Thursday, September 16

Season Two, Episode Eight: The Man, The Myth, The Viagra

The Summary: Poor Miranda. Once again, the writers are beating up on her, rather. She just went out on a date with a gent who proclaimed himself to be divorced, who turned out to be, in fact, married. (The kind of mistake which anyone could make, really!) Fuming about said wretched behavior, Miranda finds herself faced with the unflaggingly sunny optimism of one Miss Charlotte York. In her classic Pollyanna-ish fashion, Charlotte affirms that sometimes married men do leave their wives for other ladies whom they fall in love with, so Miranda can't just assume that her date was a wretch who was deliberately deceiving her/seeking to entrap her unknowing self into an adulterous liaision. Maybe he really liiiiiked her. Maybe one day he would have lovvvvved her. [Reaches into the TV to slap Miss York upside the head.]

A discussion among the four women then results about what Miranda dubs "urban relationship myths... unbelievable fairy tales concocted by women to make their love lives seem less hopeless." The "married men sometimes honorably leave their wives" story gets placed into this category, as do other tales, many of which feature women chased to other states/countries/principalities by previously commitment-phobic boyfriends wielding large engagement rings, who subsequently propose to them in the midst of romantic rainstorms. Charlotte: believes such things do indeed happen. The other women: doubt it.

Carrie seems to be living in such a magical fairy tale herself, however, as Big is suddenly... being nice to her. Imagine that! He starts calling her his girlfriend (AFTER MORE THAN A YEAR, I feel compelled to note.) He even agrees to finally sit down and have a nice dinner with her friends. Except... then he flakes out at the last minute, and refuses to go. Sadness. Except... then, in dramatic fashion, he actually comes through and meets Carrie and her pals for dinner, just as if he was, in fact, Carrie's boyfriend. (Which, of course... he is.) Happiness!

Charlotte doesn't really have anything going on in this episode except Believing in True Love and Fairy Tales. So, business as usual on The York Front! Sam, meanwhile, contemplates becoming the apple of a very rich 72-year-old man's eye. Said man wants to date her because... of her sparkling wit? Her shrewd mind? Her loyal, loving nature? Nope! More because she is significantly younger than him, and very beautiful (nice and shallow, sir!). At first, she enjoys all of the lavish gifts which his wealthy self keeps raining down upon her. But in the end, she decides that becoming his beloved is impossible, because in an Intimate Moment, she catches sight of his 72-year-old posterior and finds it revolting (nice and shallow, madam!)

Miranda, meanwhile, has a one night stand with bartender Steve Brady. Or... so she thinks. Because it turns out, Steve really likes her, thinks their time together was special, and would like her to actually consider going on a proper date with him. Burned from her experience with the "I'm-Divorced-By-Which-I-Mean-Of-Course-That-I-Am-Still-Married" guy, she keeps refusing him, getting nastier and nastier with each refusal--until she has a change of heart, and chases Steve down (in the midst of a romantic rainstorm, of course), to tell him that maybe they can give dating a shot, after all. (At which point, David Eigenberg's accountant let out a whoop of joy, and went out to buy herself a new boat.)

The Analysis:

Old People Are Clearly Physically Repulsive Watch: Now, I am not a big fan of Ed, the older gentleman whom Samantha briefly (very briefly) dates in this episode. He seems like quite the creep to me--he's clearly a dedicated subscriber to the "Men Who Gain Status By Having a Beautiful, Significantly Younger Woman on Their Arm, and Who Believe that Female Beauty is a Commodity Which Can Be Bought and Sold, Willy-Nilly" newsletter. But it's not the fact that Ed is a shallow gent who is interested in her only because she is prettttty which prompts Sam to dump his rear end. It is, in fact, his rear end itself, which Samantha reacts to as if it was the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Because, turns out, Ed's body actually bears the marks of aging! His posterior does not look like that of a 20-year-old lacrosse player's! This means, of course, that is therefore totally vile. Coming from a show which often touts a "growing older as a woman is totally fine, embrace it... provided said aging is in no way visible on your face or body" line, I find this rather distasteful. The whole "a visibly not perfect and taut body is a sign that you are physically repulsive and sexually repugnant"... maybe a bit ageist?
Hugh Hefner, Why Are You Here, Shouldn't You Be Off Making Another Ghastly Reality TV Show? Watch: Okay, so Hefner isn't actually here--that has to wait until Season Three. (Sigh.) But this is the first episode (I believe) in which Carrie is sporting a Playboy necklace, which... sigh, again. How uptight my (doubtless puritanical) feminist self is, disliking seeing this little visual reminder of an empire based on the idea of turning women into passive, interchangeable, surgically enhanced objects of the male gaze being worn by a woman who has dedicated her career to telling the truth about her own self-directed, autonomous, individual experiences of sexuality. Blurrrrg.

Urban Relationship Myth vs. Fairy Tale?: Romantic Myths and Realities Watch: Oh, SATC writers. How very much you want to have your cake, and eat it too. And I understand that impulse, I do. Especially when the cake in question looks like this. Goodness, but I am craving sugar today.

Anyway. One of the centerpieces of this episode is working to complicate and question the romantic myths which permeate our culture. Maybe it's not so much plausible (or healthy) to believe that a married man might just love you enough to leave his wife for you. Maybe it's not so much plausible (or healthy) to believe that the man who's been treating you like dirt for your entire relationship will one day wake up a perfect, warm-hearted prince. Maybe a married man who wants to date a single woman... is a potentially adulterous creep! Maybe the boyfriend who acts like a jerk all the time... is in fact a jerk! I'm with you so far...

Of course, the episode gets us this far, then quasi pulls the rug out from under us. Big is pulling his usual evasive "I am in your life... oh, wait, no I'm not--poof! I HAVE VANISHED" act--until, suddenly, he's not. He comes to a dinner which he knows is very important to Carrie, and actually gets to know her friends a bit. Clearly, all those stories about reformed rakes are real! Or... are they? The episode kind of wants to have it both ways, suggesting in the same breath that a man like Big will never really change... unless maybe he will. Sigh. Writers, you are not helping.

I think the episode strikes the nicest balance with its depiction of the initial encounter between Miranda and Steve. Miranda is suspicious that Steve actually wants to get to know her and genuinely likes her--because maybe expecting every casual hook-up to blossom into a deep and abiding relationship is, in fact, indeed a smidge unrealistic? But by the end of the episode, she has let her "Because the last guy I dated was a creepy liar, I am going to assume that all guys are creepy liars" thing go a little, and decided to give Steve (whom she herself genuinely likes) a chance. Good, because Steve, I also like. (Until the first movie, that is. Then, all bets are off, Mr. Brady.)

So in sum: I give you points, writers, for questioning simplistic and potentially damaging romantic myths, and points for making the Miranda-Steve storyline a reasonably complicated one--but deduct points for the ongoing "clearly Big is toxically bad for Carrie... unless he is really her knight in shining armor, because he could be, you know, look at how nice he can be every ten years" jerking us around. Bad writers, bad.

Notable Quotables:
Miranda, on the current dating pool in NYC: "If they're not married, they're gay, or burned from a divorce, or aliens from the planet Don't Date Me."

Next Up...?:
"Old Dogs, New Dicks," which I wish could tell you was about either adorable Dogs of a Certain Age, or gentlemen named Richard who had a taste for a certain abbreviation of their name... but alas, I fear that neither of these things is true. And so... brace yourself.

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