Monday, December 6

BOCS Gets Drowned-in-Papers-fied

Hello, dear friends. I do hope that this post finds you all well, and keeping warm in this chilly winter weather (as applicable. It sure as sugar is as chilly as the dickens in sunny Pennsylvania. Brrrrrr.)

I write to inform you that I shall very likely be totally AWOL for the next couple of weeks (tears, violins)--the end of the semester is upon us/me (tears, gnashing of teeth)--Grading Hell is about to begin, and I reckon that the waves upon waves upon WAVES of papers which I am about to receive [braces self for impact] shall be keeping me away from BOCS (tears, and yet more tears) for a bit. And so--be well until we meet again, and please look forward to discussing the following, when we finish up Season Three, once we are together once again:

1) Carrie riding on a scooter, getting mugged, and deciding that sitting down to have a chat with Big's soon-to-be-ex-wife is a super idea [hand slaps forehead]

2) Miranda getting braces, dating a beautiful cop, and forming conspiracy theories centered on her favorite Chinese restaurant

3) Charlotte getting drunk in public, reconnecting with her old sorority sisters, and going all Lady Chatterley on us with a McDougal family gardener

4) Sam meeting a woman who is even more sexually open than she is, grappling with a bratty 13-year-old client, and getting into difficulties with some of the transgendered sex workers in her neighborhood

It shan't be dull, I promise! Much for us to look forward to, to be sure!! See you on the other side of Grading Nightmares!!!

Friday, December 3

Season Three, Episode Fourteen: Sex and Another City

The Summary:

Can we please leave L.A. already? I miss New York! But the ladies, surprisingly... do not. They are actually coming to like and appreciate the City of Angels. (That's it, I'm going to need to confiscate your "dyed-in-the-wool, until-death, hard-core New-Yorker" badges right now, SATC ladies! Hand 'em over!)

Wishing to fully appreciate all of the sun and sand (well... sun, anyway) of L.A., Carrie informs us that frequent bikini waxes have become a regular part of her L.A. routine. (To which I say... yeouch, both on account of the vulnerable flesh, and the yet more vulnerable pocketbook.) At the salon one day, Carrie has a miscommunication with her esthetician, and ends up getting a Brazilian wax against her will. Oops! And again I say--yeouch!

The year 2000--clearly, it was a more innocent time, as Carrie is horrified by having this done to her, and clearly regards being sans pubic hair as really, really weird (rather than as a default state for the womenfolk.) Meanwhile, in this year of Our Lord 2010, my students inform me that it is not at all uncommon for gals to start getting all of their pubic hair removed as soon as they actually have any to remove. Yeeeeeesh.

Anyway, Carrie blames her Brazilian for her decision to throw herself into a fling with Keith (played by Vince Vaughan, whom I believe was still an indie actor at this point... ah, the years before Wedding Crashers, they too were a more innocent time!) Keith is an agent for some super-duper fancy celebrities... or so he leads Carrie to believe. Turns out, he's more of a house-sitter for some super-duper fancy celebrities, as Carrie discovers when Carrie Fisher discovers her and Keith in a state of undress in her home. Ah. I see. Buh-bye, Keith/Vince Vaughan! (Is it too late to ask you not to make Fred Claus? I suppose that it must be.)

All right-y, onto the other ladies! Miranda has reconnected with her friend Lou (played by the delightful Sam Seder, whose Majority Report radio show helped me to survive the Bush presidency(ies)--thanks, Mr. Seder!), a formerly sarcastic, embittered New Yorker who is now a full-on convert to the sunny optimism of L.A. Sounds great! Except... turns out, it's not so much, because Lou has also embraced the "you must be thin and gorgeous" ethos of L.A., and has consequently taken to not really eating. Boo. Get thee back to New York stat, Lou--go out and get yourself a big ol' sammich at a diner, and start a liberal radio talk show! You'll be the better for it, I promise!

Samantha, meanwhile, meets Hugh Hefner at a party. Of course she does. And she is ecstatic, because he is her childhood hero. (Of course he is--what a great role model for the ladies Mr. Hefner is! I appreciate your staunch support of the pro-choice movement, Mr. H, but apart from that... you and I, we are not compatriots, allies, or comrades-in-arms.) She is even more ecstatic when he invites her and the other ladies to a Playboy Pool Party. Ummm... yay? The ladies attend, find it all a little creepy (SHOCKER), and end up getting thrown out after Sam accuses a Bunny of stealing her purse. Ah. I see. No Christmas card for you from Hef's swinging bachelor pad, then, I suppose, Samantha J.! Too bad!

Charlotte, meanwhile... is in L.A., too! After several more times trying to get Trey to talk about his ever-so-slightly troubling impotence problem and their ever-so-slightly distressing complete lack of a sex life, she gives up, and decides to jet off to L.A. for a break. (Ummm... I don't have a husband, impotent or otherwise, to take a break from, but mercy how I would like to have the ability to jet off to the West Coast on a whim which Mrs. McDougal possesses. Though of course, I'd be heading to San Fran and not L.A., thankyouverymuch.)

At the pool party, Charlotte ends up chatting with Ian, a gent who seems to be quite delightful... until he makes the unsolicited offer to pay for breast-augmentation surgery for young Charlotte M. (Ummm... can I take the money which that would cost and spend it on books, instead? I don't mind being Flat of Chest, but I would like to better Endowed with Books.) Remembering from this encounter how bizarre and dispiriting the dating world can be, by the end of the episode, Charlotte is eager to get back to Trey, and the city.

And this is a sentiment shared by all of the ladies (well... not the Trey part, just the city part, but you know what I mean)--at the end of the episode they realize that they love New York, belong in New York, and can't wait to be back in New York/back to their regular lives. Hooray for appreciating what you have! Hooray for ditching L.A.! Hooray for seeing the last of Hugh Hefner in the series! Hooray... in general!

The Analysis:

Recognizing That Not Eating... Is, Indeed, A Problem! Watch:
I realize that this is setting the bar pretty darned low, but I must say, I find the fact that the show presents Lou's refusal to eat solid foods (so as to remain "suitably" slender) as a problem... is a good thing! There's definitely some messed-up and problematic stuff which happens in the series regarding body image, and I'm reassured to have the writers call a spade a spade here, and say that Lou's eating disorder... is in fact an eating disorder! And that not eating normally just to conform to a narrow and unhealthy standard of beauty... is bad! Excellent!

And I guess it's something, too, to show that men (as well as women) experience pressures to look a certain way, and are encouraged to aspire to a distinctly unhealthy body ideal... sorry to see it happening to Lou, but still--nice job, writers, in noting 1) that eating disorders do indeed exist in men, and 2) making it clear that such disorders are baaaad. Give yourselves a fistful of stars! Or maybe... go and have a nice, healthy, filling meal instead... I suppose this is more fitting?

"I Am COMPLETELY BALD": Revisiting The Politics of Pubic Hair Watch: Though, if I am going to be scrupulously honest here, I suppose that the episode doesn't really enter into the politics of pubic hair, per se--there is never the least question, for example, of whether or not Carrie and the other ladies need bikini waxes so as to be fit to be seen in public, for example. (This "keeping your pubic hair meticulously groomed is a sign that you are doing your proper work of Being A Real Woman" theme also comes up in particularly distasteful fashion in the first film, I warn you in advance--with it being suggested that not having a scrupulously maintained Lady Area is an unacceptable violation of femininity, and a surefire way of losing your man, to boot. Charming!)

I suppose I think that Carrie's "it is so odd not to have any hair 'down there' " moment feels noteworthy to me, not because the show does anything to question the idea that a lady simply must suffer significant pain and spend large sums of money to keep her pubic hair in "acceptable" shape (because it doesn't), but rather because it seems so quaint and touching that removing all of your pubic hair would, indeed, still be considered odd, circa 2000.

Because in this current world which we appear to live in, this is not so much the case, and the pressure for women to remove even the whisper of hair from her Lady Area seems to be quite considerable. Now, if a lady wishes to go sans hair, I wish her nothing but luck with and joy of said hairlessness. But I do wonder about the cultural messages and ideals which make hairlessness, not one option among many, which can be chosen or not chosen without judgment, purely according to personal preference, but rather as the appropriate way to be "sexy." Living in a world in which twelve-year-old girls get Brazilians makes me wistful for a time when thirty-four-year-old women found them rather shocking and outre. Ah well. Days which have vanished (at least for the present), it seems!

"One Woman's Pornographer Is Another Woman's Spiritual Leader": Let Us Valorize Hugh Hefner, Shall We? Watch:
You may have already gathered that I find Sam's "I've loved Hugh Hefner since I was a mere slip of a girl!" thing a little distasteful. Growing up pouring over Playboy, and drinking in its messages about what makes a woman "sexy" and "desirable"... probably not the healthiest thing in the world for a lass? Perhaps it might be one piece of the puzzle, when it comes to thinking about why Samantha is so consistently obsessed with maintaining physical "perfection" (i.e., never allowing any visible signs of aging to, well, become visible on her body, etc.)? You grow up looking at cookie-cutter images of air-brushed, never-aging feminine "perfection"... this might shape how you view yourself as a sexual being and a woman, now, mightn't it? (I mean, I realize that we all growing up looking at such images--thank you, corporate media! Thank you, soulless advertising industry!--but I reckon that Playboy's passive, vacant model of female "sexiness"--perhaps even more potently toxic than the average rubbish which we all cope with? Makes you sad that the Playboy empire is teetering on its foundations, now, doesn't it? [Smiles to self smugly.])

I also wish that the show hadn't led us down The Path to the Playboy Mansion because it's such a bummer to see Samantha (who is usually all sexual agency, all the time) embracing the whole Playboy idea of women not as sexual actors, but rather as sexual objects. The Playboy version of female sexual liberation, after all, is about being "free"... to take your clothes off and pose sexily (but non-threateningly!) for gentlemen's viewing pleasure. Ummmmm... yay? Oh, and of course to be "free" to fit the extremely narrow mold of female "sexiness" on display in Playboy--almost without exception, young, white, blond, thin, able-bodied, heavily made-up, devoid of body hair or any bodily flaws or imperfections whatsoever, and surgically enhanced. Ummm... goody?

The closest which the episode gets to criticizing this unpleasant vision of female sexiness and sexuality is to have Carrie and Miranda react with baffled amusement to the parade of young, scantily clad, and often surgically-enhanced young women (and not young, not as scantily clad, and surgery-free men) whom they encounter at the pool party. Hmmm. I would have been more pleased if, when asked to attend said soiree, the ladies had refused and stayed in the hotel reading Carol Queen or some such, instead. Narratives which give women control over their own sexuality and are, you know, fundamentally interested in women as actual sexual subjects... I approve!

Next Up...?: "Hot Child in the City," in which we consider whether or not thirteen-year-old girls acting like thirty-something women is okay, and (correspondingly) whether or not thirty-something women acting like thirteen-year-old girls is okay. To the former, I say... no, and to the latter, I say... dear goodness, why would anyone even wish to do so such a thing? Being thirteen was dreary enough the first time, for Pete's sake--I am quite convinced that I shall have no desire to revisit the experience once I enter my thirties next year, thankyouverymuch...

Wednesday, December 1

Season Three, Episode Thirteen: Escape from New York

The Summary:

Okay, so, as the title may have already suggested to you--this episode features the ladies going on a road trip, away from their beloved NYC. (Or at least... the non-married ladies. Sorry, Charlotte!) A production company is considering optioning Carrie's columns, to transform them into a film (trust me, y'all, turning SATC into a movie or movies... bad. Idea), and want to fly her out to L.A. to discuss it. Miranda and Samantha tag along, and as you can imagine... hijinx ensue! And so... to those hijinx let us now turn!

Though I guess, if I am going to be perfectly accurate here, Carrie, for one, is not feeling terribly hijinx-y. She is, by contrast, actually feeling pretty darned miserable, in the wake of her break-up with Aidan, the bloody ending to her affair with Big, etc., etc. She hopes that leaving NYC for a bit will give her the chance to forget about Aidan, Big, and the whole affair mess for awhile. Yeeeeah... good luck with that!

Turns out, it's Matthew McConaughey who is interested in optioning her columns, and Carrie is summoned to go and meet with him. Now, I've always found Mr. M a charmless and vaguely creepy screen presence (apologies to The McConaughey, I hope that he's a very nice man in real life), and this episode does not in any way alter or modify this distaste on my part. In their distinctly bizarre meeting, McConaughey pretends to be Mr. Big (whom he hopes to play in the proposed film) and propositions Carrie--then shifts from propositioning, to asking Carrie why she and Big are both such deeply messed-up people, who ruin all of their relationships. Yikes. What fun for Carrie, on all fronts!

In the end, Carrie decides that what she needs is to not be interrogated by creepy strangers/movie stars about the mistakes she's made in her romantic past, but rather some time and space to figure them out on her own, re-group, and re-build her life. So that's what she decides to do. Sounds... surprisingly healthy and sane! Well done, Ms. Bradshaw!

Miranda, meanwhile, is feeling that she is too buttoned-down and repressed--she needs to embrace life, to be freer, to be sexier! Turns out that being life-embracing, free, and sexy translates, for Ms. Hobbes, into riding a mechanical bull in a bar, and tearing off her shirt whilst doing so. Ummmm... yee-haw?

Samantha... is not riding a mechanical bull, mercifully, but is rather getting to know Garth, a nice poet, who also happens to be a dildo model. (I am told that this is a very common combination.) Samantha very much enjoys sleeping with the poetic Garth, but has noooo interest whatsoever in hearing anything which he has to say, or learning anything about him. Delightful!

Garth says that he's been thinking about moving to New York, and would love it if he and Sam could continue seeing each other... Sam, embarrassed by the thought of introducing sex-industry-worker Garth to her fannnncy friends, and fundamentally uninterested in him as an actual person, vetoes this idea. But, as Carrie's voice-over says, when Samantha left the real man/poet/individual Garth behind, "she took the best part of him with her" (meaning, of course, the dildo which he'd modeled for, and had given to her.) Wow. That is... harsh!

Charlotte, in the meantime... is not in L.A. at all, but rather is still in New York, settling into her life as Mrs. Trey McDougal. Not entirely happily, since she and Trey, it transpires, never had sex on their honeymoon (after a couple of unsuccessful tries, they turned to playing golf instead... yiiiiikes.) Trey won't discuss the matter, and Charlotte is understandably upset both by said silence, and by the aforementioned Lack of Consummation.

Via the electric telephone, Carrie advises Charlotte about how she can determine whether or not Trey's impotence is physical or emotional... i.e., by wrapping a ring of paper around the unconscious Trey's penis, to see if he is capable of getting an erection while he's asleep. (I mean, is there a sitcom in the history of TV that doesn't have a variation on this plot line?) Turns out, the Paper Test reveals that... Trey is, indeed, physically capable of having an erection! Hooray, Charlotte is happy! Except... wait, nope, scratch that--actually, Charlotte is sad, because this means that she's dealing not with a physical problem, but rather with an emotional one. Ah. Tricky, that! Perhaps riding a mechanical bull and ripping your shirt off might help?

The Analysis:

Ah, Let Us Compare Men to Objects Once Again! Watch:
So as you may have already gathered, I find the whole "ah, Garth, how I do value your gentlemanly area, but no other part of your body, mind, heart or spirit!" thing rather distasteful. Ah, reducing men to their penises! How it does rival in charm the practice of reducing women to their vaginas!

Now, I would not be understood to condemn Sam entirely and completely here--she's bored by Garth? Fine. (His poetry is pretty dreary, I will admit--but keep following that muse, sir! Believe in your dreams!) She's just looking for a casual fling whilst in sunny California? Fine. But must this translate into such a nasty disregarding of Garth as an actual person, as well as a (I guess talented is the right word...?) dildo model? Must this translate into Sam actually referring to him AS "A DILDO," rather than as a human being? I feel that it does not.

I also rather dislike that the primary reason that Samantha rejects Garth isn't it even that she finds him dull (which... fair enough, some of his poems last a loooong time), but rather because of the nature of his chosen profession. (And no... not talking about the poetry here.) When Garth brings up the possibility of he and Sam continuing to see each other in New York, Sam's first thought is that she couldn't possibly introduce "Mr. Dildo" (as she dubs him) to a room full of her glamorous friends at a Met gala. Are you bloody kidding me? Soooo... you support the sex industry, eagerly participate in it as a consumer... but would be ashamed to be on the arm of someone who freely chooses to work within it? I disapprove, Ms. Jones. Disapprove, I say!

Miranda Hobbes, Supporter of Rape Apologist Logic Watch:
So in this episode, as Miranda is lamenting to Carrie about how much she wishes that she could let loose and be more openly sexual (which, fair enough, follow your bliss, Ms. H--but could there have been a better way to feel free and sexually confident that ripping a perfectly good shirt off, whilst riding a mechanical bull, in the middle of dive bar...?), she points out a woman wearing a short, tight, low-cut gold lame dress, wishing that she could be more like this Golden Lady.

Carrie instantly assumes that, because of the way that she's dressed, that the GL is a sex worker. (Of course she does. Because for a woman to appear in public in racy garb means that she definitely must work in the sex industry. Or... perhaps not?) Admiring the GL's willingness to dress in such an overtly sexy way, Miranda demands of Carrie, "Do you think there's any chance she's not up for sex?" No. She. Did. N't. But alas... yes she did. Our own Miss Hobbes, invoking the extremely creepy language and logic usually drawn on by rapists. ("I could tell that she wanted it because of what she was wearing," etc.) Delightful.

Except, nope, sorry, my mistake... that was actually a HORRENDOUS thing to say. The only way you can know that a lady is definitely "up for sex" is if she tells you that she is. Otherwise... no. Maybe gold is her favorite color. Maybe she had a bad day, and wore something festive to cheer herself up. Maybe she just wanted to go out on the town looking sexy, dang it. But--and please repeat after me, Miranda H.--just because a lady is wearing a sexy dress does not mean that she is signaling her complete sexual availability to the world at large. And affirming that she does... plays into the nastiest possible "well, if she hadn't been wearing X, I wouldn't have done Y" rape-apologist type logic.

And now if you will excuse me, I need to go watch "My Short Skirt" on an endless loop on YouTube. "My short skirt is not an invitation, a provocation, an indication that I want it, or give it, or that I hook. My short skirt is not begging for it--it does not want you to rip it off me, or pull it down." A-bloody-men to that, sister.

Next Up...?
: "Sex and Another City." Yup, we are still in L.A. Boo, I miss the East Coast! I miss it even more when the ladies attend a pool party at the Playboy Mansion. Yes... they really do. [Pillows head in arms, and seeks comfort in sleep.]

Monday, November 29

Season Three, Episode Twelve: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The Summary:

Ah, Affair Fall-Out! Let us wallow in it! Ooh, and also-weddings! Hooray!

So, as we know, Carrie has ended her affair with Big. (Thank the Goddess and all of Her saints. ) But of course, the pain and mess of the affair still linger... Aidan is none the wiser about all of Carrie's sneakin' around, but Carrie feels that she has to, well, make him the wiser. Isn't not telling him cruel? But then, on the other hand... wouldn't telling him be cruel--hurting him, just so she can assuage her own guilty conscience? Waffle, waffle, waffle--see-saw, see-saw, see-saw.

Anguished at the thought of hurting Aidan, but unable to deceive him any longer, Carrie tells him everything... right before they are about to leave for Charlotte's wedding. Ohhhh, dear. Great timing as ever, Carrie B.! Suffice it to say... Carrie ends up going to that ceremony alone. Aidan comes to the wedding later, tells he loves her, but that this isn't the kind of thing he can get over. He cries. She cries. It is sad. Booooo. And so... buh-bye, Aidan! See you in Season 4!

Meanwhile, Charlotte is getting ready for her bridal day. She is gleeful that her dating life is officially over, and that, after all of her years of wishing to be, she shall finally be wed. She is also quite happy, because her wedding means the advent of her honeymoon, and (as she reveals to the ladies the night before said wedding), she hasn't slept with Trey yet. (Charlotte: "I've been saving myself!" Carrie: "But you're not a virgin!") Her friends are dubious about the wisdom of Charlotte's pre-marital chastity (Sam: "Honey, before you buy the car, you take it for a test-drive!"--ah, likening men to objects, delightful), but Charlotte is happily confident, despite her friends' doubts, that all will be well.

And you know what happens when Ms. York is happily convinced that all will be well? If you guessed a word that begins in "dis" and ends in "aster," then by golly, you would be right! Unable to wait any longer, a very drunk Charlotte shows up on Trey's doorstop the night before their wedding, and requests that consummation take place immediately, if not sooner. And... it turns out that Trey is impotent. As in, not just in this one instance, but... frequently. Ohhhhhh, drat.

Charlotte confides in Carrie about said impotence... right before she is about to walk down the aisle. (Good timing as ever, Charlotte Y.!) Carrie tells her 1) that it happens to everyone, and was probably just nerves on his part, and 2) that if Charlotte wants to become a Runaway Bride anyway, that Carrie is right behind her. But, as Carrie notes, "Charlotte was 34, single, and standing in a $14,000 wedding dress. She was getting married." (I think I'd be likely to stay single and pawn the dress, meself, but no matter!) And get married she does, heading off to an uncertain honeymoon, and an uncertain future...

Sam, meanwhile, sleeps with one of Trey's Scottish relatives, Caleb, who has come to town to be in the wedding. She can barely understand him, because his accent is so thick (but I can, even when he is ostensibly totally incomprehensible... must be in the blood! Thank you, Scottish forebearers!), but does not care, as he is very dashing, and often kilt-clad. Having a penchant for Scottish gents in kilts... this, I cannot fault her for!

Miranda, meanwhile, is dating Harrison, a gent she met at a speed-dating event. At said speed-dating event, Miranda got shot down by every gent she chatted to, after telling them that she was a lawyer. However, when she introduced herself as a "stewardess" (good to know it's still, what, 1971, in Ms. Hobbes' head) to Harrison... she struck gold! (If you can call Harrison "gold," which, personally, I would not.) Harrison, it seems, is an E.R. doctor. Or... so Miranda thinks, until she accidentally cuts herself in his presence, and he nearly faints at the sight of her blood. Turns out he's not so much an E.R. doctor as he is an Assistant Manager at an Athlete's Foot. I see. Learning this fun fact, Miranda dumps him for being a liar... even though she, too, is a liar. Huh. Oh well. At least their break-up results in no tears or long-lasting emotional damage! I'll take it! Buh-bye, Harrison!

The Analysis:

LGBT Folks Watch
: Stanford attends Charlotte's wedding (he is Miranda's fall-back date, after she dumps Harrison, post Blood Incident.) He is wearing a spiffy suit... but has nary a line. Ah well. Always a pleasure to see you, nonetheless, Mr. Blatch!

Once Again, We Have the "Gorgeous Woman Paired Off with An Ordinary-Looking Bloke" Dyad--Mercy, But That One Never Gets Old! Watch: I do find it rather annoying that, once again, we have a scenario in this episode in which a beautiful woman (this time, one Miss Miranda Hobbes) is romantically paired off with a pleasant but decidedly-ordinary looking bloke (this time, one "I Pretend I Am A Doctor, But Am Actually Not" Harrison Whatever-His-Last-Name-Is,-Can't-Say-That-I-Picked-That-Up.) Now, I have nothing against pleasant, ordinary-looking blokes. I wish them all the best, in all of their chosen pursuits and endeavors. And I have no problem with the heart following its own eccentric course--a beautiful person should surely (like all the rest of us) listen to The Feelings more than they should to The Superficiality when it comes to making decisions about who to date, who to sleep with, who to care about, etc.

It is just so mind-numbingly cliched and dull to see the "lovely woman, un-lovely man" pairing yet again/so unendingly and relentlessly in our pop culture ... I wish the entertainment industry would give that a sucker a rest. What about... pairing beautiful men off with un-beautiful women, every now and then? (And not treating same as a joke, I hasten to add.) And featuring not-beautiful women in leading, rather than in "funny best friend" supportive roles, from time to time? (Outside of the independent movie circuit, I hurry to note.)

I am all for the writers featuring a swain for one of our leading ladies who doesn't fit conventional standards of male "hotness"--i.e., Harrison is pale, rather weedy, and has some pretty extensive, unruly body hair. Nice to let him slip out of the Men's Health-esque model of what makes a gent attractive, to be sure--but pair this "we can embrace male characters who are not conventionally attractive" thing with the women of the show who are 1) conventionally beautiful, 2) perfectly toned, 3) meticulously made-up, 4) painstakingly waxed... I like it not. Remind me again why we can't create spaces for women to not fit the exacting standards of female beauty upheld by our culture in popular entertainment...? Ohhhhh, right.

Gender, The Professions, and Sexual Politics... Are We Presenting This in A Thoughtful and Interesting Way or Are We Not? Watch:

We Are: Ah, what a good episode this is.

We Are Not: Ummmm, which episode were you watching, now?

We Are: The same one you were watching, of course! And I thought it was great! Miranda brings up this super point about how sometimes women who are super-dedicated to their careers are sometimes thought of as unfeminine and undesirable in our culture. Genius!

We Are Not: Yeeeeeah... okay, so maybe she kind of sails near an interesting point there--the ways in which women in traditionally male-dominated professions might sometimes face some negative and unpleasant stereotyping about how unsuitably "masculine" they themselves are. Kind of.

We Are: Right, like, I said--this episode is a--slam. Dunk.

We Are Not: Yeeeeeeah... not so sure I can agree with you on that one, my friend.

We Are (with genuinely innocent bafflement, eyes open very wide): Whatever do you mean?

We Are Not: Wellllll... let's start with Miranda pretending to be a "stewardess." First of all--flight attendants had to wage some pretty serious battles in the '70s to get their title changed from "stewardess"--because, you know, that title is... actually pretty demeaning.

We Are (face falling): Go on.

We Are Not: And when Miranda pretends to be a "stewardess"... she kinda pretends to be... an idiot. She adopts this breathy Marilyn Monroe voice, and keeps saying these really dopey things... and maybe... suggesting that lady flight attendants are morons... lacks charm?

We Are: (suddenly downcast): I suppose that it might.

We Are Not: And perhaps is there a little flavor of distastefulness thrown into the mix, as well, in that Miranda finds Harrison the Doctor eminently dateable and desirable, but Harrison the Athlete's Foot Manager... not so much?

We Are: (brightening a little): Ahhh, but might that be less "I am reluctant to date a pleb" and more "I want to be with someone who is passionately engaged in a profession they care about deeply, and not someone working in an industry which they are clearly bored by, and deeply embarrassed about"? After all, Miranda was all in favor of Steve working in a bar... because he loved working in a bar. It was his path.

We Are Not (pensively): Huh. I hadn't thought about it like that.

We Are (eternally the optimist): Soooo... we kind of agree? A little bit, anyway?

We Are Not (sighing): Fine, fine, fine. But I stick by my flight attendant criticism!

We Are (cheerily): Fair enough!

Likening Men to Cars/Ridiculing the Idea of Not Having Sex Before Marriage--What Do We Think? Watch: All right, so, I think that the whole "Charlotte and Trey not sleeping together before they tie the knot, and the appalled way that the other ladies react to learning this fun fact" thing needs to be unpacked a little, here. For starters, I am quite firmly convinced that Sam's "kick the tires before buying the bike, or whatever metaphor it is she uses exactly" affirmation definitely fails my "if a man was saying this about a woman, would I find this distasteful?" test. Or I guess... passes it. Whatever, you know what I mean--the idea that you try someone out like they're a blender or an iPod, to see whether or not they're "defective"--not one I love. Let's try to avoid thinking of and talking about people as though they were objects, now, shall we?

However, I do think that the ladies are pointing to something important here, even if they're doing so in some problematic ways... said important thing being that sex in the Charlotte-Trey relationship (even before we get to the whole impotence thing which... yikes) has been a little wack-a-doo from the get-go. Unlike the ladies, I don't have a problem with Charlotte choosing not to sleep with Trey before they get hitched... but I do have a problem with the reason why she chooses not to do so.

Because Charlotte hasn't slept with him yet, not because of religious or moral convictions, or because of any lack of any desire on her part... but rather because she feels that that is the way to snare her man--remain chaste, and you get to be a wife. Ummm, seriously? Did we all suddenly get catapulted back to 1955, and I somehow failed to notice? (If I have to live in the '50s, what with the vicious racism and the severely curtailed opportunities for the womenfolk, I at least expect to be issued with some fabulous gloves.)

Also--I find it a little messed-up that Charlotte and Trey don't seem to have communicated about sex in any way whatsoever, pre-getting-hitched--their sexual pattern during their courtship seemed to be purely--Trey pushed, Charlotte refused... and that's about it. Ummm, maybe before getting married, couples should talk a leetle more about sexual matters beyond "no, you may not touch me there"? This seems wise?

So in conclusion--I don't think that the writers have done terrible work here. (Hooray, I love not thinking that the writers have done terrible work, for a change!) They make it pretty clear, I think, that the main problem with Charlotte and Trey is that, in many ways, she hasn't been herself with him--instead, she's played games, and denied what she really wants for the sake of appearing a certain way/maintaining a certain image in his eyes. ("Because what I would really like to do is sleep with Trey, I will steadfastly refuse to do so, so that he will think of me as a 'lady.' EXCELLENT.")

I wish that Miss York (sorry, Mrs. McDougal--a Lucy Stoner, Charlotte is most certainly not) was not now stuck in such a pickle/such an unpleasant marital situation. But to have the writers indicate that she got into said pickle (in addition to Trey's loopiness, which is certainly also at fault here--we must share the blame equally!) because of her refusal to follow her own desires, and her decision to value snagging a husband over making sure that said husband knew who she really was... not too shabby!

Notable Quotables:

Sam, at Charlotte's little bachelorette gathering: "Marriage doesn't guarantee a happy ending--just an ending." I hope that the York-McDougal wedding party has time to get that one embroidered on some napkins in time for the ceremony!

Carrie, on her friends, who have stood by her through the whole Affair Mess, and whom she knows will stand by her through any and all messes to come: "It's hard to find people who will love you no matter what. I was lucky enough to find three of them."

Next Up...?:
"Escape from New York," in which... are you ready to be shocked? The ladies... escape from New York! Dildo models and Miranda riding a mechanical bull in her bra are involved. Consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, November 24

Season Three, Episode Eleven: Running with Scissors

The Summary:

Okay, mes amies, are you prepared for us to continue to go deeper into the dark, dark nightmare which is the Carrie-Big Affair? Do you have a drink handy? (Perhaps since it is quite early in the morning, I ought not to encourage you to drink, but... desperate times call for desperate measures, here, people!)

All right, so, let us begin. Despite her vows to the contrary at the end of our last episode, Carrie has not ended her affair with Big, but rather... continued it. And said affair has become less "we are living out The Bridges of Madison County/The Prince of Tides/Other Romance-y Type Novel Centered on Adultery!" and more "we are meeting at hotels with mysterious stains on the walls at 2 p.m., ick, I've never seen a bug like that before, oh my goodness, why are we here???"

Carrie's relationship with Aidan is getting increasingly strained, so tense and unhappy is she, what with all of the guilt, angst, and anxiety that she is carrying around. Her affair with Big is also getting increasingly strained, with neither of them seeming to know quite what they want, what they're doing, or how to stop the Freight Train to Disasters-ville which they are currently on. Do they want to leave their current partners, and give being a real couple a shot again? They don't know. One minute, they think yes, the next minute--no. Ambiguity, uncertainty, confusion--they reign supreme.

Carrie tells Miranda about the affair, to try to get her to slap her upside the head and bring her violently back to reality and common sense. (YES, good call, Bradshaw.) Miranda tries (bless her heart) but her efforts are in vain. Charlotte bumps into Carrie and Big outside of a seedy hotel, and tearfully reproaches Carrie for her "sleeping-with-a-married-man" behavior--but her sorrowful denunciations also do no good. It isn't until Carrie gets caught by Natasha in her and Big's marital home, and Natasha ends up tripping, falling, and smashing out some teeth, that Carrie finally gets it--she, and the affair, have officially come to the end of the road. She finally breaks it off with Big, after he comes to the hospital to be with his now tooth-deficient bride. (Carrie, to Big: "We are so over. We need a new word for over.") And... she walks away from him. YES. Peace in our time! [Ominously, under breath: "For now, anyway."] Feel better soon, Natasha! And Big... may I once again invite you to go boil your head?

All right--onward! What about the other womenfolk, who are not blighting their lives or the lives of others with their extramarital shenanigans? Let us see!

In addition to freaking out about Carrie's painful involvement in the Marriages of Others, Charlotte is freaking about her own pending marriage--or rather, her own pending wedding. She can't pick a dress! She can't pick accessories! The horror! Seeking to prevent her from having a mental breakdown over such Bridal Angst, Samantha tells Charlotte to hire a stylist--which she promptly does, one Anthony Marantino by name. Anthony takes Charlotte to Vera Wang (!) to help her pick out her dress. With the help of Anthony's sage guidance (and his relentless bullying of the salesgirl), Charlotte is, indeed, able to find her dream wedding dress. Said dress is very pretty. But though I like pretty dresses as much as the next dress-fancying lass, personally, if I had that kind of cash, I'd have bought a gorgeous vintage wedding dress for cheap online, and used the excess to gad about Europe, instead. But... Charlotte York's wedding, Charlotte York's rules!

Sam is also freaking out (what an episode of stress this is turning out to be!), in large part because of having met Tom, who is, as Carrie puts it, "a New York legend--steadfastly single, and sexually very active... in short, the male Samantha." (Nice that she's not the female Tom, I guess!) Sam would very much like to sleep with Tom, and the feeling is mutual. So the freaking out comes from... where? From the fact that Tom won't sleep with Sam unless she's had an H.I.V. test... which she's never had, and is terrified to have, for fear that it will bring her bad. News. Her friends reassure her--they've had H.I.V. tests, they're fine. Sam will have her H.I.V. test, and she'll be fine. And she does, and she is--but not before fainting at the clinic, waiting for the results. Ouch! That floor looked pretty hard!

Miranda isn't freaking out in this episode, so much as she is flirting with a sandwich. Allow me to explain. Every time Miranda walks down this one block, the Subway employee paid to stand outside of his franchise wearing a sandwich costume tells her to "eat me." (As Miranda puts it: "He didn't say it in the sandwich way, he said it in the sexual harassing way." Indeed he did--that is one dirty-minded sandwich.) Initially angry and indignant about being harassed in this way (which... yeah, I'm with you so far), Miranda quickly becomes intrigued and even turned-on by this Mysterious Sandwich Stranger (and now... you've officially lost me.) Oh, how the ladies love to be solicited by creepy strangers on the street! How it does ensnare their senses and bewitch their brains! [Buries head in arms.]

One day, Miranda asks the MSS to remove his mask, so that she might see the man behind the sandwich. He does so, and it is revealed that he is a handsome young man. (Of course he is.) Miranda decides, however, that their love cannot be, because "she was a lawyer, and he was a sandwich." Of course she does. Because rejecting a guy because he works at Subway makes MUCH more sense than rejecting him because he sexually harasses random women on the street. Sheeeeeeesh.

The Analysis:

Let Us Now Play Everyone's Favorite Party Game... Slut-Shaming! Watch
: This isn't as bad as it could have been, I'll grant you--if this was a gloves-off, no-holds-barred, down-and-dirty slut-shaming event, Sam's H.I.V. test would have come back positive, and the writers would have stricken her with illness for her harlot-y, whorish ways. Happily, the writers are not so draconian... Sam gets to both live, and flourish, despite having taken a few twirls around the block.

HOWEVER. There is nonetheless some mild slut-shaming--or at least, some mockery of Sam's sexual behavior in the episode... when Sam sits down with a nurse to discuss her sexual history, the writers make a lot of hay out of how sluttttty Sam is. The nurse asks Sam how many sexual partners she's had, and Sam takes a looooong time to think about it, asking the nurse, after a good couple of minutes of silent tabulation, "ummmm, this year?" The writers definitely play her "I can't even remember how many gents I've slept with!" moment for laughs here which... is mild, I'll grant you, but added to all of the other "Sam, you are such a tramp! And your trampiness amuses me!" moments in the series--it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

And while we're on the subject of Sam and the nurse--when the nurse asks her about her sexual practices, Sam burbles along quite happily until the nurse asks her about anal sex, at which point Sam drops her eyes and issues a muted admission that yes, she does engage in that particular practice. Not the first time the writers have suggested that there is something particularly shameful about the ladies enjoying anal sex, though I do wish it was the last!

"I Can't Have Sex with a Sandwich... Can I?": Ladies Who Lovvvvve Being Sexually Harassed--With Some Distasteful Class Politics Thrown in For Good Measure--Watch: Most annoying, however, is the Miranda storyline, for two primary reasons. Would you like to know what I think that they are? I hope so, for I am about to tell you, regardless.

1) Said storyline implies that sometimes, sexual harassment can be, well, sexy. And... it isn't, and it can't. There's a crucial distinction to be drawn here, I think, between enjoying male attention (which, if respectfully and not creepily or intrusively done, I reckon many a straight lass does) and enjoying men randomly asking you to give them blow jobs while you're walking down the street (which I'm going to go out on a limb and say nary a lass does.) The writers don't make that distinction, which I feel... is a little bit of a problem! Man who catches your eye and smiles at you while you pass him on the street... fine. Man who grabs, exposes, or in any other way highlights his gentlemanly area, whistles, shouts out X-rated suggestions, or honks his car horn at you... not fine.

Such behavior does not make me feel flattered, it does not make me feel desirable, it does not make me feel sexy--it makes me feel creeped out, self-conscious, and concerned for my personal safety. And if a man routinely solicited me on the street, I wouldn't start spinning romantic daydreams around him, I would report him to the cops and/or start walking down a different street. And in a world in which women do get harassed on a pretty routine basis when they dare to venture out into the public sphere (do they not know this is the proper domain of men???), I find it distinctly distasteful that the writers suggest that Miranda finds this harassment all a sexy adventure. [Blogger hits the buzzer--because I've just decided I should have a buzzer, why not?--to express that the writers have run afoul of her house rules.] Repeat after me, writers--being harassed--not. Sexy. For. The. Women. Folk.

2) Eager as I am for Miranda to walk away from Captain-Creepy-Sandwich-Pants here, and glad as I am that the writers don't end the episode with her having a fling with him (praise the divine powers of the universe for that one)--the reason she turns him down, in the end, I find to be quite lame. Because she turns him down not because he sexually harassed her, but because she's a lawyer, and he works at Subway. Ummmmm, Miranda, sweetheart? Didn't we have this conversation when you were dating Steve? Didn't you actually slap your friend Charlotte's wrist a little, for telling you that you shouldn't date Steve because he was "working class"? Didn't we learn from that that the barometer of whether or not to date someone is, you know, whether or not you actually like them, and whether or not they are the kind of person who will or will not harass women on the street, and not whether or not they are an investment banker, or similar? I... had thought so. But it seems not! My mistake!

Next Up...?: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," in which we analyze and deconstruct the absolute rubbish policy which our government and military are foolishly persisting in upholding, despite the fact that it is not only patently discriminatory, but makes no bloody sense to boot... oh, no, wait, I'm sorry, the episode is actually all about Charlotte's wedding! (Yay, I love SATC weddings! Except, it may shock you to learn... this one's gonna be a little rough.) And the episode is also about Carrie feeling that she needs to tell Aidan about her affair with Big. (Um, yay, for watching people cry and hearts be broken...?)

Monday, November 22

Season Three, Episode Ten: All or Nothing

Hello, dear friends! How I have missed you! (Whether or not you have missed me is another question, and one which I will not embarrass you by asking you to answer.) It is truly wretched and unacceptable for me to have been radio silent all last week--how dare I? Alas, I have come to the point in the semester where I feel as though I am drowning in a veritable sea of grading and academic labors--my youngsters have book reviews due, paper proposals due... it does not end.

But--let us put Grading Madness to the side for the moment, and turn to Adulterous Madness, instead. For though Carrie, unlike me, is free from the grading which now haunts all of my waking hours, at least I, unlike Carrie, am free from adulterous enmeshment with a married cad. I'll take piles of papers over emotional self-destruction any day! And so... let us proceed!

The Summary:

All right, so, delaying the pain no longer--let's talk Carrie and Big--The Affair.

So, as you may recall from 2007, or whenever it was that I last posted (it feels a veritable AGE), in our last episode, Carrie caused me to develop an ulcer by sleeping with Big. Big, who is, of course, married to another (one) and a world-class blighter of Carrie's life (two). [Head makes violent contact with desk.] Carrie cannot stop thinking about said Big-Sleeping-With, both in an appalled "Mercy, what have I done?" sort of way, and in a shamefacedly delighted "Mercy, but I did enjoy what I did" sort of way. I don't know about you, but I scent danger in the air...

Carrie confides in Sam about her illicit luvvvvv (assuming, quite wisely, I think, that the Big-Detesting Miranda and the About-To-Be-Wed Charlotte might not react to news of her Big-Flavored Assignation positively), asking Sam what's wrong with her, how could she have done such a dreadful thing, etc. Carrie is clearly looking for someone to give her a good slap upside the head (ooooh, pick me, pick me!), and firmly point out to her the profound unwiseness of taking a stroll down Affair Boulevard with Big. Alas, sadly for her (and for us) Sam is not the right person for this particular job (Carrie: "Don't you want to judge me, just a little?" Sam: "Not my style.") Now, I am usually a big fan of the non-judgmental-ness, but for Pete's sake, Sam, now would be a nice time to judge/to take Carrie by the shoulders and shake her till her teeth rattle.

Left to her own devices, Carrie does all in her power to forget about the Big-Sleeping-With--files her articles, defrosts her fridge, organizes her shoes... but to no avail. She still has Big on the brain. [Blogger's note: With all due respect to freelance writers, whom I know in real life are overworked and underpaid, I cannot help but think that this is where not having the seemingly endless leisure time which our fictional free-lancer appears to have might have been useful. I suspect that most of us would have to actually schedule time to obsess about our pending slide into adultery, rather than try to distract ourselves from it by idly moving our shoes from one part of our closets to another.]

ANYWAY. Carrie calls Big. [Hand smartly slaps forehead.] She insists that they need to rationally discuss what happened between them... which quickly translates into "sleep together again." [Forehead connects painfully with wall.] As Carrie embarks on The Affair Proper, Aidan declares his love for her. (Not while she's actually in flagrante with Big, obviously, that would be... awkward.) Of course he does. Carrie responds to this declaration with a corresponding assertion of affection--less, it seems, because she genuinely does love him, and more because she feels guilllllty about the fact that she is two-timing him with her morally-questionable ex.

Things quickly start to go pear-shaped in Affair Land (are we shocked?), with Big calling Carrie while Aidan is at her apartment, acting jealous, threatening to leave his wife, and causing Carrie to lose Aidan's dog. (Only temporarily, happily, the pooch makes his way home safe and sound, in the end--fear not, animal lovers!) Carrie ends the episode tearfully vowing to herself that she will end the affair pronto, because she finally seems to be aware that conducting said affair seems likely to end in heartbreak and disaster, not only for herself and Big, but also for innocent parties Aidan and Natasha. Yeah, we'll see how that goes.

And what of the other ladies, you inquire? Well, Charlotte is throwing herself head first into Bride and Wedding Madness--some parts of which she loves (i.e., getting to pick out ludricrously expensive wedding china at Bergdorf's), some of which.... not so much (i.e., having to negotiate the terms of her pre-nup with Trey's mother.) Because, it turns out, 1) Trey won't marry her without a pre-nup, and 2) Trey's mother Bunny is the one who sets the terms of said pre-nup, with Trey washing his hands of it entirely. (Once again, from the peanut gallery, I note.. the whole "my mother pretty much runs my life, and I quite like it that way" thing... red flag, Ms. York!)

Charlotte wisely has the lawyerly Miranda review said pre-nup, and learns from her that she'll "only" get $500,000 after a few years of marriage (HA), and will get a set sum of money for every son that she bears... but no money whatsoever for any daughters. Charming! Charlotte is most troubled, not by this whole-sale devaluing of female children, but rather by the fact that she is "only" worth $500,000. (Again I say--HA.) She is terrified to negotiate with Bunny about these financial terms (Charlotte: "Negotiate??? I can't even buy stuff on sale!"), but swallows hard and does so anyway--threatening Bunny that she'll back out of the marriage unless the pre-nup bumps her net worth up to a cool million. (How... romantic?) Bunny backs down, the pre-nup is signed, and Charlotte is once again restored to perfect happiness. [Blogger mutters bitterly under breath, to self: "Glad that this whole mess of a story line made someone happy, anyway, 'cuz it sure as sugar wasn't me."]

All right, so--onto Miranda. Miranda's plot line bores me almost to the point of tears, but does not, at least, make me want to smash things, as Carrie's and Charlotte's do, so... progress! Miranda meets George, who works at her law firm's Chicago branch, while he's in New York on business. They hit it off. After George returns to Chicago, they start having phone sex. Which goes swimmingly, until Miranda discovers that she is one of George's many phone sex partners. And so, she breaks off contact with his multi-phone-sex-partner-having self. [Blogger struggles to keep eyes open and remain upright, so uninterested is she.]

Sam, meanwhile, has the flu. As in, a really bad flu. During the course of said really bad flu, she tries to get one of her gentlemen conquests to come and help her out with some manly household tasks which have arisen during her illness (i.e., her curtain rod has come unsprung. And her female friends couldn't help her with this because...?) Finding that none of the men she's recently slept with is at all interested in helping her through her illness, a teary Sam laments to Carrie that being a single woman sucks, that a lady's life is meaningless unless she has a man who loves her, and that she is all aloooone. (Carrie: "We are not alone, we have each other." Thank you, Queen Adultery, nice to see you're still doing some good around here.) Happily, once Sam recovers, she puts all of her "as a single woman, my life is a bleak pit of bleakness, because only a man's love could give meaning to my life!" talk behind her, and blames her expression of said sentiments on the severity of her illness, and her heavy-duty medication. All right, then!

The Analysis:

Piece of Trivia Which I Feel Compelled to Shove Down Your Throat Against Your Will
Watch: So, when Big shows up on Carrie's block and starts a huge fight about the future of their affair, said huge fight scene was shot on a street in the Village where one of my very dear friends actually lives. Neat, huh? I mean, not to you, why should you care, but I was all "I have so been on that street. I so recognize those awnings" when I saw it. It made me feel PDS (Pretty Darned Special), I can tell you.

So It Appears We Are Actually Taking Adultery Seriously for Once, Thank Goodness For That, Watch: So I have ranted on this blog before about how darned much the show's often cavalier attitude towards cheating has irked me. Non-monogamy and open relationships or marriages? Mazel tov, enjoy yourselves, consenting adults, who candidly make respectful decisions about their emotional, romantic, and sexual lives. My blessings upon you.

But sneaking-behind-people's-backs cheating? Quite different, and quite distasteful. I like it not. And it's kind of nice to see the show taking the very real human costs of such behavior seriously, for once, rather than writing another "my, what an amusing lark adultery is, tee hee!" type story. The writers make it clear from the very beginning that by cheating on the sweet Aidan (and being complicit in Big's cheating on the harmless Natasha), Carrie is wading into very dark and deep waters, indeed, and that her cheating is doomed to wound and damage, not only herself, but all parties involved, however innocent they might be.

And while of course I would prefer not to see Pain and Doom descending on all of these peeps' heads (okay... except for Big, I'm totally cool with that--heap on those coals, writers/gods of vengeance!) I'm glad to see the writers taking this whole mess seriously. Give yourself an appropriate number of cookies, writers!

Ah, Let Us Once Again Conflate Massive Economic Privilege with Female Self-Assertion and Empowerment Watch: So, as you may have already gathered, I find the Charlotte plot line here totally irritating. Now, I am aware that this here show of ours focuses on characters who are rich--or who are, at the very least, far more economically privileged than the majority of the American public/than we humble plebs in the audience. And watching these ladies' relentless conspicuous consumption and careless erasure of their class privilege (i.e., Carrie is forever lamenting how "poor" she is, all the while living in a nice apartment in a great neighborhood in one of the most expensive bloody cities in the world, and buying designer clothes and shoes--she cries poor when she, say, can't afford a fabulous dress--boo frickin' hoo, Marie Antoinette, my heart bleeds for you) is certainly irritating in and of itself.

But when it comes to matters of the pocket book, I am most troubled by the writers' (not uncommon) conflation of "female independence and self-assertion" with "buckets and buckets of shining cash." Because the writers clearly intend Charlotte's "I am demanding a million dollars in my pre-nup" plot to be a triumphant narrative,which is all about Charlotte learning to be brave, and stand up for herself. Now, I am all for being brave and standing up for yourself, but forgive me for being troubled by the fact that all of Charlotte's discussions of "what she's worth" here boil down to how much she is worth... financially. According to terms determined by her husband-to-be's family, and contingent on her making a success of wifehood (again, on their terms), no less. Yeouch.

If Charlotte was making a bid for a raise or pay equity at work, then I could buy this "more money equals more female empowerment" notion. But Lily Ledbetter Ms. York is not, and I find it hard to celebrate her "victory" of getting more cash out of her future mother-in-law, while not in any way challenging the fundamental assumptions behind this rather nasty pre-nup. (Which of course includes the idea that sons and heirs are worthy of cash, but daughters and non-heirs are not, for the love of Pete, people. Is this seventeenth-century France??? Because if so, I would at least like a fabulous wig to compensate for the whole-sale devaluation of girl children here.)

"The Choices Are Endless": Ah, How Nice to Know that Women Are Totally Emancipated! Woooo! Watch: So Carrie makes a little speech in this episode which I find deeply annoying in large part, I suspect, because similar sentiments are expressed with alarming frequency by my students who (charming people though they are) seem firmly convinced that we live in an age of total gender parity, and that the ladies of today have noooo barriers whatsoever standing between them and full and equal participation in all parts of American society/the world in general. How nice for we womenfolk! Oh, wait, I forgot... that is actually total balderdash. Sexism lives, mes amies, as your intelligent selves are all too painfully aware.

Carrie, by contrast, intelligent woman though she is... does not seem so aware of this fact. Here's her leetle post-feminist speech, for your amusement/bemusement: "Since birth, modern women have been told that we can do and be anything we want--be an astronaut, the head of an Internet company, a stay-at-home mom... there aren't any rules anymore, and the choices are endless.... But is it possible we've become so spoiled by choices we've become unable to make one?"

All right, so, let Cranky Feminist have at this sucker. Cranky Feminist sayz:

1) First--CF sourly points to the class privilege implicit in these statements about "modern women." Do all girls and women have access to the kind of education and training which would make becoming, say, an astronaut possible? CF says--no! That's kinda contingent on having the economic wherewithal to go to college, grad school, and so on, and so forth. (Let alone have the fundamental encouragement to excel in math and the sciences...)

Do all women have the option to become stay-at-home moms and full-time homemakers, outside of the paid workforce, if they wish to do so? CF says... no! That, too, is contingent on having the economic resources to survive as a family on one income... and that is also assuming that all mothers have partners who can prove said income in the first place, which... is not so much the case!

So far: Carrie's-Delusional-Assertions-About-the-Limitlessness-of-Women's Choices-in-Modern Society: 0. Cranky Feminist: 2. [CF smiles like the proverbial cat-who-has-found-the cream, and cracks her knuckles--she is just getting started.]

2) Next up: Cranky Feminist vs. Carrie's-Declaration-That-The-Ladies-Have-Endless-Choices-And-Live-In-A-World-Without-Gendered-Restrictions-Or-Rules. [CF can barely speak, because she is doubled over in half-hysterical laughter at this one, with tears (partly from the laughter, but mainly from the pain) streaming down her face.]

So... do we, in fact, live in a world in which women have nothing but choices, choices, choices, and there aren't any rules about proper gender roles and behavior anymore? CF... thinks that this one is so patently ridiculous that it almost isn't worth refuting, but nonetheless states the obvious and says... no! Let's see. Do women have full, equal access to any profession they choose? Nope. Do women still face gender-specific discrimination and harrassment in the workplace in particular, and in the public sphere in general? Yup. Are women who have male partners, and who have children, still expected to accept primary responsibility for domestic labor and child care in their homes and families? You bet your sweet bippy. [CF thinks that she could go on in this vein forever, but settles for the new score--Carrie's-Delusions-About-Post-Feminism: o; CF: 3, and moves on.]

3) And finally... have all of the choices which all women now (ostensibly) have universal and complete access to made them flighty, indecisive, and unable to settle on anything, or commit to anyone? (Which seems to me/Cranky Feminist to sail perilously close to the "Sigh, life was soooo much better before feminism made women's lives so complicated" argument. Yeah, take me back to the good old pre-feminist days--how much I would have enjoyed having to marry in order to secure my economic survival, and having little to no ability to determine my own reproductive future. Those were the days!)

CF says... no! The only thing that Carrie is right about here is that women in the early 21st century do, indeed, have waaaaay more choices about their lives and how they want to lead them than their mothers or grandmothers did. But having more rights, opportunities, and choices--does not, CF/I would contend, turn women into indecisive flibbertigibbets, but rather gives them more scope to build independent lives for themselves, of their own choosing. And I/Cranky Feminist... am hard-pressed to see the downside there.

And so... our final score: Carrie's-Post-Feminist-Loopiness: 0. Cranky Feminist: 4. Woooooo! U.S.A! U.S.A.! [Ignores reader grumbling that the contest hardly seems fair, when the judge of the contest is also a participant in it. Heck, the process may have been corrupt, but the conclusions... they are still sound.]

Maybe Singlehood Is Not A Horror and A Curse, After All, Watch: In the Samantha plot line, I think that the writers do rather a nice job of digging themselves a rather unpleasant anti-singlehood trench, but then nimbly hopping out of it, back onto solid, pro-singlehood ground. [Blogger wonders to self if trench metaphor works, or if it is too reminiscent of trench warfare. Shrugs, makes a note to re-read All Quiet on the Western Front again soon, and moves on.] Because of course, when ill, Sam spouts every anti-singlehood cliche in the book: all single women are tragically alone in life! All single women's lives are devoid of meaning, because they lack a man's love! (Because of course... all single women are straight. Good to know!)

Happily, Carrie (although acting totally insane in this episode otherwise, please make it stop), is the Voice of Reason here, noting that Sam will never be alone, because she has the love and support of her friends. Awwwww. And once no longer on heavy-duty meds, Sam too recants her "marriage is the only route to happiness for the ladies, why is my life such a hollow lie???" malarkey. Excellent. Nicely done, writers, maintaining your "sure, loving and being loved by a good man is swell, but it is just possible for the heterosexual ladies to also have swell lives even sans said good man" stance here. I tip my hat to you.

Next Up...?:
"Running with Scissors," in which the ladies engage in various kinds of profoundly unsound and unwise behavior--I know, like we haven't seen enough of that lately. For the love of Pete, people, do I have to send you reminder cards reading "Please refrain from marrying strangers who are controlled by their domineering mothers" and "Please do cease and desist engaging in any and all adultery which might be filling your days at the moment" or what???

Friday, November 12

Season Three, Episode Nine: Easy Come, Easy Go

The Summary:

Hello, my friends. I hope that you have some strong meds on stand-by, as this episode... seems positively designed to cause headaches. I know that you are brave and valiant individuals, however--and so, into the breach let us march!

So Carrie is pretty darned happy with Aidan. He is a delightful bloke, treats her with respect and consideration, makes her laugh, all that good stuff. Carrie, happy with a nice man? Surely, this cannot last. And indeed, it does not. As we know from our last episode, Big is once again prowling on the periphery of Carrie's life, making ambiguous noises about his Marital Discontent. Except in this episode, these noises get much less ambiguous, in that--1) a drunken Big tells Carrie that his marriage is a failure, and that he's consequently planning on leaving his wife of seven months (Big to Carrie: "If you know anyone who's interested..."), and 2) a hungover Big calls Carrie the day after this drunken assertion to say that he would leave his wife, but that getting divorced would be way too expensive for him (classy as ever, sir!)

Carrie is furious, disgusted, and quite convinced that this most recent example of despicable behavior on Big's part has finally gotten him out of her system, once and for all. But... of course, it hasn't. Having rented a hotel room to write in while Aidan is stripping the floors in her apartment (more proof of 1) Aidan's niceness, and 2) the writers' cracked-out delusions of what freelance writers can afford to do and not do--go to a coffee shop to write, woman, it's a little cheaper than renting a bloody hotel room), Carrie is followed to said hotel by Big. They have a rather heated discussion in which Big proclaims that he doesn't really know what he wants or what he's doing, but that he misses Carrie, knows his marriage was a mistake... ahhhh, and that he loves Carrie, as well. I see.

Carrie is furious, disgusted... yet quite thunderstruck by Big dropping The L Word. While her brain and her common sense inform her that this is just another chapter in the never-ending "Big=Bad News/Destroyer of Home, Hearth, and Happiness" saga, her heart and her flesh... are rather more susceptible. And so... she sleeps with him. (If you had just gone to Starbucks like I told you to, none of this would have happened, missy! Unless coffee shops in New York are waaaay more permissive than the ones in Pennsylvania...?)

JEEPERS. Okay, so, what else is going on this episode? Sam's plot line provides the most vivid contrast, so let's start there. Sam is dating Adam, a gent who has, she declares to the ladies, "the funkiest tasting spunk." (Apparently, it is a mix between rotten asparagus and Clorox. Delightful.) Never one to accept defeat, Sam tries to tackle the problem by getting Adam to eat a healthier diet, in the hopes that this will resolve the Asparagus-and-Clorox-Issue. Turns out, it doesn't. When she addresses the Taste Issue with Adam directly, he refuses to believe that anything which he himself has created could be so revolting. So Sam makes a deal with him (I cannot believe that I am about to type this, but I must)--sample your own essences, and tell me what you think of their delicate flavor, or say buh-bye to oral sex forever. And so... sample his essences he does. Appreciating the game spirit which this gesture reveals, Sam nonetheless eventually concludes that she cannot be with an Asparagus-and-Clorox-Tasting-Gent long-term. And so... buh-bye, Adam! Buh-bye, plot line which, although rather icky to recap for y'all, at least made me forget about the Carrie-Big Mess for a minute!

Miranda and Steve, meanwhile, are in the final throes of their break-up. He's still sleeping on her couch, as he can't find anywhere else to live. Miranda, in the spirit of "just because we're no longer together doesn't mean that I don't want you to be happy and thrive elsewhere, and also, I really do want you off my couch" helps him to look for a new apartment. He finds one--but not before he has started seeing other ladies, whose voicemails start popping up on Miranda's home phone. (Oh, the days before widespread cell phone use, how cruel they could be!) Delightful.

They finally part ways quite cordially, with some tears, well wishes, and promises to keep in touch. A grown-up break-up, well done, y'all. (Though, Steve, giving your new ladies Miranda's home phone number, seriously? Did you hit your head and become Big for a second? Because that is some high-grade thoughtlessness there!) Buh-bye, Steve! For the moment, anyway...

Charlotte, meanwhile, is still dating Trey, and is quite firmly convinced that he is about to propose to her. Even though... they barely know each other. (Miranda: "You've just met, I've had pairs of pantyhose longer.") She meets his mother, the hair-bow-wearing, chain-smoking, old-money-possessing Bunny (I hope that's a nickname, but one never knows...), and sees that Bunny pretty much has Trey under her thumb--she gently makes a suggestion, Trey instantly acquiesces to said suggestion, whatever it may be. Some women might find this "my mother can quite effortlessly control me" thing unsettling, but Charlotte is delighted, for it shows that Trey is amenable to feminine influence. Ummmm, goody?

One night at dinner, Charlotte (in approved Bunny style) gently suggests to Trey that they get married. Trey (in patented Trey fashion) instantly acquiesces to said suggestion, saying "All right-y." The tradition-loving Charlotte is, of course, not delighted to be engaged, but rather appalled by how said engagement happened. Trey wasn't the proposer, he was the propose-ee! He wasn't the asker, he was the ask-ee! (Carrie: "Who cares about those stupid rules?" Charlotte: "I do!") Brooding over this for awhile, Charlotte decides that she will just invent a new and improved engagement story, in which Trey proposes to her in front of Tiffany's. Ummm... all right-y!

The Analysis:

Watching Carrie Get Sucked Back Into the Toxic Whirlpool of Big Madness YET AGAIN Watch: Ah, so here we are again, watching Carrie do something quite self-destructive, by re-entangling herself with a quite reliably destructive gent (and cheating on her quite reliably charming boyfriend in the process, of course--thus placing a rancid cherry on top of this already unpleasant-tasting sundae.) It seems to me that we have before us a classic Wuthering Heights type situation--in Gent A, we have a man who is kindly, thoughtful, considerate--an altogether lovely and delightful individual. In Gent B, by contrast, we have a sulky sociopath, who likes to string up dogs in his spare time. Which of these gents ought our heroine to be devoted to, and compelled by? I suspect most of us would go with Gent A, appreciating his kindliness, and lack of tendency to hang small animals from trees. However, which of these gents is our heroine devoted to, and compelled by? Alas, it does seem to be Gent B, who although emphatically mad, bad, and dangerous to know, possesses a capacity to strike to the core of our heroine's heart in a way which Gent A does not. Heathcliff may be a thoroughly nasty piece of goods (it still baffles me that he is held up as a romantic hero in the popular imagination--he's a rapist who kills small animals, people), and Big an immature, commitment-phobic twerp... but our heroines love them. Oh, hearts. Why must you lead us in such unsettling and unwise directions?

"I Can't Do That, That's Gay": Ah, Panic About Being Tainted By Gayness, How Pervasive Thou Art: So when Sam makes her "drink of the poisoned well from which I have been made to drink, or else" offer to Adam, he protests that he can't possibly sample his own gentlemanly essences, because to do so would be "gay." Ah, watching a straight man panic about his heterosexuality being in any way questioned or challenged! What a pleasure it always is! Since this anxiety is presented as quite ludicrous by the writers, I think this moment is less troubling than it is yet more sorry proof of the rather pervasive "for me to be seen as gay would clearly be the worst thing ever" attitude on the part of some straight gents. I can think of lots of reasons to not want to sample one's own bodily fluids, but fear of being perceived gay for doing so... not one of them!

"There Was No Ring, No Kneeling, No Nothing": Depressingly Unromantic Wedding Proposals Watch: I will agree with Charlotte here that her engagement story is a wildly unromantic and depressing one, but less for the reasons which she herself outlines (that everything is out of whack because she should have been the one to be asked, not the one to do the asking--oh, the gender disorder!) and more because she barely knows the man whom she is proposing to, and because he seems to accept her proposal with the same casual, unemotional calm which most of us would reserve for assenting to take a stick of gum. Trouble. Ahead. There. My. Friends.

On the plus side, I think the episode does happily side with Carrie, with her whole "who cares who proposes to who, as long as all parties concerned actually want to marry each other" attitude. And also on the plus side, I think that the episode does throw up lots of red flags when it comes to the Charlotte-Trey engagement--the writers are clearly sympathetic to Charlotte's desire to find the right man, fall in love, and get hitched, but they also represent her "I need to get engaged now, because I have an age-appropriate, in-many-ways-suitable man in my line of sight, and I must be in love, because he's... you know... nice... from what I've been able to gather so far..." attitude as a definite problem. Good writers. Give yourself a firm pat on the back.

Wait, We Are Actually Questioning Gender Essentialism Here, Seriously? Is It My Birthday Or What??? Watch: I cannot believe that I am about to type these happy words, but this episode actually takes a trite, cliched, oversimplified idea about gender difference and questions it. [Raises fist in a gesture indicative of victory.] Carrie begins the episode by thinking about how our society accepts the truism that men think logically and women emotionally, musing that maybe it's not "that cut and dried." Halle-bloody-lu-jah, in the therapy business, I do believe that they call that a break-through. A stereotype about gender difference actually buries the complex truths about how all of us, regardless of our gender, think, feel, and react to people, situations, and the world--and Carrie has just acknowledged this. YES. SUCCESS. [To self, ominously, under breath... for now, anyway.]

Notable Quotables: Miranda, on the different ways in which she and Steve are perceived in the wake of their break-up: "A thirty-four-year-old guy with no money and no place to live, because he's single, he's a catch. But a thirty-four-year-old woman with a job and a great home, because she's single, is considered tragic."

Samantha, cutting through Miranda's "I really do want the best for Steve, even though he is dating other women while still sleeping on my couch" protests: "Oh, please, there's always a contest with an ex, it's called 'Who'll Die Miserable.' "

Next Up...?:
"All Or Nothing," in which the Carrie-Big affair continues, as does my desire to step on a rusty nail, get tetanus, and end my pain, once and for all. And we also have some very festive discussions to unpack, about how modern women have unlimited choice and opportunities in their lives, and how there are no more barriers to female independence, success, or self-determination anymore. How nice to know! I'm glad to hear that my sense that our culture is still very much a sexist and hierarchical is totally off-base! Hooray!