chapter  Chapter Five
14 Pages

A Young Person’s Perspective on Authority and Sexuality

WithAnna Roper

In the cult American TV show, Ally McBeal is a successful young lawyer, an intelligent, witty young woman who is attractive, skinny and suffering from the neurosis of modern youth. She believes in justice, love and freedom, and in a strange sense of destiny in her personal relationships. Her legal and personal philosophy is at once “issue” based and deeply person-centred. She embodies the belief that no authority is beyond challenge. One of the unusual hallmarks of this slightly wacky comedy is the portrayal of a woman with a vivid and imaginative inner life. This quirky internal world of conflicting fears, desires and fantasies plays a central role in this drama-comedy. She certainly seems to believe in a spiritual life, but rejects much of what might be considered “Tradition”. In court and in her other relationships she establishes authority through a combination of personal relationship, emotional manipulation, flirtation and reasoned argument. Sex plays a central role. Much of the visual text is an exploration of the experiences of sexuality and the attempt to find a permanent soul mate with whom to share intimacy and in particular someone who will affirm and balance her inner world. Like the equally popular Friends it draws a considerable youth audience, especially women. Both represent the cappuccino culture of instant and continuous leisure. Both represent a neatly seamed world of Western, middle class values. Both speak to the confusion, neurosis and fragmentation of consensus in Anglo-American society, both portray something of the range of values from which young people pick their own philosophy of life. Both shows drip feed their values through the powerful medium of light entertainment and humour.