Wednesday, September 8

Season Two, Episode Four: They Shoot Single People, Don't They?

The Summary:

As you may have already gathered from the title, this is another episode which takes The Single Life/The Way The Single Folks Are Perceived and Treated as its central focus--so, naturally, I enjoy it tremendously. Not that it is not riddled with flaws, because to be sure... it is. But still--enjoyable!

So Carrie has been selected as the cover girl for a pending New York magazine article about the "single and fabulous." Clearly, the article will indeed be a joyous celebration of the positive aspects of the single life! Except... of course it's not. Carrie's photo shoot turns out to be disastrously unflattering, and the article itself "Single and Fabulous?: Eat, Drink, and Never Be Married" turns out to be a nasty attack on women who fritter away their "good" years, only to find themselves tragically and miserably single at the advanced age of 40. Of course it does.

The women all profess themselves to be totally unrattled by this article and its implications that their lives are tragic, wretched, and hollow... but of course, rattled they most certainly are. Miranda starts (re-)dating Josh ("an ophthalmologist I once faked orgasms with"), even though their sex life continues to be distinctly unsatisfying on her end. Eventually, she decides that maybe spending her entire life feigning sexual pleasure is not so much a desirable option. And so... buh-bye, Josh!

Similarly fearful of the horrors of continued single life, Charlotte and Samantha also take up with rather unsuitable gentlemen. Samantha's unsuitable gent is William, who starts referring to himself and Sam as a "we" and alluding to their future as a couple pretty much right after they meet. Naturally, he turns out to be a schmuck, who ditches Sam in pretty short order. She is momentarily sad that his "we'll do this, we'll do that" couple-talk was all rubbish, but quickly recovers (feeling much better after throwing a drink in his face while he chats up his next lady prospect.)

Charlotte's unsuitable gent is her friend Tom, a nice guy whom she has no romantic or sexual interest in, but whom she nonetheless decides to start dating because 1) he's pretty much the first guy she sees after panicking about the "Single and Fabulous?" article, and 2) as Charlotte puts it, "he's strong and masculine and can fix things around the house!" Sounds like a great reason to start a relationship to me! By the end of the episode, however, Charlotte concludes that the fact that Tom can successfully rewire lamps is not a sufficient foundation to build a lasting relationship on. Consequently, she and Tom amicably part ways. (I'm so glad not to have to write "and then Person A gets dumped," for once! A non-dramatic break-up, for a change!)

Carrie, meanwhile, all in a tizzy about being the city's poster girl for Tragic Spinsterhood and determined to prove to herself her continued youth and sexual desirability, throws herself at Jake (who is Bradley Frickin' Cooper, albeit sporting a really unflattering, floppy haircut--but still.) In the end she decides not to sleep with him, however, because if she did, it would be "the only time I'd ever slept with a man to validate my life." Turning away from Jake, Carrie notes, "I decided instead of running away from the idea of a life alone, I'd better sit down and take that fear to lunch. So I sat there, and had a glass of wine, alone. No books, no man, no friends, no armor, no faking." Good, getting comfortable being out in public as a Woman Alone sounds like a much more positive and healthy step than sleeping with an undesired stranger (even if said undesired stranger is Bradley Frickin' Cooper!)

The Analysis:

People of Color Watch
: William, Sam's sleazy swaine, is Hispanic. His sleaziness is in no way tied to his ethnicity (good), though maybe it's a little annoying that he owns a salsa club (he couldn't have been an investment banker or a trader, like most of the other men Sam dates? No, he had to be doing something specifically "ethnic." Oh, those fiery Latins, with their fancy dancing!)

At one point in the episode, William stands Samantha up and she ends up crying in the restaurant where they were supposed to meet. During said tears, she is comforted by a Pakistani man working in the restaurant as a bus boy. In the course of said comforting, he kisses her and offers to go home with her (the folks at this restaurant must take the whole idea of customer service reeeeally seriously.) I'm a little troubled by this, because this bloke doesn't get a name, he's just referred to as the "Pakistani bus boy" over and over and over. And over. And seeing a grown man of at least 40 referred to again and again as a "boy," in a way that a white man of that age certainly wouldn't be...well, that has some nasty associations, now, doesn't it? Also, why do we need to keep hearing that he's Pakistani? If he was Latvian or Swedish or German, would his national origin be thus relentlessly referred to? I feel that it would not.

Maybe the Missionaries Didn't Have It All Figured Out... or Did They??? Watch: Frustrated by her persistently unsatisfactory sex life with Josh, Miranda rants a bit in this episode about how unrealistic the portrayal of heterosexual sexuality is in pop culture. Isn't it annoying, she fumes, that lots and lots of TV shows and movies show women effortlessly, rapidly coming after only a brief spell in the missionary position? Because maybe that's not so much reflective of many women's sexual experiences/responses, and works to distort yet further what "normal" sex is supposed to be like, making women feel badly about their own "performance"?

Excellent points all, these, there's just one leetle problem here--one of those TV shows which frequently presents us with such simplistic, deceptive representations of female sexuality is (all together now)--actually Sex and the City itself! Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha (because we see less of Carrie's actual sex life--one of the privileges of being the series star, who can demand a "no nudity, less sex" contract, I suppose) are often shown effortlessly, rapidly coming after only a brief spell in the missionary position.

Hmmmm. So once again we find ourselves in a "let us criticize something which we ourselves engage in" type situation. Sigh. So, points for noting that maybe female sexuality is more complex than mainstream pop culture often represents it as being, and no points for themselves actually being a pop culture venue which itself sometimes offers such non-complex representations of said sexuality.

Singlehood as Non-Tragic Watch: It will come as no surprise to you, I am sure, that one of the things I really like about this episode is that it does, indeed, tackle the negative ways in which single women (especially single women of a "certain age") are often perceived and treated in this American culture of ours. Which is to say... negatively, as unattractive, hopeless, and inevitably doomed to suffer emotional breakdown.

I like that the episode at once shows that these stereotypes do temporarily shake the women up (one is human, after all, and constantly being told that one's life is sad and pathetic if one does not have a fella--it takes its toll), but also makes it clear that said shaking up is temporary, because fundamentally, they actually are pretty happy in their lives, no matter what any magazine article has to say about it. Miranda realizes that the single life might actually be better than a coupled life characterized by chronic sexual discontent. Charlotte realizes that settling for a guy she doesn't actually care about just so that she can be in a relationship isn't fair to said guy, or to herself. Samantha realizes that it's better to be single than to be dating a jerk. Carrie realizes that maybe a life alone isn't something to run from, or be terrified by--that when New York magazine affirms that her life is a tragic, wasted opportunity, all because she's single and not 22--they're wrong. Lovely.

Notable Quotables: Samantha, after being dumped by William: "She realized something--no matter how much it hurts, sometimes it's better to be alone than fake it."

Carrie, shell-shocked in the wake of the terrible, single-shaming article's publication: "They said 'Single and Fabulous!', exclamation point, they did not say 'Single and Fabulous?', question mark! That question mark is hostile!"

"Four Women and a Funeral," in which Hugh Grant plays a charming, but bumbling Brit wooing a brittle American girl... or, no, wait, sorry it's actually about the ladies contemplating Morality, Life, Death, and Love. Heavy. Stuff. Oh, and Big is back! [Prepares desk to become reacquainted with head.]


  1. Okay, not only is there a Bradley Frickin' Cooper sighting in this episode...there is also a William Frickin' Schuester cameo too! Matthew Morrison plays the waiter at the end of the episode who asks Carrie if she's waiting for someone.

  2. My goodness, I totally did not recognize him--this calls for a re-watch, immediately. I see that in the credits he is listed as "Young Busboy"--ah, the life of a Broadway actor seeking to break into TV acting! They get all the glamorous roles!