It's said that all art is political, but it's unusual for a show to be as political as The Good Fight has become in its third season. While it is the most radical drama series on TV right now, what is fascinating about the politics of The Good Fight is that as wild as they can feel feel at times, the show is actually quite conservative in what it's arguing for. It isn't passionate about upending the status quo. Mostly, The Good Fight is calling on a return to what it views as the relatively progressive political stability of the pre-Trump era.
The show has been actively pursuing two main conversations in its third season:
- A politically led culture in the US has completely lost civility and the result is a society that has completely lost its bearings. The truth has become subjective, which is an issue of primary relevance to the show, a legal drama series. Each week the characters are pushed into positions of arguing for a return to the way the world had been functioning just a few years ago. A return to 'normal'.
- In pushing for a return to what was perceived as 'normal' and therefore 'good for society', the show is therefore calling for a return to a society that may have functioned for those in power, but was still marginalising women and people of colour. The Good Fight has always proven itself to be a very self-aware show and has been incredibly active with a message that it is too simple to want the world to go back to the way it was.
In the fifth episode the show took its most overtly political stance yet. In this episode, The Good Fight told us that it was okay to punch a Nazi.
What did the show actually tell us?
In the episode titled 'The One Where a Nazi Gets Punched', series lawyer Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) and the firm's investigator Jay Dipersia (Nyambi Nyambi) are sent out of the city to a voting booth where a special election is being held. Their job is to represent the Democratic Party and to ensure that lawyers there to represent the Republicans aren't preventing questionable votes from being lodged. In the afternoon, a team of white nationalists dressed in red jackets (quite likely a reference to yellow jacket-clad protesters in France) arrive to aid the Republicans in suppressing the vote.
The episode culminates in a scene with Jay in the men's room talking with the white nationalists organiser, who is very clearly modelled after white supremacist Richard Spencer. The organiser tells Jay, "I'm not an anarchist. I'm an agitator", prompting Dipersia to punch him out cold.
In a complete shift from the show's regular style, the episode breaks the fourth wall with a monologue by Jay. While this is in character, the scene can just as clearly be read as a position statement by the show on the issue of whether punching a Nazi is a break in one's moral code.
Is it all right to hit a Nazi unprovoked?
I was always taught to never throw the first punch.
Defend, but don't attack.
But then I saw a video of the white nationalist Richard Spencer being punched in the face during an interview, and I realised Spencer was in a pressed suit, wearing a tie, being interviewed like his opinion mattered, like he should be considered part of the conversation, like Neo-Nazism was just one political point of view.
And then I realised there's no better way to show some speech is not equal. Some speech requires a more visceral response.
It's like Overton's Window. That's the term for which ideas are tolerated in public discourse. Well, Overton's Window doesn't mean shit unless it comes with some enforcement.
So, yeah, this is enforcement. It's time to punch a few Nazis.
What's Overton's Window?
Use of the phrase 'the Overton Window' has been gaining traction over the past decade. Named after the political theorist who coined it in the 90s, Joseph P Overton, a Senior Vice-President from the Michigan-based think-tank Mackinac Centre for Public Policy, the Overton Window is a term that covers the range of ideas that the public is generally willing to engage with. Extreme and culturally unwelcome ideas fall outside the Overton Window. It is argued that allowing white supremacists like Richard Spencer to air their views plays a part in moving the Overton Window to the far political right.
It's interesting - for a show that generally flies under the radar, this episode of The Good Fight managed to really raise the ire of a number of conservatives. Much of the attention came from the show's Twitter account for posting the monologue before deleting it, rather than people who actually watched the episode in question.
Much of the criticism was in line with this tweet by 'former video game journalist' Nick Monroe:
The talking point decided upon by most critics of the scene is that a modern-day Nazi is now defined by the left as anyone who disagrees with them.
While the show's in a constant conversation about where the Overton Window is nowadays, it is fascinating to see it skirting along the edge of the Overton Window itself - being taken on from those who are outside the window defending Nazis from the show's pro-punching agenda.
Throughout the three seasons of The Good Fight, the show has been pleading for a course correction. A shift back to the perceived normalcy that existed before white supremacists' ideas were being allowed to be discussed within the Overton Window. A world where it was never questioned whether it was okay to punch a Nazi.
The Good Fight airs on Wednesday nights at 9:30pm on SBS. Watch the episode in question, 'The One Where a Nazi Gets Punched' now at SBS On Demand: