December 2, 2012


In the midst of the emergence of the ability for women to apply themselves in a sophisticated manner in a sophisticated labor market, the consciousness, or placement of the modern female in society, has had its landscape pruned.


Whereas before, perhaps in a “simpler age”, women devoted their time solely on beautification and decorum – argued by modern intellectuals as subservient to the opposite sex – they now have to balance the added duty of possessing a well-paying job. Office secretary is no longer noble to don. Its intent was to give a young lady something to do before absconding with her beau. Now, with liberty comes responsibility.


Contrasted with her near-contemporaries found in Sex in the City, Ally McBeal is a woman who still believes in love. Or rather, love is a central component of her life. The genesis of the entire show is in the dramatization, and the romantic reminiscence, of the man she had loved more than any other. Further, as the show prunes immediately in its premiere, this romantic struggle is at the epicenter of her life.


But now a paradox emerges: Ally is a higher-echelon laborer. Her credentials and social hierarchal position, while not an upward ascent from her class upbringing, indicates, by all Feminist accounts, a worldly success. Even in the midst of striving in a “man’s world”, with the exaggerative sexual harassment of that world mocked from the get-go, she is missing something. Is her longing for love a sign of patriarchal oppression? Is her obsession with her ex a male power play?


The focus of the show on her love, with the legal proceedings acting as a backdrop to this drama, is insightful amidst the confusion on what it is to be a female with a six-figure income. One of the criticisms of cultural products such as a television show of a woman who immerses herself in the fantasy of romance is that the centerpiece still exudes “oppression”, as if the fact women do not think like men do yet is evidence of the brutality of society, shackling the ability for woman to be “truly” “free”.


Thus it comes as a celebration that Ally McBeal unabashedly absorbs itself in the single-female mystique, if not crisis: what do I do now? A job and a drink with friends is not fulfilling to her it seems. And yet there is the abrasive proclamation that she craves a man in her life. Sex in the City relishes the abandonment of such “naïveté”: romance is dead is the motto of that episodic, with love as a fantasy to keep little girl’s minds occupied. With Ally, however, we see a whimsical expose into the modern girl’s foray into the unknown world. Love may be sold separately, but it is an honest pursuit for her yet.


Thus the show does not see its embrace of a classical female ideal as a weakness, but rather as its raison d’etre. Jobs may come and go, as Ally is already seen working at two firms, but love is here to stay.


Grade: B



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