dave Franco and Jimmy Fallon and Andy Sanberg submitted to similar solo analysis, I’d hate them all the same.
Well now I’m rambling. Look, I don’t have my heart in this one to defend Ally and Renee, and we knew this was a loosing fight from the start. Congrats Kalinda and Alicia. You win this round