Monday, 2 January 2012

Ally McBeal: The Promise

That was a weird experience. My memories of this series are fairly uniform in one respect: it is all about the triumph of romantic love. This episode hinged, in part, on a fat man, who fell for the titular character just before his wedding, being advised - in the end - to stay with his fat fiancée because he could not hope to do any better. Said fiancée loved him him truly, but his love for her was less, and he disclosed to Ally that their sex life hinged on him fantasising about other people. Talk about shattering one's misconceptions! Ally goes from advising Fat Guy to follow her romantic ideals to telling him to stick with his would-be wife because he can't possibly do any better.

I recall this show being sad! In fact, the reason I stopped watching it when I tried to review it a year or two ago was precisely because it was far more downbeat than I had remembered it being. However, I wasn't prepared for the titular character to stop espousing her whole way of life simply because the target of her advice was fat. Perhaps my fat teenage self didn't want to hear that lesson! My fat present-day self is less than enamoured of it, too. Why, I'm even raising a sceptical eyebrow. Perhaps what bothers me here is that it's a binary equation. Fat Guy can marry fat fiancée or end up alone, because no thin women will date him. I used to be a fat teenager, and I lost three and a half stone, and attracted a thin girl - er, well, two that I dated and several others I had no idea had eyes for me (thanks to Kev for pointing out those others whom I just assumed were smiling at me in a friendly way for no particular reason - naive youth that I was!). I'm a fat man these days, and mean to lose seven stone this year. Yes, by all means wish me luck! I don't particularly intend to date someone similar to Calista F in appearance, though I can't deny that I have! I've also seen fat guys with thin girls and vice-versa.

Was the final decade of the twentieth century really so vastly far away? Fat people today date thin people, and fat people - mirabile dictu (amazing to say) - can generally lose weight (I'll make exceptions for people with terrible thyroid problems and tricky psychological kerjiggers). I did. I will. Not in the America of the late '90s, it seems. One is doomed by gravity to loveless, unarousing mediocrity in one's romantic life. I have seen fewer more pathetic and sad sights than the chap playing the fat man smiling and waving to Ally at the end of that episode as he climbs into the car taking him and his new wife away to their honeymoon.

One of the favourite books of my childhood is The Prisoner of Zenda. The hero and heroine (who has as much to do and less to say than Bella in the Twilight series, as befits a Victorian heroine, who were there to be objects of adoration, not action) do not find love at the end of the book (there's a sequel). They are hemmed in similarly by societal and other limitations and regulations. In the America of the late '90s other restrictions, every inch as perfidious and risible, impeded the course of love.

In a previous episode of Ally McBeal the character John Cage, whom I have remembered favourably (for the character is generally sweet), apologised to his subordinates for having slept with a prostitute, on the ground that he, as a high-flying lawyer, had no time to talk to women, and was averse to pretending to one that he wanted her mind when he really wanted her body. He got a round of applause for this speech, which left Ally and several female comrades appalled, and other male and female characters applauding meanwhile, and me in a state of what we might call generous bafflement. I should have been shocked if I had been able to persuade myself that swingers and suchlike did not exist in that era, but since they obviously did, I was bemused to see a man applauded for declaring he that sort of sexual-financial thing when he could go off and see some wholly willing lady with the same result, given that his argument was, as Ally, discovered, that men sometimes "just have to have it". Apparently, I shan't be able to respond to any comments left to this post as I, girlfriendless as life finds me now, will be rubbing myself, like an ill-trained dog, against the closest lamp-post of vaguely feminine form.

"Pete, do you intend to say owt good about this show? All you've done so far is lambaste it for insulting men by saying they're horndogs and both genders by claiming all our attraction is based on looks." Well, the funny thing is - I like the show. I think a lot of what it says is crap - as I have made clear above - but I am enjoying the way it makes me consider my stances on things. Maybe it will even get round to phrasing a question in such a way that I will reconsider my stance on something. Five seasons of this: anything can happen! On that note, I think I can only have seen the first season and maybe a little of the second, as I had pottered off to university sans-television (much to my benefit!) by the Autumn Term of '99. So I have a lot of never-seen nonsense (and perhaps even sense ;-) ) ahead of me.

By way of a postscript, and perhaps some form of partial explanation for my vigorous eyebrow-raising on the subject of romance, I shall declare that I spent New Year's with a couple of friends who will, in two weeks' time, be getting married. If you can't work out why, having been with two people who are very much in love, I would be even more exercised than usual about the very idea of loveless marriages, then you either don't read this blog often or you only read the wargaming stuff. I admit that my opinions on the relative merits of 0.5 or 1.0mm plasticard tend to keep my opinions on true love a mystery! Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely New Year's Eve! I mean to spend my next, having lost seven stone, partying crazily - something I don't believe I have ever done at NYE. Yes, every time I have been either with family or friends, who tend to remark that NYE is always crazy, and that we should therefore stay in. I'll test that theory next time! Be well, dear reader!

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