Legalities Aside Pt II

People should read my first past two underneath this one about Boston Legal before they read this one; it makes a little more sense, then.

Am I the only person totally in love with Candice Bergen’s Boston Legal character Shirley Schmidt? She’s a brilliant lawyer who doesn’t let anyone walk over her and who nonetheless has a human side. She’s a realistic, flawed, fleshed-out character.

Oh, My God! Someone finally thought to give a woman the same kind of treatment they have to men! (Apologies to Joss Whedon; he’d been doing it for ten years.)

Schmidt is introduced as the ex-partner of Denny Crane (William Shatner). It took me a few episodes to get over – and talk about novel approaches – that Bergen is a mere fifteen years younger than Shatner, and by the time you get to sixty and seventy-five, that’s nothing at all. To have a brilliant woman portrayed as anything other than a child protégé – i.e., a woman who can be both brilliant and young and beautiful – was insanely refreshing. I once thought Amanda Tapping’s Samantha Carter from Stargate was a good example of this; not after seeing Boston Legal. After that, I was applauding her for the way she kept Denny in line.

Here was a brilliant sixty-year-old, still in the prime of her life, who could bring the brilliant Denny Crane to heel. Every time she whispers Denny Crane in his ear and brings him to near-orgasm I give her a standing ovation that I hope Bergen hears. I hope she appreciates just what a pioneer she is. A sixty-year-old woman with a meaty role; who would have thought?

And she’s not just a brilliant lawyer with a cold, ambitious drive; she has a very human heart. She has a fondness for Denny, and she seems genuinely distressed to watch him degenerate, even if she hides it well. And she had a brilliant camaraderie with Lori Colson (a sadly missed Monica Potter – I apologise for all those cracks I made about the movie you did with Freddie Prinze Jr, please come back) that blows out of the water the stereotype that women aren’t really friends, just competitors for men.

Colson is Schmidt’s protégé in a much healthier way than Crane is Shore’s. What does it say about men that women are doing the same thing as they are but in a healthier fashion? Perhaps that (some) women have combined the “˜nurturing, humanitarian’ aspect of women with the “˜ambitious, successful’ aspect of men. And that is truly revolutionary.

Emmeline Pankhurst. Germaine Greer. Candice Bergmen.


  1. says

    I haven’t seen a lot of Boston Legal; my mom watches it on tape. From the few episodes I’ve seen, I know I love Candice Bergen’s character! I think you’re spot-on in your analysis. She seems to combine the qualities that we love in both men and women, with some flaws.

    I love this blog and have been reading all the back entries. I’m a huge sci-fi fan and feminist and love talking about how women are portrayed on t.v., though I don’t watch a lot of it.

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