In 1999, the year I retired from full-time teaching in Australia, the Ally McBeal show was at the height of its popularity. It won an Emmy Award for the Outstanding Comedy Series. The show ran for six seasons, starred Calista Flockhart in the title role as a young lawyer working in a Boston legal firm and focussed on the romantic and personal lives of the people in a law office. The environment was highly sexualized with dating and flirting, drinking and humour dominating. The show, the series, was heavily music-oriented. Ratings dropped off in the fifth season and the program was cancelled after six seasons. Feminists complained about McBeal’s emotional instability and lack of legal knowledge among many of their other complaints.1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Ally McBeal, Wikipedia, 2009 and a review of Tim Appelo’s Ally McBeal: The Official Guide, Harper Collins, 1999 by Ian Lace in Film Music on the Web, December 1999.
Some called it the freshest, most deliciously
politically incorrect show to have crossed
the Atlantic: eccentric characters, outrageous
madcap humour, cartoon-like fantasies and
sentimental melodramas. A unisex restroom
where the characters dance, sit on each
other’s laps, discuss their innermost
romantic yearnings, lose frogs down
toilets and where toilet lids operate by
remote control. Some lines like: "Men
are like gum: after you chew awhile,
they loose their flavour;” and "Tell me
what kind of lie works here?" convey
some of the tone of the series and.....
Ally’s in the middle of a popular culture
insistent on offering images of grown
single women: frazzled, self-absorbed
girls with male power and with female
powerlessness seemingly harmless and
cuddly, sexy, safe and sellable. Female
bodies, traditionally sexualized & linked
to emotionality operate as the barrier to
women's full and effective participation
in the professional and societal spheres.1
And I was settling down into retirement
away from the fast lane, from being job-
bed, from endless meetings and endless
conversations--into solitude, into a world
of writing, Bahá'í studies and none of the
Calista Flockhart and that Ally McBeal!!
1 Michele L. Hammers, “Cautionary Tales of Liberation and Female Professionalism: The Case against Ally McBeal,” Western Journal of Communication, Vol. 69, 2005.
19 August 2009