The XX Factor

Julianna Margulies Should Own Her Animosity Against Archie Panjabi, Not Cry Sexism.  

The Good Wife’s Julianna Margulies.

Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

Long-time watchers of The Good Wife, which began its seventh season Sunday night, know that star Julianna Margulies and supporting actress Archie Panjabi have not appeared in a scene together for years. When the plot requires their characters to interact, only the sorcery of split-screens can make it happen. It’s generally assumed that a rift between Margulies and Panjabi is to blame for this weird feature of the show’s space-time continuum. But at the New Yorker Festival last weekend, Margulies insisted to an interviewer that she and her coworker were totally fine. “There’s no animosity on my part,” she said. “It’s a shame, because I wonder if it was two men, when one finds out that he fucked his best friend’s wife, if it would get that same attention, you know what I mean?”

This dodge achieved two things: It left open the possibility that a less mature Panjabi might have issues with Margulies, and it indicted a curious public for its interest in the latest celebrity “cat fight.” Margulies implied that audiences were distorting her relationship with a colleague in order to indulge their hunger for lady conflict. 

Except, as Sam Adams points out on Indiewire, the notion that there is no feud, no sir, is a hand of bananas. Margulies explained that Panjabi could not film onset because she had prior commitments to The Fall, a BBC drama she signed onto last January. But Panjabi has been a member of the Good Wife cast since 2009, and that obligation would likely take priority; what’s more, Panjabi only needed to find time to film a single Good Wife scene while also shooting a six-episode miniseries. That is very doable, so long as your co-star doesn’t hate your guts! Anyway, Panjabi swiftly tweeted this rebuttal:

So Margulies’ “no animosity” claim seems a bit suspect. It would be one thing if she did not want to discuss whatever (un)professional beef prevents her and Panjabi from being in physical proximity. But to accuse us of sexism when we wonder about an obvious tension is not only disingenuous—it’s a disservice to the feminist cause she wants to drape over her shoulders. That is how you warm up the cold shoulders you present to your female co-stars: You wrap them in feminism.

Of course, the media habit of covering real or imagined fights between women as petty, gendered affairs needs to stop. Famous women are allowed to feel animosity without betraying the rest of us; they are even allowed to act like spoiled divas. But the Margulies v. Panjabi quarrel exists, it is unusual, and it has shaped the show’s creative arc. Being curious about what happened isn’t sexist—it’s human. Perhaps our celebrity culture remains unkind to “emotional” ladies, but if Panjabi’s offenses truly warrant such an extreme response from Margulies, then Margulies should woman up and own her antagonism, not wave a sexism flag. It’s harder to accept her or other pissed-off stars as complex humans unless they admit they aren’t perfect angels.