2010: The Good Wife, The Bad Romance, and the Ugly Truth About Break Ups

Break ups are such a weird thing. Suddenly, something you’ve grown rather attached to is gone and then there is just this weird void. Even if you are the one breaking things off, it takes a certain amount of adjusting to the new normal. Things feel out of whack for a while as you try to plug in holes where you can, move on, recalibrate.

If you’re the fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg of The Social Network, you fill that void with a new project. The kind of thing where you play the field and make a certain amount of promises to a certain number of people, and, while you may never have out and out lied, you certainly frolicked in the gray area, enjoying the array of options you had when you weren’t in a relationship. The metaphor mostly works, minus the extensive legal appearances and fees that stemmed from the origin of Facebook.

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed that Fincher played this film so safe up the middle. I was expecting a social media Rashomon with the story told from Zuckerberg’s POV, then Eduardo Saverin’s, and the Winlkevii too. Instead, it is mostly from Zuckerberg’s POV as he blows up one relationship after another on his way to the top, begging us to ask the ever-cinematic question: was it worth the cost?

Really though, while Zuckerberg is the lead, Fincher purposefully makes Saverin the guy you root for as the audience and, of course, he is the guy who is going to get screwed the hardest at the end of the day. Like someone whose significant other suddenly starts ghosting them, Saverin gets the rug pulled out from under him, which is the absolute worst way for any relationship to end. With other relationships, you can prepare that the end is near, you can see how it is not going to work. Those ones where you think things are going just fine and then you get suckerpunched, even if you aren’t emotionally invested as others, it hurts twice as much.

Unless you’re Zuckerberg, whose Asperger-esque personality sees these social situations as a nuisance more than anything else. Maybe this is a cautionary tale about mixing business and friendship, but I can also see how this a warning to those of us who are willing and eager to open up to friends, boyfriends, whoever that, even though it may feel foreign, you need to stay guarded if you don’t want to end up like Saverin, looking around wonder how in the hell you got where you are in a life that bears no resemblance to the one you’ve grown comfortable with.

While The Social Network illustrates how painful having the rug pulled out from under you can be, The Good Wife gives you hope that a failed relationship may just be the start of the chapter in your life you’ve been waiting for. The premise of the show was initially that of a woman whose politician husband cheated on her, inspired by any number of real life political scandals. That woman, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles), goes on to find her first real job after years of being a housewife. From there, her husband plays a role here and there, but this a show largely about Alicia and her co-workers, making for some of the most compelling television of the past five years.

In fact, her marriage is basically an afterthought of this show in the best way possible. Her husband Peter finds ways back into her life, but week in and week out this was Alicia’s story and, now entering its sixth season, The Good Wife has strayed so far from its premise, it is barely recognizable, but again it is in the best way possible. It is realistic to how break ups work. Six years removed, your life should look completely different, even if Alicia did get the rug pulled out from under her. What is particularly interesting is that Alicia hasn’t filled her holes in her life with another guy. She’s filled it with a job, new friends, and political ambitions. In other words, a dude doesn’t need to be replaced by a dude. There are plenty of ways to live a fulfilling life without necessarily having a romantic relationship.

The Good Wife does point out the sad truth of it though—this wasn’t some clean break. It is a process to work someone out of your life, to plug those holes, and sometimes you plug them with the wrong things and you have to start over again, like when you fall back on familiar habits (like Josh Charles’ character, who I miss every day).

As a female, hell, as a person, I appreciated that Alicia has moments of brilliance, moments when she has no idea what to do, but when push comes to shove, she figures it out. Getting over a break up or dealing with any major change in your life is a process, so to act like it is more than something that isn’t crying over a tub of Ben & Jerrys a couple of nights then getting yourself back out there is greatly appreciated.

And, like most of the cases the attorneys on this show deal with, there is no clear right or wrong answer. Peter’s adultery aside, there is really no other situation in which you can’t understand why the characters on this show make dubious decisions. Like any court case or any relationship, there are arguments to be made on both sides, but post break-up, you have to realize that there is a point where you might have to let go and rest your case.

That is, unless you’re really drunk at night and alone and wondering how the hell you ended up here with this hole in your heart. Which is when you need to turn your phone off, count to ten, then channel your energy into Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now.

Listen, I am gonna be honest with you. I wish I could be Alicia Florrick and just get over it, but I have those moments alone at night where, with a little help of nostalgia and inebriation, you remember what used to fill that hole in your heart. It could have been a landmine about to explode, but there are those moments where the idea of filling that emptiness with something incredibly volatile sounds more appealing than just sitting there festering in the nothing.

I think that is why this song’s popularity expanded beyond just the country music audience. It appeals to the core of all of us who wants to prove we are the one more over the past relationship when, in reality, we are a tragic mess. The lyrics literally admit the landmine is preferable to nothing: “I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all.” Cause yeah, picking up the phone is a horrible idea, but the idea of sitting there, doing nothing, and just trying to deal with it is so unbelievably rough, and if you don’t have the resources of Alicia Florrick, you eventually hit a wall or slip up.

Some might not even call it a slip up though. Sometimes you think this things you gave up on was to create something better, but after some reflection, a few glasses of wine, and some pondering over what you had and what you have, what you need may not be what is in your future. What you need could very well be in your past and, crazy as it may sound, you need it now.

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