I wasn’t sure how far “The Good Wife”‘s Alicia Florrick had made it into cultural consciousness, but now that the NY Times‘ Eric Asimov has done a serious bit of pop critique on that character’s preference for red wine (strong women drink it, and they gulp rather than sip) I feel that it is okay to comment on her religion—or lack thereof.
In this week’s episode, Alicia, embarked on her first-ever political campaign, must sit for a taped interview with the (generically conceived) faith leader “Pastor Jeremiah.” For prep, her campaign manager urges her to soften her well-known atheism. Julianne Margulies plays this as the big deal that it would be for her character, wielding her trademark “you’ve got to be effing kidding” cold glare to great effect. She repeats that she is a straight up atheist, not agnostic, not wondering. Safe bet that this is the most often the word ‘atheist’ has been used in a single episode of a network drama.
The wrinkle is that her daughter is part of a youth-y evangelical group, having converted a few seasons back. The writers use her for comic effect sometimes, as when the grownups are in crisis around the kitchen table and you suddenly hear a group of teenage girls belting hymns from the bedroom. But in this episode mother and daughter have a deep convo about belief.
Alicia asks the kid if she really believes the Bible and Grace (her daughter’s name—yes, I just got it too) considers the question. She gives a great answer, says something like: Well, when the Bible says God created the earth in seven days, it’s not literal. But it’s like, if I wanted you to understand, and to remember, that God created everything, I might tell you that story.”
Her mother looks at her and says: Grace, did you just think of that yourself? That’s so…smart.
The kid: Gee thanks, Mom. Don’t act so surprised.
Over at The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta has a transcript of another conversation from this same episode, equally direct:
Alicia: I can’t believe in God, Grace.
Grace: I know… why not?
Alicia: I don’t feel it the way you do. I don’t feel the need.
Grace: Then what’s the struggle?
Alicia: … Politics.
Good writing (which is why I watch, I always tell myself). Or maybe it is the red wine.
Anyway, the thing that’s interesting is that the writers don’t seem to be coming down hard on either side. Unless of course Alicia ends up getting God. But doesn’t look like she will.
Curious now about atheism on TV: am off to look for more.