Friday, July 23

Season One, Episode Seven: The Monogamists

The Summary:

Ah, monogamy. Is it a biological impossibility for the gentlemen whom (as we all know) are hard-wired by that perverse minx Mother Nature to spread their seed as far and wide as possible? (After all, if they don’t spread their seed, however shall it be spread?) Is it something to be smugly condemned as inferior to polyamory by those sick of having polyamory smugly defined as inferior to monogamy? (Work with me, people, if you are sick being judged and denigrated for how you live your life, does judging and condemning others help matters? Answer, no, it does not.) What do the women of SATC make of The Monogamy Question? Such is the focus of this episode—can women expect monogamy from their menfolk? Is monogamy feasible, desirable, mandatory, optional? It will not shock you to learn that these four ladies come to four rather different conclusions.

Carrie is quite happily settling into a monogamous relationship with Big… or so she thinks, till she sees him out on the town with another woman. (Oh, Mr. Big, you never disappoint with your shady behavior!) True, Big and Carrie had never discussed whether or not they were “going steady”—but Carrie is nonetheless hurt and confused by Big’s blithe dating-of-other-women when she is so very happy dating just and only him. (As Carrie puts it, “I felt like a fool. I’d gone so far out on a limb with my feelings, that I didn’t realize I was standing out there alone.” Yeouch. Her pain, I suspect we have all felt it.) After stewing for a bit, Carrie finally tells Big what’s bothering her, and obliquely asks him to be exclusive. (“I’ve done the merry-go-round, I’ve been through the revolving door, I feel like I’ve met somebody I can stand still with for a minute and—don’t you want to stand still with me?”) Big obliquely consents to this, and so… those crazy kids seem happy. FOR THE MOMENT. (How much money do you want to put on that not lasting ten minutes into the next episode…?)

And what of our supporting players? Samantha’s plotline is pretty dull, really. She is looking for a new apartment. She is working with a real estate agent, who asks her not to work with any other brokers. She promises not to do so, but instead, of course, actually does do so—and the other broker finds Sam a nice new apartment. In the process of doing so, he also becomes her lover. So, business as usual in Jones Country!

Meanwhile, Miranda is ruining Skipper’s life yet again (you are giving redheads a bad name with all of this breaking of hearts and destroying of worlds, missy! Stop it!) Seeing Skipper out on the town with his new girlfriend, Miranda is, suddenly, interested in him again. (Headdesk.) She is moved to give Skipper a call, and he is subsequently moved to dump the aforementioned girlfriend in the hopes of once again becoming entangled in Miranda’s web of deceit and lies. (His break-up speech is delivered to his unfortunate girlfriend while they are actually having sex, mind you—let me just say 1) I expected better of you, Skipper, aren’t the writers trying to sell us on you as a decent bloke? Decent blokes don’t, unless I am very much mistaken, pull stunts like that, and 2) I hope this poor lass has her very own passel of female friends to talk about that one with. JEEPERS.) Anywhoozle, after they are reunited and any and all other girlfriends have been cruelly dumped, Miranda gets around to telling Skipper that she doesn’t want an exclusive relationship—surely, they can date both each other and other people? Skipper, of course, says that they can’t—that exclusivity is precisely what he wants and that he’s sick of Miranda seeming to promise said exclusivity and then retracting said promises. Good for you, Skipper, for sticking up for yourself for once. (But don’t think that this means that I’ve forgiven you for that whole “dumping a girl whilst in the midst of intimate acts” thing. Because… I haven’t.)

Charlotte, it seems, is dating the perfect guy, Bill. He’s not the perfect guy, of course. (It’s only Season One, lest we forget, there are oceans of imperfection yet to wade through!) What is Bill’s fatal flaw, you ask? Turns out, his favorite activity (after playing with his fetching golden retriever—and no, that’s not a euphemism for anything, he actually has a dog of that breed with whom we often see him playing fetch) is getting blow jobs from his lady companion. Liking oral sex, I hear you say, in and of itself doesn’t seem to be too terrible of a flaw. Ah, but you see, our Charlotte hates giving blow jobs. (A dislike which she seems to have entirely forgotten by Season Four, notably, when—in approved Alanis Morissette fashion—she goes down on her man in a theater. Consistency, writers, anyone…?) She expresses this dislike to Bill (which, honesty and clear communication, yay) and Bill cheerily tells her that one way or another, he’s planning on having quite a bit of oral sex in the future. He hopes that she’ll be involved in said oral sex but if not… clearly he will have to get his gentlemanly needs met elsewhere. Not entirely thrilled with this scenario, Charlotte dumps him. Good-bye, “Perfect Guy”!

The Analysis:

Saddest Thing About This Episode: It opens on a really long shot of the Twin Towers. It’s so sad to see them like that, tall and whole and beautiful—to know that when that episode was filmed, although they’d already weathered a terrible bombing, they weren’t yet the political symbol or the byword for national tragedy which they would become in three short years. They were just another part of the skyline. Geez. Another world, the New York of 1998.

Festive Alcoholic Drinks Watch: This is the first (but by no means the last) episode in which cosmopolitans play a starring role. The amount of pink-colored water SJP must have drunk over the years, I cannot imagine…

I Cannot Believe How Long Ago 1998 Was, I Was In High School Then, DEAR GOD Watch: These were the days when making a phone call meant finding a landline, as Carrie has to do when she is at a party, and wants to call Big. I remember those days, people.

Womenfolk Standing Up For Themselves, Hooray!—Insert Obligatory Woman’s Symbol With Fist Through It Sign Here—Watch: So, one thing I really like about this episode is that Carrie and Charlotte both stand up for what they want in their relationships, even when they are both pretty darned sure that doing so is going to Lose Them the Guy. Carrie wants to be monogamous with Big. She knows that monogamy is not his usual modus operandi, and that he might well dump her if she pushes for exclusivity. But in the end, she still tells him (albeit it indirectly and poetically—but perhaps that is just the writer’s prerogative?) what she wants, and how she feels. Quite the risky, scary thing to do, but do it she nonetheless does. And the writers show this direct line of attack working much better than her previous passive-aggressive “Of course I’m not mad about anything, honey, oh, I’m sorry, did I almost BREAK YOUR TOE there?” approach. Likewise, Charlotte candidly tells Bill that she is not a fan of his favorite-est ever sexual practice, and resists his pressures to engage it just to make him happy. I think it’s quite a pleasure to see Charlotte (the most conservative and traditional of the four women, after all) resisting the ever-popular “find your happiness in making your fella happy” model. In the end, of course, articulating what she does and does not want does, indeed, Lose Charlotte the Guy. But the show makes it clear that this guy is not someone she has to feel badly about losing, and that it’s better for her to walk away than be with a bloke who doesn’t respect her wants and needs. [Claps hands together gleefully.] Goody.

Imagine That, Female Friendship Is Actually Important to Women Watch: At the beginning of the episode, Carrie is anxious, not because of Big (though of course that anxiety comes down the pike later… sigh, Big, what a reliable source of anxiety thou art) but because in the intense rush of her new relationship, she’s committed what she calls “the cardinal sin—I’d forsaken my girlfriends for my new boyfriend.” By ditching her friends to spend all her time with her new fella, Carrie has been in danger of becoming (as Miranda puts it) “one of those women we hate,” who sheds her friends as soon as she is paired off. The show makes it clear that, ultimately, none of the women would ever do that, since their friendships with each other are far too important to them. Another “well… of course they are” style point, I’ll grant you, but still, I think that it’s a significant one. SATC was one of the first shows (especially one of the first romantic comedies-dramas) to place female friendship not at the margins but at the center of the story. Yes, SATC is in many ways a romantic quest plot, in which a lot of the action centers on Girl(s) (Often Troubled) Efforts to Meet and Live Happily Ever After with Boy(s). But throughout the show, the fact that these women’s relationships with one another are vitally important is also placed center stage. A little nicer than the “girl successfully defeats/competes with other, bitchy girls for the heart of her prince” narrative which dominates so many romantic comedies. (And no, throwing in a token, marginal lady or gay gentlemen best friend does not help, writers for stage and screen. I am not so easily distracted.)

Managing Not to Demonize Monogamy or Non-Monogamy Watch: I am a bit hard on Miranda in this episode/season for mucking about with Skipper as much as she does, just because sweet cracker sandwich, woman, leave the boy alone already. He is clearly in love with you. You know that. You are clearly not in love with him. You know that too. Given said realities, leave. Him. Alone. (Though of course, my pity for him is significantly lessened given his Illegal Dumping Practices. Bad Skipper, bad.)

That said, I think this episode actually does a pretty good job of managing to not wag its finger too much at either of the participants in the Miranda-Skipper mess. Skipper is clearly quite right to be hurt and confused by Miranda’s “I don’t want to date you… unless maybe I do” bipolarity. The show condemns Miranda for messing with Skipper’s feelings—but not for not wanting to be in a monogamous relationship. The episode suggests that there’s nothing wrong with Miranda not wanting exclusivity—the only thing wrong with what she’s up to is failing to communicate that to the bloke who is bloody in love with her. I think there’s a bit of a bullet dodged here, as the episode could easily have veered into a “reject a nice guy like Skipper in favor of whoring about town, and you will suffer, missy, and quite right too” style narrative. But it doesn’t. It comes down, not against open relationships, but rather about not being clear with folks that that is what you want. Again, the message here is "Communicate Clearly, Even If That’s Hard." It wouldn’t make a snappy bumpersticker, I’ll grant you, but still—I am in favor.

Next Up…?: An episode entitled “Three’s a Crowd” about this straight guy who wants to become the roommate of two single gals, but has to pretend to be gay in order to do so… wait, or is that Three’s Company? Huh. I think it might be. Soooo... I guess “Three’s a Crowd” must be the episode where Carrie is simultaneously researching an article about threesomes and (surprise, surprise) dealing with another bombshell from Big. [Headdesk again, except harder this time.]

1 comment:

  1. Ah monotony, I mean monogamy. Another great entry, Holly. Now I know I definitely have to get Season 1 on DVD soon!

    I'm all for polyamory, and open relationships. At one of my many jobs YEARS ago, I worked with someone who lived with BOTH her boyfriend AND her girlfriend. I thought that was fascinating. I had never met anyone like that before. Not anyone who admitted it anyway. Looking back now it reminds me of that spin the bottle episode with Alanis Morissette.

    I think slowly the younger generation has opened up to different sexualities, and partnerships.

    I think it's funny on how it's not a mainstream idea but nonetheless studies have shown that either almost half, or half of married people end up cheating on each other.
    Okay, so TECHNICALLY being polyamorous or being in an open relationship is okay as long as your partner or no one else knows about it. I always believed most people were naturally like that, but just never wanted to admit it.

    I think it's all good, as long as there is an understanding with everyone involved, and all parties are okay with it.