Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Ally Oops

By Jacqueline Marino

MAY 18, 1998:  I hate Ally McBeal. Her show makes me blush. And it’s been a long time since I’ve watched anything on television that provoked that sort of physical reaction. Since the first tampon commercial I remember watching with my dad, I think, when I was about 12.

I do not watch Ally McBeal because I identify with her. I’m embarrassed for her. And I’m saddened by the struggling career women of my generation who watch the show looking for the Ally McBeal in themselves. (Some things are better off not surfacing, believe me.) Every time I talk to someone outside my demographic about the show, I feel I have to explain myself. Say Ally McBeal and they shoot me a hesitant look that ponders “Do you dodge dancing babies?”

This look makes me want to burn my bra. Newsweek calls Ally McBeal the “’90s answer to Mary Tyler Moore,” and the “quintessential postfeminist.” She’s no such thing. She’s more like the ’90s answer to Betty Boop. She’s hardly a believable lawyer and an even less believable adult. She’s so sexually preoccupied and boy-crazy, you half expect her office to have posters of rock stars hanging on the walls. I think most women in their twenties watch her because she makes us feel better about our own personal and professional shortcomings. But that doesn’t help the image of us she fosters.

Ever since that bird-legged, self-absorbed whiner hit prime time, people think we unmarried, twentysomething professional women are like her, idly passing the time in some previously all-male profession while we wait for Mr. Right to appear in all his yuppie splendor and rescue us from the feminist-predestined rat race for big, plush suburban homes where we can procreate at will.

I know what you’re thinking. If I hate Ally McBeal so much, why do I watch her show? This very question, in fact, bothered me for several episodes. I’m not a big television fan. In fact, I don’t watch anything on a regular basis besides The X-Files. But one Monday night several months ago, I was coaxed into watching the show by an Ally-addict friend of mine.

In the first few minutes, Ally assaulted a woman in the grocery store over some snack food, then got booked on an additional theft charge because she absent-mindedly slipped a tube of contraceptive jelly into her pocket during the altercation.

I could feel the blood flush my cheeks and my hand flutter to my face instinctively.

I was so dismayed by Ally’s brainless rantings that I almost turned off the program before the first commercial break. But something kept me slumped in the couch in front of the television for the entire hour. After deep contemplation and much soul-searching, I determined that I just like to hate Ally. And I don’t care what the critics surmise from the Nielsen ratings about Ally McBeal watchers; I think I am the silent majority.

I truly enjoy some of the other characters, especially the older-than-dirt judge who makes everyone show him their teeth. I like the dynamic of the unisex bathroom. And I even like some of the dialogue. The show’s quirky, risky, and frequently bizarre. Why can’t we all just be happy with that? Why do we have to make Ally McBeal a cultural icon?

In my opinion, Ally McBeal is just another part of the backlash against feminism. It was a man, after all, who created her – David Kelley, who writes every script.

It’s not that I don’t think a man is capable of writing a good female character. It’s just that the lovely but neurotic, reproductively obsessed Ally McBeal is hardly the type of woman the thinking man of the ’90s would pursue for a lifelong mate. She does, however, have the stuff male fantasies are made of. She is an insecure, pico-skirted, one-dimensional tart who looks for sex in every cappuccino. She needs a big, strong man to come to her rescue.

“If women really wanted to change society, they could do it,” Ally quips during one show. “I plan to change society. I just want to get married first.” I can’t wait for that episode.

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