DSQ > Winter/Spring 2007, Volume 27, No.1-2

Prime time series. Big city litigation firm. A partners' meeting introduces the series. The quick camera pan over one lawyer, a middle-aged man, thin blond hair, superhumanly focused light blue eyes, arriving to the meeting. Camera pans over the slightly perturbed partners' faces, eyebrows cocked. Camera pans back to the rest of the lawyer's body. He is naked from the waist down, briefcase hides his genitals, camera lingers a bit over his flat white behind, strangely resembling, in texture and form, his square, white baby-flesh face. Ah, here it is, the narrative prosthesis, the disability that both initiates the series and inaugurates interpretation, a disability that may likely also be cured or killed and thus resolve the plot by reestablishing that most dominant of norms, that of able-bodied and able-mindedness. By the end of the partners meeting in this episode, entitled "Head Cases," the half-nude attorney is taken away on an EMS cot, briefcase still clutched in his hands, on his way, we know, to the loony bin. He is shrugged off, just another litigation casualty, the only sympathy extended to him by James Spader, he of David Cronenberg's Crash (1996) cult fame (itself a prime DS movie, banned in parts of London (???) and tagged by normates as "the most disgusting thing ever"), playing "ethically-challenged" attorney Alan Shore. Spader, you just know somehow, was once in a punk band, singing lyrics like "Legalize crime, it's the only way, make it O.K., to marry your mother." I tune in each week just to watch him enact this fantasy, which resembles law practice as much as Britney resembles Madonna resembles Marilyn, but that nonetheless globally circulates (Australia, Latin America, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the UK and Ireland) the oppressive masked as the comforting notion that the Anglo-American legal system will redeem you, justice will prevail.

Of course it will.

Disability abounds in Boston Legal: Alzheimer's, Denny Crane/William Shatner's Mad Cow Disease, anorexia, cancer, a child unable to smile, an intimacy disability, and yes, midgetry. Potentially incestuous midgetry as well: Could he, the Mad Ham wonders, produce a midget? Anyone well-versed in the basic tenet of Anglo-American Law, ratio est law — reason is the life of the law — knows the loony bin trip by white male litigator is not peripheral to the series, but is both the floating signifier and the contradiction that will reappear, the contradiction in the oppressive portrayed as comforting notion that the law, i.e., ratio, will redeem you. But I had to wait. And then it comes, an episode ("On The Ledge") in which crazy lawyer Jerry Espenson (played by Christian Clemenson) not only has the biggest of cases to defend, a murder trial, but the murder trial of his secretary, and she, oh yes, we knew this was coming, is crazy too! How oh how is the creepy Spader going to handle this? At stake for me is not the "recovery" of the baby-faced litigator, who, true to the dominant model of disability, is gifted as a human polygraph (or so he relays to Spader in a moment of homosocial intimacy, replaying the tired theory that it is this man's honesty in a world of sophistry that disabled him). At stake for me is the recurring connection between craziness and violence, the cultural representation of these disabilities, call them mental, call them emotional, even call them "psychiatric" as the secretary does when she is on the stand, as inexorably resulting in violence, in her case, one of the worse sorts, the murder of her lover because she left her for another woman.

"Change your plea," Spader and crazy lawyer advise her. Plead not to innocence but to diminished capacity.

Oh no, she insists, an attractive woman of indeterminate age, red hair, while admitting to experiencing traumatic memory loss and loss of control, snapping at the ubercontrolled Spader when he pushes her on her disability which, in the legal model, is the moral model. How disappointing, Spader's reluctance to believe in her. How trite, the writer's portrayal of the scene, when she leaves by hugging a rigid Spader and speaks in pink little girl tones, "I know you'll protect me." How predictable, the camera lingers on her behind as she leaves the office, following one of the dominant stylistic cues for the series (Camera instructions: 1. Linger on butt. 2. Linger on bust. 3. If none of the above available, linger on fingers then lips.) This, the required titillation for the series audience, the aging baby boomer cum yuppies who would indeed buy some type of Fidelity Mutual retirement at the suggestion of Dennis Hopper (in an advertisement field of yellow (bud) flowers no less), those of the generation that believed sex was subversive and free sex, even more so, although that was just their canny capitalist acumen. Her disability is both a red herring and the prosthesis of a prosthesis, enabling human polygraph to solve an obvious riddle and WIN THE CASE. The husband did it, tied the hands of his death-by-hanging wife to make the suicide look like a murder (and wasn't it?), because, as all crazies should already know, suicide is excluded in life insurance policies, giving the lie to It's A Wonderful Life in more ways than one, which is one subtext for this Christmas season episode (first airing 11/28/06), since it's not really Clarence the bungling angel that saves Jimmy Stewart's life any more than it's the human polygraph that saves crazy legal secretary from prison but rather that supreme ratio of all, the fine print in your life insurance policy.

Thank you, Fidelity. We've learned our lesson. We know how to "recover." Craziness does not pay (out).

Copyright (c) 2007 Zenia Queen Warrior Zyprexa

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