How 'The Good Fight' is taking on alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos

Source: CBS/AP
Source: CBS/AP

In just five episodes, The Good Fight has taken on plenty of battles: against police brutality, against Bernie Madoff, against NBC and, most significantly, against Donald Trump. But in its sixth episode, "Social Media and Its Discontents," the newly renewed CBS All Access show takes on a new target: former Breitbart editor and alt-right internet personality Milo Yiannopoulos.

[Editor's note: Spoilers ahead for the first five episodes of The Good Fight, as well as previous episodes of The Good Wife.]

In the fifth episode, "Stoppable: Requiem for an Airdate," series protagonist Diane Lockhart and her firm Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad took on a nameless TV network that produces "those Chicago shows" for pulling an episode that was critical of Trump. (This is a deeply unsubtle comparison to a real-life scenario involving NBC and Law & Order: SVU.)

Their case caught the attention of Google analogue ChumHum CEO Neil Gross, returning from mothership series The Good Wife. Gross likes Diane's firm for their chutzpah in taking on Trump, plus he appreciates that Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad is an almost-entirely black firm. He offers Diane his business, which she takes and turns into an opportunity to make herself a named partner at the firm.

The sixth episode, which hits CBS All Access Sunday morning, looks at the repercussions of that decision. Gross tasks Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad (er, and Lockhart) with coming up with a terms of service for using ChumHum's Twitter-esque social media service after a sudden wave of misogynist, racist and threatening posts from alt-right users. Under the new terms, users are banned — but they can appeal.

Enter Felix Staples, who is Milo in everything but age, name and British accent.

John Cameron Mitchell as Felix Staples on 'The Good Fight'
Source: 
Giphy

As played by John Cameron Mitchell, Felix is flamboyant, a walking caricature of the slipperiness of the alt-right. He out-maneuvers the firm at seemingly every turn, building an antagonistic relationship with Diane. (He calls her Mom, to her chagrin.)

Felix is hardly the only depiction of the alt-right in the episode, however. Throughout the installment, the camera cuts away from the action to simple, monochromatic settings, where a user reads a particularly virulent, hateful message like those posted on ChumHum. The statements cause internal strife at the firm, with secondary series protagonist Maia Rindell growing particularly frustrated. She herself has been a victim of these kinds of threats, after all.

Christine Baranski, Delroy Lindo, Erica Tazel and John Benjamin Hickey on 'The Good Fight'
Source: 
CBS

The Good Fight creators Robert and Michelle King mentioned in a recent LA Times interview that an episode like this could never air on network TV, which is where original series The Good Wife aired. "Our next episode, that deals with the alt-right movement and censorship on social media — that one I don't think we could have aired on network TV," Robert King said. "It involves too many things we have to be frank about."

Indeed, "Social Media and Its Discontents" is quite graphic. The language is reflective of the real kinds of posts on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and other online communities where the alt-right lives and grows. For those who aren't familiar with the alt-right, the language — as well as Felix himself — may seem outlandish or unrealistic. Those who know it, though, will recognize just how familiar much of it seems. The Good Wife's reputation for being tech-savvy continues into The Good Fight.

Since this episode of The Good Fight was written and shot, Milo was disgraced, resigned from his job at Breitbart and lost his book deal. For another issue, that might have been enough to render Felix Staples and "Social Media and Its Discontents" irrelevant. But the episode is a reminder that, no matter how successful one campaign against a group — or, in Felix and Milo's cases, an individual — may be, the fight is hardly over.

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Kevin O'Keeffe

Kevin is the arts editor at Mic, writing about inclusion and representation in pop culture. He is based in New York and can be reached at kevin@mic.com.

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