Political Wives: How Much Can They Take?

by Meredith O’Brien


The drama and the messy, personal fall-out for political wives, both on TV and in real life, continues unabated. From two primetime shows, HBO’s Big Love and CBS’ The Good Wife, to Elizabeth Edwards, wives have been continuing to serve as collateral damage, sacrificed, humiliated and placed in untenable positions all in the name of their husband’s political ambitions.


On Big Love, which just concluded its fourth season, polygamist Bill Henrickson blew off the vigorous and well articulated concerns of his three wives who told him they didn’t want him to go public about their plural marriage if he won the state senate race. However after he won the election, during his acceptance speech he called each wife, one by one, to join him in front of a bank of news cameras and out themselves as polygamists because he believed that if “normal” polygamists step into the spotlight, the public image of plural marriage could be improved.


The reaction of his first wife, Barb to all of this was the most poignant, as not only was she ardently against announcing their polygamy for fear of her family’s safety, but she leaked the fact that Bill had gotten a woman pregnant to the media the night before the election hoping it would kill Bill’s candidacy. The whole out-of-wedlock pregnancy was a violation of the Henrickson’s marriage’s rules, Barb asserted, because when Bill had courted the woman as a potential fourth wife the two had premarital sex – a plural marriage dating “no-no” -- which led to the baby’s conception. Couple this with the fact that Barb found out that Bill also had premarital relations with the third wife before they got married, and Barb felt thoroughly betrayed, personally and publicly by her narcissistic husband. It’s unclear whether in season five, she’ll remain the Utah state senator’s good first wife.


Speaking of good wives . . . on The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick has been conflicted from the first episode of this freshman drama when her husband Peter was behind bars, found guilty for being a criminally corrupt state’s attorney who’d slept with a number of call girls. An added dose of mortification for Alicia came when videos of her husband with the call girls were widely circulated on the internet (and seen by their two teenagers), followed by one of the escorts making the rounds of TV interviews and saying that Alicia couldn’t please her husband in bed.