Searching the Soul of Ally McBeal

Critical Essays


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About the Book

Ally McBeal, the popular Fox television series (1997–2002), was both groundbreaking and controversial. With its challenging presentation of gender roles and gender politics, the show provided fuel for an ever-expanding international debate over feminism and the roles of women in modern society. In 1998, Time Magazine ran a cover story featuring a photo of the Ally McBeal character alongside three of the feminist movement’s most memorable figures. The article was suggestively entitled, “Is Feminism Dead?”
This collection of essays addresses that important question as it relates to the presentation of women’s behaviors, desires and images in Ally McBeal. It considers the challenges that women’s sexuality presents to feminism and looks at feminist thought regarding female professionalism and contemporary marriage. Also discussed is the struggle for an understanding of masculinity in light of feminism’s growing challenge to patriarchy. Other topics include the series’ groundbreaking narrative structure, its critique of society and the law in the early 21st century, and its treatment of minority characters.
Contrary to the implications of Time Magazine’s coverage, this book argues that Ally McBeal is a positive feminist text from the perspective of post-feminist theory.

About the Author(s)

Elwood Watson is a professor of History and African American Studies at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Elwood Watson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 258
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2527-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1161-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Introduction      7

1. Ally McBeal as a Site of Postmodern Bodily Boundaries and Struggles Over Cultural Interpretation: The Hysteric as a Site of Feminist Resistance      19

2. A Truth Universally (Un)Acknowledged: Ally McBeal, Bridget Jones’s Diary and the Conflict between Romantic Love and Feminism      36

3. Cultural Occupancy, Television Reception, and MultipleIdentifications in Ally McBeal      55

4. The Comic and Burlesque: A Frame Analysis of Post-Feminist Values and Female Professionalism in Ally McBeal      89

5. Ally McBeal and the Death of Feminism      104

6. Female Representation and the “Postfeminist” Challenge      117

7. In Ms. McBeal’s Defense: Assessing Ally McBeal as a Feminist Text      139

8. Worshipping at the Altar of Barry White: Ally McBeal and Racial and Sexual Politics in Crisis      160

9. The Angler, Fish, and Fishisms: Universal Themes and Contemporary Issues in a Popular Television Series      177

10. It’s More Than Just Another Silly Love Song: Ally McBeal Brings the Hollywood Musical to Television      203

11. Segments in an Endless Flow: Narrative Gaps and Partial Closure in Ally McBeal      224

About the Contributors      243

Index      247