Wednesday, August 25

In The Final Analysis: Taking Stock of Season One

We appear to have reached the end of Season One! Pat yourself on the back for having come so far!

So in the end, what are we to make of Season One? What does Season One mean? What is Season One about? If Season One were to fall in the woods and there was no one there to hear it, would it make a sound? Deep. Questions.

So, to assess! First, to turn to our tallies of how many people of color/LGBT folks with actual speaking parts there are in these episodes. On the People of Color front, we have... five. And not one of them a major character of any significance: they are all acquaintances, deliverers of one line, insignificant parts of the episodes' main dramas. On the LGBT Folks front, we have... two. Only one of whom, Stanford, is a real character who is developed in any depth/given any genuine emotional complexity. And even Stanford (charming as he is), is there primarily to react to Carrie--to offer her support, to be a listening ear, to be a "you may think your dating life is bad, but mine is worse" consoling word. (In other words, he is the archetypal Sassy Gay Friend.) So, when it comes to any true or meaningful diversity in Season One, along the lines of race/sexual orientation... I feel we have to give them a big thumbs down. Boo, hiss.

Other Overall Distasteful Things About This Season:
1) The creation of an alternate New York universe in which almost everyone on display (and certainly everyone we're expected to care about/be emotionally invested in) is white, well-off, and straight. Because maybe... the real New York is not like this?

2) The complete silence about: abortion. Sure, abortion gets an entire episode in Season Four (which, good, excellent), but I think they really dropped the baton/ball/other things which ought not to be dropped here by letting Carrie's pregnancy scare go by without so much as a peep about abortion. Because in real life, that would have been on the table as an option, and it's disingenuous and cowardly to pretend that it wouldn't have been. ("If I am unexpectedly pregnant, I, as a financially privileged woman living in a city with relatively good access to abortion services, will have no choice but to carry this pregnancy to term, la la la, I can't hear you, people saying I would have multiple alternatives in this scenario!")

3) The dubious representations of: adultery (as a light-hearted romp... even when some are deeply hurt by it?) and sex work (as something only freely chosen by women already privileged by their class, and as something which said class-privileged women deserve to be shamed for engaging in?)

4) The uneasy undertones which pop up here and there throughout the season about the essential, universal, complete, and total differences between men and women. Women and men are just different, people, it is in their genes! Their blood! Their... um, other physical, supposedly scientifically provable things! There's enough of this kind of "well, that's just how all men are/that's just how women are" talk on display this season to make me uncomfortable. Because as we know, such gender essentialism... usually not so great for the ladies!

Overall Pleasant Things About This Season:
1) Tackling singlehood in a complex and interesting way. In a popular culture in which being over 30 and single is represented as a tragic state of affairs which leads to rampant desperation on the part of the ladies, Season One actually manages to look at singlehood in a nuanced way. Sometimes being single is lovely! Sometimes being single is wretched! Kind of like... being a human being in general! Delightful to see the show breaking away from the "I was miserable when single and now I have found my true love everything is perfect [cue twittering bluebirds here]" narrative which predominates in the World of Romantic Comedy.

2) Focusing on women's friendships with one another. As we know from our friend, the amazing Bechdel Test, popular entertainment which features women who interact with one another and find something to talk about besides men... not so common! Granted, a lot of what the ladies talk about is men--but then, a good bit of it isn't, too. And when they do talk about men, many of their discussions are about questioning expectations of what relationships are "supposed" to look like, and offering support to one another to stand up for themselves/to do what is right for them/to condemn bad behavior on the point of a boyfriend. Sooo... yay!

3) Tackling motherhood in some problematic but also interesting ways. Again, since our pop culture is saturated with a "my life was incomplete until I had a baby, but now--uncomplicated bliss!" narratives--nice this season to see female characters in their 30s thinking about motherhood in a more complex ways, rather than just being uniformly baby crazy/walking biological clocks. Maybe some women don't actually want to become mothers! Maybe some women are ambivalent about whether or not they want to become mothers! Maybe some women are mothers, and actually have complex feelings about motherhood which cannot be summarized on a sappy Hallmark card! Amazing!

And now... it's onto Season Two! Will they do better? Worse? The one thing we can say for sure... Carrie will wear some entertainingly cracked-out clothes. And hopefully, will have some feminist things to think and say while wearing them...?


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