‘The Good Wife’: Hard-hitting drama deemed unrealistic by attorney father

March 23, 2017 — by Katherine Zhou

Drama ruled as unrealistic.

The summer before my sophomore year, I had just returned from Mock Trial camp and eagerly looked up the CBS drama “The Good Wife” on my family’s Amazon Prime account. Throughout the camp, my TA showed us clips of the show, constantly praising its portrayal of the court and legal issues.

As I started playing it, I awaited for my father’s reaction. After all, my father, a partner at the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, had gotten me interested in the subject in the first place.

After watching an episode, I asked him what he thought. He replied that “it was just OK.”

While I enjoy the drama of the show, he said it isn’t realistic at all.

The same is true of many of the dramas that have come to represent the legal profession in popular culture. Think of Tom Cruise shouting, “I want the truth!” as a Navy lawyer in “A Few Good Men,” or more recently in “Legally Blonde,” when Reese Witherspoon’s character wins the case based on her knowledge about perms.

He even went on to say that to him, “The Good Wife” was actually “boring” compared to real life. He said that dealing with actual cases is much more interesting, since he can get more invested in them than the surface engagement the lawyers portrayed in TV shows have.

“The Good Wife” follows Alicia Florrick, the wife of a politician who is put in jail, which forces her to go back to work as a first-year attorney in order to support her family.

My dad, however, was immediately upset by the show’s premise, saying he couldn’t believe that Florrick, someone who was first in her class at Georgetown University Law Center, would simply give up her career to be a stay-at-home mom.

Beyond Florrick’s background, each case she deals with happens to wrap up within one episode. My dad explained that the real legal system takes much longer and is far more tedious. The show also rarely shows the paperwork, motions, planning and analysis involved in real-life cases. Most of the job takes place outside of the courtroom, and involves lawyers analyzing theories, drafting cases and advising clients, he said.

Furthermore, my dad was dismayed to see that there were barely any minorities depicted as lawyers in the show. He said that about 20 percent of lawyers in America are minorities, while the cast of “The Good Wife” is mostly white even though the show is built on the theme of defeating racism and sexism. After hearing his points, I agreed that the show should give more screen time to minority lawyers. After his criticism, I realized there is only main minority character, Kalinda, a private investigator for the firm.

How did I come away feeling after my dad’s stinging critique of it? I agree that the show doesn’t accurately depict real-life court cases, but the main character does show empathy for her clients and seeks to get them justice. So, despite some of these inaccuracies and shortcomings, I don’t feel guilty for enjoying the show.

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