'Trophy Wife' Is Kind to Trophy Wives, But Not to Older Women
If you didn't like trophy wives prior to ABC's Tuesday premiere of Trophy Wife, you should have changed your mind by now. Because it only takes one viewing of the new series, starring Watchmen's Malin Akerman, to be smitten. The sitcom — centering on a youthful thirtysomething who (literally) falls into a romance with Pete, a twice-married man (Bradley Whitford) — indeed accomplishes what it set out to do: break the air-headed, money-grubbing trophy wife stereotype.
Because Akerman, as Kate, is as fun-loving as she is gorgeous. As kind-hearted as she is self-deprecating. And as quirky as she is unpretentious. (Perhaps it's a role that will finally give Akerman the stardom she's deserved for a long, long time.) As a new member of a family trying to fit in — attending school functions, swigging a water bottle full of vodka belonging to her stepdaughter to keep her out of trouble — Kate is charming and lovable, making the "trophy wife" label desirable for more than just bloated businessmen fielding a midlife crisis.
That said, the series doesn't do the same favor for Pete's two ex-wives, played by Saturday Night Live's Michaela Watkins and Pollock Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden. The former serves as the show's comic relief — Jackie is a ditzy, forgetful creature unconcerned about privacy (she still has a key to her ex-husband's home) and the lives of young critters. (She keeps her son's dead hamster in a plastic bag.) The latter is a shrewish woman intent on playing by the rules and judging her ex-husband's new wife. Whereas Kate proves herself to be the opposite of a trophy wife, Harden's Diane proves herself to be just another hardened first wife.
It's a shame. And the one flaw about the series. It seems trophy wives get the preferential treatment in Trophy Wife, which, unfortunately, makes it just a bit easier to resent Kate. There's little doubt we're supposed to like Kate, mock Jackie, and root against Diane, and it all seems unfair. Why should Diane be stereotyped as a bitter old maid when Kate gets to break the mold? If ABC really wants us to side with Pete's new wife, it should place his exes on an even playing field with Kate — equating age with mockery and bitterness only leaves us, yes, bitter. (And, after all, won't Kate only age one day too?) Harden, a talented and, yes, likable actress, deserves better than to play the Lila to Kate's Kelly. (And, yes, that reference choice was intentional.)
Sitcoms like Cougar Town have become beloved (though certainly not by enough viewers) for rejecting tropes. In the TBS comedy's world, exes co-exist amicably, and even become characters you root for. Trophy Wife's brightly hued veneer seems suited to following in Cougar Town footsteps, so here's hoping it starts to follow a similar script. Women over 40 have it hard enough in Hollywood and on television — why not cut them a break, Trophy Wife? You do seem to enjoy flipping the script, after all.