Posted by Alexandra Ekstein-Kon @AlexiKon
Editor at MP. Twin Peaks, classics, a bit of this, a bit of that. Email me at [email protected]
Alexandra Ekstein-Kon

Powerful women on TV and wine seem to go hand-in-hand — or hand-on-glass, if you will. Have you noticed just how many TV women are always contemplatively downing red wine by themselves in the depths of the evening? From Cersei on Game of Thrones to House of Cards' Claire Underwood, women on TV are drinking the fruit of the vine in a serious way. But why is this the beverage of choice and what does red wine communicate to us viewers that other beverages don't? Let's take a look.

Wine As A Symbol

Cersei on 'Game of Thrones'
Cersei on 'Game of Thrones'

In its purest form, any on-screen alcohol is a useful narrative tool to illustrate that a character is under stress. However, wine comes with its own special baggage that conveys a complex array of meanings to the viewer.

The ancient Greeks and Romans drank wine for celebratory and ritualistic purposes and it was considered a gift from the gods; and while the New Testament pours out the drops more sparingly (not by much though), a good bottle was always on hand. In fact, the whole "This cup is the new covenant in My blood" thing that Jesus declared at the Last Supper was hardly a new concept. Wine had long been a symbol of both blood and strength, and was usually an important aspect in performing rituals.

While these TV women usually use wine to self-medicate rather than for wild, dionysiac times, they definitely draw strength from its murky, blood-red depths.

Why Red Wine?

Olivia Pope on 'Scandal'
Olivia Pope on 'Scandal'

It's mostly used for technical reasons. White wine can have some rather unsightly condensation if served cold (and, ahem, properly), which doesn't translate well on camera. In addition, red wine is considered to be a more complex beverage, thus illustrating a depth of character in the person who drinks it.

What Does It Have To Do With Power?

Claire Underwood on 'House of Cards'
Claire Underwood on 'House of Cards'

Power is something these women are clearly not lacking: Alicia Florrick is a successful lawyer, Olivia Pope is a highly sought-after crisis manager, Cersei is ruling a kingdom, Claire Underwood is doing anything she can to maintain control, and Joanna Wellick on Mr. Robot is coldly laying the framework for her next move — and the list continues.

Joanna Wellick on 'Mr. Robot'
Joanna Wellick on 'Mr. Robot'

As Uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility," and these women have it in droves. While drinking can obviously combat that stress, there's more to it: Drinking wine — and good wine at that — is associated with power and independence of women on TV. Drinking it alone, for self-medicating purposes, means that they've shouldered a huge burden due to that power, and it's a burden they have to bear alone.

Why Women?

Alicia Florrick on 'The Good Wife'
Alicia Florrick on 'The Good Wife'

Well, this ties in quite closely with the section above. All of these women tend to get their wine on in the evening, alone in their homes. They use the wine to deal with both the very real pressure that they have from their powerful positions and personal lives, and also the sheer stress of being a woman trying to figure it out in a world in which power dynamics are still heavily skewed in the favor of men.

Check out this little compilation we made of women drinking wine on screen:

Had you noticed how many TV women drink red wine?

(Sources: New York Times, The Atlantic, bon appétit)