I love Boston Legal in all its forms. I think it’s wonderful that so many major actors have taken part in it; I imagine they like the chemistry of working with such a wonderful concept, and I like to think that they believe in the message of the show, which is often delivered by Alan Shore. In last night’s episode, we certainly heard a serious message about the need for civil protest in the face of the present US Administration’s insistence that if you are not with the President in his war on terror, you are against him and a traitor. Necessary as such a statement is in a democracy, it is still a pretty brave thing to say, particularly when you were going for ratings. So, I’d love the guts of the show, I love the wit of the show, I delight in watching Spader, Shatner, Bergen, Auberjonois, White, Fox, and Selleck trade shots.
But . . .
Although I admire — “adore” is too strong a word, but it is closer to the way I feel than “admire” — David E. Kelley’s wit and creativity, it distresses me that he has fallen into the melting pot of the populist carelessness regarding the gender of pronouns.
Let me explain: as a result of the impact of last night’s episode, — in which Alan Shore argues passionately for the civil rights of his pretty client, who had written “stick it” on a Post-it note and shoved it into her income tax return without payment because she was so pissed off with the government’s record on the war on terrorism, torture, invasion of privacy, etc. — as a result of that, I decided to write a blog article on it; wishing to check characters’ names, I Googled Boston Legal and discovered that the web site is just as inventive and hilarious as the program.
Here is where the “but” comes in. The motto for Crane Poole and Schmidt is “Everyone deserves their day in court.” Here comes the technical part: obviously, the singular verb “deserves” acknowledges that “everyone” is a singular subject, and requires a singular pronoun referent. Before pronoun gender became an issue of political correctness, the motto would have read “Everyone deserves his day in court.” Personally, I think that degendering the personal pronoun “his” is by far preferable to the muddy plurals in use today; however, I know I’m bucking the trend on that one.
Here is my proposal: “Everyone deserves a day in court” or “You deserve your day in court”. Don’t get me started about Shirley Schmidt’s web site motto: “A smart attorney realizes who they can or cannot rattle”, which opens up another can of worms (pronoun case) that I shall not ingest today, as well as the above blah blah blah. I will comment, however, that certain characters seem to exhibit the plural pronoun fault more than others. At first I thought it was actors improvising lines; but the web site suggests that this is either David E. Kelley’s idiosyncrasy or management’s.
My point: because reading is not so large an influence as it used to be or would be in an ideal world, writers and broadcasters, who are significant influences in setting linguistic patterns, have the obligation to at least maintain standards of English which are logical. A clever writer such as David E. Kelley can certainly find unstilted ways around this politically correct pronoun muddiness.