Monday, September 27

Season Two, Episode Eleven: Evolution

The Summary:

All right, so let's take the bull by the horns/eat our broccoli before we eat our dessert, and get the inevitably unpleasant and frustrating "This Week in Carrie and Big" report out of the way right off the bat, shall we? So, Carrie and Big are, as we know, now officially in luvvvv. (Or "in fucking love, I GUESS" as Big would likely put it.) Carrie is spending a ton of time at Big's apartment, which means that she has to carry around a purse as big as Texas all the bloody time, because he won't let her have so much as a drawer/shelf at his place. (She tries to leave stuff there--he thoughtfully brings it right back to her, in a Barney's bag. Awwwww, for me? My own hair dryer and some Q-tips? You shouldn't have. No, really... you shouldn't have.) Carrie is frustrated. Carrie tells Big that she is frustrated (YES. For once in her life!), and eventually wins from him the concession that she can leave underwear at his house. Ummm... good? If by "good," we mean that the broader issue of "maybe you could let me, and not just my unmentionables, into your home/heart/life in any real and meaningful way" remains unresolved. I've said it before and I'll say it again--boo, hiss.

Onto the other, non-Big-dating ladies, then! [Wipes brow in relief.] Sam has reconnected with Dominic, the one and only man she's ever truly loved. (Dominic, notably, gives us a little preview of the kind of bloke capable of winning Samantha's heart--powerful, rich, sexually predatory, and with an ego as big as all outdoors. Keep that in mind for Season Four!) So Dominic had long ago broken Sam's heart by dumping her for a supermodel. Sam decides that she'd like to pay him back in kind, enticing him back into her web of deceit and lies, and then heartlessly dumping him, the way that he'd once heartlessly dumped her. Good, because of course, revenge plots--they never fail! Except... this one does. Turns out, she actually still has feelings for Dominic, and is dreamily falling back in love with him, when he once again heartlessly dumps her... for the same bloody supermodel. Drat. Sam is sad, but also kind of relieved to know that she is not, in fact, cut from the same ruthless, heartless cloth as Dominic. So--yay for still having feelings, even if they are feelings which are hurt!

Learning that she has a lazy ovary ("My right ovary has given up hope that I will ever get married or have kids!"), the 33-year-old Miranda begins to contemplate her reproductive future. Does she want to contemplate maybe freezing her eggs? Should she start dating creeps who bore her, just to increase her chances of getting wed and having The Babies? She considers the former and tries the latter, and eventually rejects both. She reckons she still has some time left on her biological clock, and decides that settling for a jerk just because he has half of the necessary baby-making equipment is a bad call. Agreed! (On the jerk-dating score, that is, a lady should do whatever she likes with her eggs, whenever she likes to do it.)

Charlotte, meanwhile, has been spending a lot of time with Stefan, who is handsome, charming, sweet, and funny. So what's wrong with him, you ask? Oh, clever reader, you know the SATC writers too well by now, and you are quite right to suspect that there is, indeed, something wrong with this lovely gent--said wrong thing being that Charlotte is not 100 percent sure that he's straight. Because he... has previously dated men? Has expressed romantic and sexual interest in men? Nope, because he is a pastry chef, lives in Chelsea, likes to cook, knows his fashion, and actually notices women's hairstyles. A straight man who admires the work of Martha Stewart? PLEASE. Next you're going to tell me that some straight men don't watch sports or like beer. Cease such crazy talk immediately.

Even though Stefan clearly dotes on Charlotte and is eager to date her and sleep with her, Charlotte remains unsure about his sexual orientation. She even brings Carrie and Stanford in for a consult on the matter. (Stanford: "I find him very attractive which means, of course, that he's straight.") Charlotte eventually asks Stefan about it directly, and Stefan very sensibly says that if he was gay, 1) he'd already comfortably be out and proud, and 2) he wouldn't have asked Charlotte out and pursued her if he wasn't interested in ladies generally, and her specifically. All without a hint of homophobia or "how dare you challenge my sacred straightness?" panic. Yay. Stefan, I like.

But of course, it's only Season Two, so we can't have Charlotte happily settled with a fetching gent who dotes on her and makes her homemade scones. Charlotte eventually decides that "her masculine side wasn't evolved enough for a man whose feminine side was as highly evolved as Stefan's," and dumps him. Oh my goodness, Miss York, of all the dopey things you've done/will do in the series, I'd put this one near the top. Because, seriously, in what world does sweetness of spirit and a dab hand with baked goods rank below the ability to successfully and consistently perform normative masculinity? Not mine, I tell you that! If you ever get tired of being a fictional character, Stefan--call me!

The Analysis:

Yet More Gender Essentialism, Why Can't I Go Even One Episode Without Talking About This??? Watch:
Listening to Sam talk about her temporary reunion with Dominic (boasting that she's added so many sexual tricks to her arsenal since they broke up that she's actually more sexually accomplished than he is, now), Carrie muses "In order to survive two decades of dating in New York, Samantha had evolved into a powerful hybrid--the ego of a man trapped in the body of a woman." Okay, so just to be clear--being sexually confident/arrogant/openly discussing one's sexual expertise/experience is an essentially "male" quality? To be a woman who possesses such qualities/makes such comments makes one not a sexually confident/arrogant woman, but rather a gender "hybrid" who somewhat freakishly possesses an inherently "male" quality? Yup, that's what I thought! Fantastic.

Manliness=Mandatory? Watch: You may have already gathered that I find the fact that Charlotte pointlessly breaks up with the charming Stefan rather distressing. (Did I mention that he MAKES HIS OWN SCONES FROM SCRATCH???) Unlike 99 percent--actually, 100 percent, now that I come to think of it--of the men whom Charlotte has dated in the series to date, Stefan is actually a good guy. He treats her well. He is focused on her, actually interested in her as a person, makes her laugh. But clearly, he is an unaccpetable partner for her because he is too "feminine." (I.e., he refuses to kill a mouse he discovers in his apartment, recognizes that a dress that Charlotte wears is Cynthia Rowley, enjoys musical theater, and so on and so forth.)

This, I disapprove of. Said disapproval stemming, in large part, from the fact that I think her decision to dump him has everything to do with what people might say about him/how they might judge her for dating him, and nothing to do with how she herself actually feels about him. Despite the fact that she clearly relishes his company and has tremendous sexual chemistry with him, clearly she can't be with him, because he's just not "manly" enough. And the writers don't present this as "Charlotte must be high on crack to let this guy go, what is her bloody problem?" but rather as "well, what could else she do? The man screamed when he saw a mouse, for pity's sake. Girliness. Shame." Um, shame on you, writers, and as for you, Ms. C--all I can say is, good luck with all of the hypermasculine jerks you'll be dating for the rest of the season! Bet they won't be making you any homemade scones any time soon!

Feminine Beauty is Constructed, and We Are Actually Acknowledging That For Once, Yay, Watch: When Carrie is trying to explain to the (typically unresponsive) Big why she'd actually like to have a drawer or a shelf of her own at his apartment, she (fully made-up and coiffed) tells him, "I don't wake up looking like this. I actually need stuff to look like this." Well halle-bloody-lujah, I do believe that our Ms. Bradshaw just admitted that conventional female beauty is an artful construction! Well done, Carrie B., give yourself a star--or go buy yourself some festive new beauty product at Sephora, whichever you'd prefer.

Much as I appreciate this open discussion of the fact that beauty is a performance, a construction, a creation, I do feel compelled to note here that the show as a whole (like, I will admit, almost all the bloody TV shows ever aired on American tee-vee--okay, except for Lost, which deserves our eternal thanks not only for consistently slapping Naveen Andrews in a wet tank-top, but also for realistically stripping their female characters of visible makeup) quite relentlessly undermines Carrie's "let's take a good long look at the man behind the curtain" words about the artificial nature of beauty. Because throughout the series, women do, indeed, wake up looking "like this"--makeup perfectly done, hair perfectly coiffed, etc., thus perpetuating 1) the pernicious idea that women need to be "done" and "on" all the time (the whole "I put on my makeup before my husband gets up, heaven forfend that he sees me without my 'face on'!" malarkey), and 2) reinforcing the idea that if you don't look like SJP after two hours in the makeup chair when you are restored to consciousness at 6 a.m. each morning, well, by golly, there must be something wrong with you. Sigh.

Notable Quotables: Samantha, on why going to a male gynecologist has never worked for her: "I tried to go to a man, but it was just too strange. Having a guy spend all that time down there, and then you leave, without an orgasm, and a bill."

Charlotte, musing about Stefan's potential sexual confusion to Stanford: "What if he's gay, and doesn't know it yet?"

Stanford: "Honey, we are aware."

Next Up...?:
"La Douleur Exquise!" which features not only a superfluous exclamation point (!) in its title, but also a whole boatload of musing about the connection between pleasure and pain when it comes to affairs of the heart/affairs in general. Oh, which also features the always oilily brilliant Will Arnett as a man who loves to read historical biographies in his spare time. Be still, my historical heart...

1 comment:

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