The cultural conversation about “Ally McBeal” came to a head on the June 29, 1998 cover of TIME Magazine. Ally’s face was pictured next to prominent activists Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem with the caption “Is feminism dead?”
The accompanying article, written by Ginia Bellafante, didn’t exclusively focus on Ally, but it did cover the character in a larger discussion about feminism at the end of the millennium. In the piece, Bellafante argues, “much of feminism has devolved into the silly,” citing “Ally McBeal” as an example.
“The show … focuses on a ditsy 28-year-old Ivy League Boston litigator who never seems in need of the body-concealing clothing that Northeastern weather often requires,” Bellafante wrote. “Ally spends much of her time fantasizing about her ex-boyfriend, who is married and in the next office, and manages to work references to her mangled love life into nearly every summation she delivers.”
There were other viewpoints on Ally’s dating obsessions and love of a short skirt, though. In a 1998 piece in The Baltimore Sun, writer Mary Corey explored the phenomenon of Ally’s wardrobe. In the article, a Maryland lawyer named Ariana Wright gave Corey an alternate take on Ally’s choice of business attire. Wright argued, “‘[She’s] making fun of the whole attempt to portray professional women as trying to be like men … The character is rebelling against the idea of having to look a certain way or act a certain way to represent a feminist or enlightened professional female.'”
You can check out what all the fuss was about by binging “Ally McBeal,” which is currently available to stream on Hulu.