TV: Was Alicia Being Ageist in The Good Wife 3.05, “Caitlins and Marthas”?

This question popped into my head as I was thinking over tonight’s episode of The Good Wife. It’s implied that Caitlin, David Lee’s bubbly blonde niece, secured her first-year position at Lockhart/Garnder through nepotism. Instead of focusing on how the show plays with ‘worthiness’ and ‘value’ in promotion (see: every time Alicia’s been promoted or saved at the expense of another), I’m interested in writing now about the justness of Alicia’s decision that the key assumption of the episode (that Caitlin was unworthy) balanced on…

Something that was interesting about the sequence was that, interspersed with the evidence that Martha was a better candidate than Caitlin (Martha’s other job offer vs. Caitlin’s lack of one), there were many subtle references to the idea that Martha was similar to Alicia, and definitely non-subtle cues that Alicia found Martha a kindred spirit and Caitlin offputting. Alicia clearly enjoys Martha’s time more: she laughs, she’s engaged, she’s interested in hearing more. Meanwhile, as Caitlin speaks, Alicia is distant and disinterested, occasionally with a hint of condescension. But why?

  • Martha likes old and foreign movies. Caitlin likes ‘tramp-boarding’.
  • Martha is a composed, grounded, well-spoken brunette. Caitlin is a bubbly, semi-casual blonde.
  • Martha enjoys teamwork and the ‘family’ atmosphere. Caitlin seems more like an aggressive go-getter.

It almost feels like a recalling of the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. Smart quiet and sweet brunette versus dumb, loud blonde, even though Caitlin isn’t ever really dumb or loud. Yet, you read that in Alicia’s eyes when she looks her over. And though they are roughly of the same age, Martha feels older, and acts and speaks like an old soul. Caitlin talks like an excited, smart-yet-comfortable sorority girl.

Martha is very much like Alicia, who identifies with her. Caitlin is very much like Celeste, Lisa Edelstein‘s confident sexual rival to Alicia for Will’s affections. This decision, and Alicia’s reactions to both, are a reminder that this is the same woman as in season one: quiet, shy, responsible, and unaware of the subconscious reasons behind her actions. Even with her new seemingly-carefree attitude, she’s still a relatively conservative and family-oriented figure.

Was Alicia’s initial decision a sign that she was blinded by her common ground with Martha, and did not give ‘younger-seeming’ Caitlin a fair chance? Or did she make the right call only to have her job hijacked by Lee?

What do you think?

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