Friday, October 29

Season Three, Episode Five: No Ifs, Ands, or Butts

The Summary:

Sometimes, the writers' penchant for puns exhausts me. "Butts," in the title of an episode which is in part about smoking? Must we, really? I suppose that we must. Sigh.

Anywhoozle, let us mercifully turn away from silly puns to less silly summaries, shall we? I will save Samantha's plot line till last, because that one is the most maddening. Least maddening, I suppose, are the activities of one Ms. Charlotte York. Charlotte is dating Brad. Brad is a bad kisser. As in... epically bad. She tries to work with him, to improve matters. Work commences, but matters do not improve. Charlotte decides that she cannot date someone who is an irredeemably, epically bad kisser. Buh-bye, Brad!

Miranda, meanwhile, is having problems with Steve. Not kissin' problems, happily, but problems nonetheless. So, Steve got picked through a lottery to be the random pleb who tries to make a half court shot (for mucho deniro) at the beginning of a Knicks game. He is very excited about this. Miranda is not excited about this at all, and keeps reminding Steve that the chances of him making this shot is about the same as him being made a saint/being struck by lightning.

Steve is angry that Miranda is always such a Gloomy Guss, spreading doubts, fears, and doom-filled prognostications, not only about silly things like basketball, but also about more serious things like their future prospects as a couple. Steve wants Miranda to show some faith in him, and in them. So... she goes to watch him practice for the game, and claps enthusiastically. Peace in our time! [Ominously] FOR THE MOMENT, ANYWAY.

And what of Carrie? She meets Aidan Shaw, a charming furniture designer with a soft voice, hippie-ish demeanor, and turquoise jewelry aplenty. (Soooo... pretty much as different from Big as you could possibly get then, eh, Ms. B? Good call!) They start dating. Aidan is sweet, funny, delightful. (And also--seriously tall.) Yay! Except... he finds out that Carrie is a smoker, and he simply cannot date a smoker. (I don't blame him, I live next door to one, and that is quite vile enough for my taste. [Blogger coughs, in the manner of a tubercular nineteenth-century heroine, into her delicate, puffed sleeve.]) For awhile, Carrie thinks that she will choose her beloved cigarettes over the charming Aidan. But then she reconsiders, and decides to choose her potential beloved Aidan over her charming cigarettes. Nicotine patches for everyone!

We actually have a Stanford plot line in this episode, as well, which I have mixed feelings about since--on the plus side, I like Stanford, and it is always a pleasure to see his natty, witty self. But--on the down side, the writers are putting him through just as much Dating Humiliation as they are our lady characters. Rats.

So, Stanford is dating Marty. Marty is great... except that he collects dolls. And keeps said dolls on his bed. And is obsessive about how said bed-dolls are arranged and displayed. So when Stanford inadvertently breaks one during an Intimate Moment, it spells D-O-O-M for him and Marty. Buh-bye, Marty! Sorry, Stanford!

All right, to the Samantha storyline it is! [Blogger straightens shoulders and breathes in deeply.] Okay, so, Sam is dating Chivon. Chivon is African-American. Sam doesn't think race should come into their relationship at all (Samantha, to the ladies: "I don't see color... I see conquest." And yet... virtually all of your other "conquests" have somehow been white, up until this point...? I suppose that this is pure coincidence...?) Chivon's sister, Adeena, it transpires, does not want her brother dating a white lady, and consequently tells White Lady Sam to step away from her brother. Samantha does not do so. Sam and Adeena subsequently express their disagreement through a cat-fight (as the ladies tend to do--beneath our kittenish facades, we are all just waiting to pull out our claws--meow!).

Chivon is upset by said cat-fighting, and said dispute. In the end, however, he dumps Samantha, because Adeena is his only family, and he cannot bear to alienate said family by engaging in white-lady-dating. And so... buh-bye, Chivon! [Blogger's note: This storyline might not seem so terribly, er, terrible from this summary, but follow me to the analysis, friends, and the sky--it will darken.]

The Analysis:

Random Fact of the Day, Which I Am Going to Share With You, By Force, If Necessary:
So the delightful actor who so memorably, upsettingly, and entertainingly plays Brad, Charlotte's bad-kissing swain, Ross Gibby, is the cousin of a dear friend of mine. I know someone famous, I know someone famous! (Or... am the friend of someone who is related to someone famous, anyway!)

LGBT Folks Watch: Stanford, of course. And Marty, who is represented as being more than a little loopy. Which--not too bad, as most of the straight men who pass through the series are represented this way, as well. But perhaps a little bad, in that they make him a rabid doll collector, who is obsessed with Gone with the Wind? Hmmmm. Perhaps this brings us rather uncomfortably close to Stereotype-Land? (Why do all roads seem to lead us back to that accursed, accursed land???)

Let Us Trivialize Rape, Shall We? What Fun! Watch: So after Charlotte's final kissing tutorial with Brad ends with her getting a severely brusied chin (let me emphasize again that Brad is a Bad. Kisser.), she tells her friends that he "raped my face." Yeouch. This is clearly a punchline, and me... I am not so fond of rape-themed punchlines! Trivializing and cheapening rape by likening it to boatloads of essentially slight, non-traumatic experiences... I am not a fan. A bruised chin is an irritant. Rape is a hateful, brutal, violent violation of another person's body and humanity. Ah, the difference between the two, let us acknowledge it!

Ladies: Sacrifice Your Work for Your Man, Already, PLEASE Watch: Now, I do not think that the Miranda-Steve plot line is terrible here... Steve is frustrated by Miranda's consistent negativity and pessimism, and tells her so. Well done, Steve, maybe Miranda could stand to be un-Cassandra-ed/Marvin-ed a little. [Blogger whistles "I'm Walking on Sunshine" to herself.]

There is a wee moment in their storyline, however, which I find irritating--Miranda (who is up for partner at her firm) is working on a weekend on a time-specific case, and Steve berates her for consequently not having time to go watch him engage in Basketball Practice. In the wake of said berating, Miranda abandons said time-specific case, and goes off to the basketball court to be the Good, Supportive Girlfriend, rather than the Diligent Lawyer.

This moment sticks in my craw because the series does not provide us with instances of this scenario being flipped--if we had scenes of Steve leaving the bar to go support Miranda through something, then we could all smile pleasantly at one another, shake hands, and call it a day. But as it is... we don't see such scenes, of our male romantic leads being berated for being too work-focused, and not enough lady-focused. Ladies are expected to sacrifice work for their gentlemen... but not vice versa. [Makes face, expressive of disapproval.]

I am all for partners loving and supporting one another. I am very much against our insane workaholic culture, which demands that both women and men work obscenely long hours, and entirely disregards the fact that they might just have lives outside of their professions. But I am also made uneasy by anything which skirts close to "ah, professional women! When will they learn that the demands of their work are as nothing compared with the needs of their men?" territory. Even my spinster self gets that sometimes partners have to make sacrifices (professional and otherwise) for one another, but I find it distasteful when these sacrifices are shown to flow only in one direction (perhaps not entirely shockingly... from Lady to Gentleman.) Boo, I say, and additionally, hiss.

People of Color Watch: In this episode, we have... two! Chivon, who is represented negatively, as an emasculated coward who can't stand up to his domineering sister, and Adeena, the aforementioned domineering sister, who is also represented negatively, as a lady both displeasingly narrow-minded and distastefully mean-spirited. Perfect.

Racial Politics, SATC-Style, Oh Dear, Watch:

Things That Make Me Want to Huddle Under My Bedclothes And Wait for the Worst to be Over, About the Way That This Episode Handles Racial Politics:

1) That when Sam first starts telling the ladies about Chivon, the conversation begins as a discussion of what a nice man he is, but then makes a sharp turn towards Sam proudly noting his possession of a "big black cock." Ah, a group of white women discussing a black man's body in such objectifying terms, what delicate charm it possesses!

2) That when Sam and Adeena have their catfight (which, in and of itself... sigh), Sam tells Adeena to get her "big black ass" out of her face. Ah, a white woman deriding a black woman because of her posterior, how pleasant and non-offensive it is!

3) That at the end of the episode, Sam condemns Chivon for being a "big black pussy" who is incapable of standing up to his bossy, overbearing sister. Ah, suggesting that black women oppressively dominate the men of their families, and that black men are emasculated thereby, how it does not remind me of long-standing, pernicious stereotypes about the "pathology" of black families!

4) That the episode as a whole suggests that we should give all of our sympathies to Sam, since she is the modern, open-minded, color-blind one, and not to Adeena, who is the retrograde, close-minded, excessively race-conscious one. Except... Sam clearly isn't color-blind here, since she shows herself very much aware of race, in terms of the way she thinks and talks about both Chivon and Adeena's bodies. (Surely, "Get away from me" is a more color-blind option than "Get your big black ass out of my face"...?)

And also except... Sam's blithe assertion that she shouldn't have to in any way think or talk about race or racial politics, because race is totally irrelevant in contemporary society made me think of nothing so much as it did Stephen Colbert confidently asserting that he doesn't see race, because there is no longer any race to see. ("I don't see race, I've moved beyond that, I've developed beyond that.... People tell me I'm white, though, and I believe them, because I belong to an all-white country club." If I wasn't already betrothed in my heart to Jon Stewart, sir, I would wish to marry you, also.)

Should Sam not be "allowed" (by angry black women, which... sigh) to date an African-American man, because she's white? Of course not. But should she perhaps take a moment to acknowledge that race actually is still a category which possesses meaning in American society--that there still is such thing as racial politics? That Adeena having anxieties about her brother becoming romantically involved with a white woman is not just her being a total bitch, but is actually partly rooted in some of the very nasty aspects of our country's very nasty racial history? Apparently not. My mistake!

Next Up...?: "Are We Sluts?" Ummmm.... no! There, that was easy! Ah, but is anything ever easy for us, gentle readers? No, of course it's not. Return to me next week, and we will consider the complexities of slut-shaming--slut-shaming oneself! Being slut-shamed by others! Slut-shaming others, oneself! It's a slut-shaming party! I'll bring the... ummm... whatever it is one brings to an "Using Terms Offensive Even in Middle School, Are We Not Over This Yet, Ladies?" themed Soiree!

Wednesday, October 27

Season Three, Episode Four: Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl...

The Summary:

Brace yourself, my friends, as this one's going to be a doozy--there are direct, sustained discussions of both gender difference and bisexuality in this here episode. Ohhhhhh, dear. If ever anyone was in for it... it is you and I.

All right, so, let's roll up our sleeves and get dirty, shall we? I'll get Samantha out of the way first, because her plotline is the simplest, and the least annoying. (Though to be sure... it is still definitely annoying.) Sam hires a new assistant, Matt, who is young, gorgeous... and hopelessly arrogant and ill-suited to the job. After watching him swagger around the office being domineering and bossy, and entirely disregarding her instructions for awhile, Samantha decides that she has to fire him (because, as Carrie's narration informs us, there's only one "man of the office" at Sam's firm... and that's her. Sigh. Because to be in command of something and yet also still be a woman? Clearly, this is impossible.) Having fired him, she happily decides that she can now sleep with his lovely young self, something which had been verboten when he was actually in her employ. (I guess "the man of the office" has some sense of professional ethics, anyway!)

I'll tackle Miranda next... her plotline is also somewhat annoying, but not quite as headache-making as Charlotte's and Carrie's (and I am trying to be gentle with myself here, people. Like easing into a hot tub, so as to not scald my vulnerable, vulnerable flesh.) So, as we know, Miranda and Steve are back together as a couple, and are actually pretty happy together. Excellent! Except... Steve is making noises about wanting to move in together. And Miranda is not exactly deliriously thrilled with this idea. She actually likes living alone, misses some of the solitude she's lost since they started dating again, and the idea of Steve moving in so soon after they've gotten back together makes her feel "suffocated."

This attitude infuriates Steve (Steve: "Geez, Miranda, it's like you're the guy sometimes." Please take up your omnipresent notebook and pen and write down the following, on the first available page--"In heterosexual romances, it is normal for the gent to seek to avoid commitment/a rapid deepening of a relationship, and for the lady to push for these things. Anything else--not normal."), and they have a big ol' fight about it. After said fight, they have a more measured conversation, in which Miranda notes that she's reluctant to move in together in part because she's terrified of him seeing all of her unpleasant habits and eccentricities. He assures her that he loves her, unpleasant habits and eccentricities and all. And so... looks like Steve is moving in!

Okay, Charlotte next--I am saving Carrie for last because her plotline is the most exasperating. [Blogger wonders to self why self did not open a bottle of wine at the beginning of writing this post, so that by this point her annoyance would be tempered by a pleasant haze of tipsiness. Next time, for. Sure.] So. Charlotte's gallery is hosting an art show entitled "Drag Kings: The Collision of Allusion and Reality." Carrie assures us that it is the most shocking thing EVER. In that... it features drag kings. Remind me again why this is so shocking in New York City in the year of Our Lord 2000...?

Anyway, Charlotte has contracted a huge crush on Baird, the artist behind this SHOCKING show. But... she can't say so, because ladies, as we know, cannot be forward in this way, actually openly expressing interest in men they are, you know... interested in. Unaware of Charlotte's crrrrrush, Baird asks her to pose for him. As a man. Charlotte demurs at first, because clearly, her intense femininity makes the very idea ludicrous. (Charlotte, to Baird, on why she can't even dress as a man: "I'm really bad at math, and I can't change a tire to save my life." Still have that notebook handy? If so, please scribble down the following: "Ladies: Incompetent at mechanical things. Also, bad at math." Which raises some intriguing questions about how Charlotte managed to get a minor in bloody finance when she was in college, which we later learn that she did... I guess she must have gotten a boy to help her!)

Baird eventually manages to overcome Charlotte's maidenly reluctance, however, and, once all gussied up as a man, Charlotte suddenly finds all of the sexual boldness and initiative which, as a woman, she had lacked. She and Baird sleep together... but despite that, and her persistent crush on him, she never sees him again, because such sexual forwardness is clearly unacceptable in Charlotte the Woman, even if is was totally okay in Charlotte the Woman-Playing-the-Man. [Blogger thinks to self that self should definitely seek out that wine right about now.]

Okay, so we've arrived at the Carrie plotline. There is no alternative, no escape! Carrie has started dating Sean, who is adorable, sweet, funny, charming. But clearly, we are doomed here, because he is 1) 26 to Carrie's 33--oh, the age gap, how could it ever be bridged?, and 2) he is openly and happily bisexual. (Or as Carrie puts it "a bisexual." Much as she is "a straight," I suppose.)

You may have already gathered from my foot-dragging to even get to this point that the way that the episode handles Sean's bisexuality is, in your humble blogger's opinion, awwwwwwful. Sean himself, to his credit, is quite pleasantly sane, in the midst of all the insanity which the writers immerse him in. He's very comfortable and rational about his sexual past and sexual identity, and clearly expects Carrie to have the same casual "I've been in love with a man/dated men, I've been in love with a woman/dated women... so what?" attitude. (Big. Mistake. There. Buddy.) He responds to Carrie's relentless loopiness (i.e., insistently asking him every time they're out whether he is checking out men or women--Sean, to Carrie: "I'm looking at you, I'm here with you," etc.) with gracious, gentle patience, not slapping her upside the head, as I myself very much wished to do.

Carrie and her friends agree that Sean's bisexuality is a huge problem, and they think she's crazy for dating him at all. (Okay, except for Sam, I'll grant you, but since she's always the "I will accept sexual loopiness which no 'normal' woman would" character here, I'm not counting her.) They doubt that bisexuality even exists. They assert that all ostensibly bisexual men are, in fact, simply confused gay men. They declare that folks who proclaim themselves bisexual are in fact just greedy double-dippers. Ah, that doesn't reinforce any negative stereotypes of bisexuality which I can think of! [Blogger begins to think that something even stronger than wine might be called for here.]

Despite these concerns, Carrie continues to date Sean (reminder: Sean is nice. Sean is fun to be with. Sean is not a sociopath. Sean is therefore a much better bet than 95 percent of the men whom Carrie has dated in the series ere this.) She goes to a party being hosted by his friends--two men who are a couple, one of whom is Sean's ex-boyfriend. Carrie... doesn't handle that too well. The writers... don't handle it too well, either. They go out of their way to represent Sean's friends as flighty, silly, sexually confused young people who don't yet have the common sense to select "real" sexual orientations for themselves.

In the course of her time at said party (which Carrie characterizes as "Alice in Confused Sexual Orientation Land") she ends up in the middle of a game of Spin the Bottle, being kissed by a blue-haired Alanis Morrisette. (A feature of so many parties, these days, it has almost become cliche.) The kiss is okay, but it's also the last straw--Carrie decides that she is "too old to play this game" (meaning, alas, not Spin the Bottle, which we could actually agree on, but, rather, dating a bisexual gent) and leaves the party... and Sean. Gaaaaaaahhhhhhh. Buh-bye, Nice Gent Who Gets Dumped for Truly Lame Reasons! Hope that the next gal/guy in your life has a wee bit more on the ball than our Ms. Bradshaw!

The Analysis:

Vital Points to Hit When Discussing Bisexuality: The SATC Writers' Secret Checklist
(Obtained by Your Humble Blogger, Ask Me Not How):

1) Affirm that bisexuality is in the fact the result of emotional immaturity on the part of those too young to know any better. (Awww, they'll grow out of it, those crazy kids!)

2) Declare that bisexuality is not a "real" sexual orientation, but is either the aforementioned product of youthful flightiness, or the result of confusion on the part of a man who is actually gay, or a woman who is actually a lesbian. (Awww, they just don't know what they want, those crazy gays!)

3) Assert that bisexuality is linked to promiscuity and sexual greed. (Awwww, they just can't seem to keep their hands to themselves, those crazy double-dippers!)

[Deciding that a mere glass worth of alcoholic liquid is not sufficient to dull her pain by this point, blogger starts drinking directly from the bottle.]

Do I Need to Have the Sex vs. Gender vs. Sexual Orientation Talk with Y'All, Much as Though I Were A Mother Sitting You Down to Discuss The Birds and The Bees? Watch: I know that I don't have to give you The Talk, gentle reader. You get that there are, in fact, distinctions between a person's biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Heck, my Intro to Women's Studies students (most of whom were eighteen bloody years old at the time) understood that better their first day of class than the supposedly sophisticated and worldly Carrie and Crew do here.

Throughout the episode, the writers/characters conflate sex with gender with sexual orientation in some truly headache-making ways. I.e., (1), when Stanford finds himself attracted to some of the drag kings in Baird's art show, he concludes that, ipso facto, he must be a lesbian. (???) I.e. (2) in thinking about Sean and his friends (many of whom are also bisexual/have had sexual experiences outside of the gay vs. straight binary), Carrie wonders when "the sexes got all confused." Ummm, Carrie, sweetheart, folks being bisexual/label free does not mean that "the sexes" got confused. You're talking about sexual orientation here, not biological sex or gender identity, okay? Can you tell me what the difference is between those three things is? No? Here, go read this in the corner, and then we'll come back and talk about it, okay? [Blogger goes to lie down, taking her rapidly emptying bottle with her for comfort/company.]

"I Guess I Really Am a Woman": Yet More Gender Stereotyping and Essentialism Watch, It Simply Does Not Seem to End Watch: In addition to Bisexual Madness, also annoying in this episode is all of the (brace yourself to not be shocked by what I am about to say)... Gender Stereotyping and Essentialism Madness! This episode is chock full of yet more "insights" into What Women Are Like and What Men Are Like which are, as is typical of our friends in the SATC-verse, totally irritating and inaccurate. Points for consistency, anyway, SATC peeps!

For example. Charlotte's patently ridiculous spouting-off about why she'd make a terrible man (her ostensibly feminine lack of
mathematical ability and mechanical prowess), which, sadly, the episode does not treat as patently ridiculous. (Ummm, I'm hopeless at mechanical things, too... but you know who I inherited that from? My delightful--but ten-thumbed--father. Oh, the gender subversion!)

And for another example. Sam's definition of herself as "the man of the office" because she is the one who makes the decisions, gives the orders, and generally rules the roost there. (Because, you know... it's her firm.) Men? Properly exercise such control over their businesses/lives. Women? If they do, are necessarily "acting like men." Sigh.

And for yet another example. When Miranda does things like hog the remote when she and Steve are watching TV, or express reluctance about moving in together, she is being "the guy" in their relationship. Her femininity is only restored when the episode ends, and she is crying into Steve's shoulder. Tears=womanly. Desire to be in charge of the remote/to not instantly be eager to move in with your boyfriend=not womanly. Fantastic.

"I Need My Space": Somewhat Complex Representations of Co-Habitation Watch

Pity that the writers had to go this route, because otherwise the Miranda-Steve plotline had the potential to not be "you are going to drive me to drink with this craziness" style annoying. Too bad that they poisoned the well by suggesting that Steve's push to move in together (and Miranda's reluctance to do so) was a fundamental disruption of the proper gendered order because, otherwise, it could have been quite pleasant, to note that maybe (just maybe) in some heterosexual relationships, the gent wants to move faster/is more interested in formal commitment than the lady. SHOCKING, I know, but I think it just might be possible.

I also think that the writers let an opportunity slip by with Miranda's rather nice "living together seems scary to me in part because you'll see that I'm not perfect/am very far from the ideal of female domestic competence" speech. Bringing the unromantic, un-Hollywood aspects of living together--fears of new levels of intimacy and vulnerability, etc.--nice! Not having Steve express any such fears in return--perhaps not as nice? Perhaps he might also have one or two worries about Miranda discovering his imperfections, much as she fears him discovering hers...? Ah, it seems not! My mistake! Moving on!

Notable Quotables: Miranda, to Steve, on why the prospect of moving in together is in some ways such a daunting one: "I do love you, but I've never lived with anyone before, and I'm stubborn, and I can't cook, and I don't do laundry sometimes for, like, two weeks, and my sponges smell, and you're going to see all that. And I'm scared."

Next Up...?:
"No Ifs, Ands, or Butts" (which happily refers to CIGARETTE butts, in case you were concerned--and I know that I was.) Said episode features two African-American characters who actually play a substantial role in the episode... which you might think is a good thing, but allow me to assure you that it is not. Sigh. Much as is the case when we explicitly grappled with class politics last season, may I recommend having a cold compress on hand for Friday, when we shall discuss Sam's relationship with an African-American gent? Trust me, you're going to need it!

Monday, October 25

Back on Carrie's Stoop Gets Subscription-fied

Dear Friends,

Radically technologically-unsophisticated being that I am, I have only now (four months after I started this blog--jeepers, am I going to have to throw BOCS a birthday party soon? It is getting so big!) figured out how I could add links to said blog, to give you the option to subscribe to the blog in a whole host of ways (subscribing to my Twitter feeds, signing up to get e-mails letting you know when I post new stuff, subscribing to RSS feeds--which I will freely admit I still do not understand, but heck... you might!, etc.)

If you wished to sign up to subscribe to any of these things, in any of these ways, it would surely touch my icy spinterish heart. And if you do not wish to do so, than please do take a moment to be proud of me, that I successfully learned how to do something which most bloggers learned to do in 1999. I may be slow on the uptake, but I get there in the end, comrades!

Yours, from Carrie's (technologically-un-savvy) stoop,

Your Humble Blogger

Season Three, Episode Three: Attack of the 5'10" Woman

The Summary:

Finally, an episode all about women my height! About how hard it is for us to find pants that fit properly! About how annoying it is to constantly have strangers tell you "You're very tall" (Am I?!? I hadn't noticed, since I hit my full height sixteen bloody years ago) or ask you whether or not you played basketball in high school (if by that you mean, "got hit by errant basketballs in gym class," then... yes, I did.) Or wait... sorry, the episode actually has nothing to do with Ladies' Height Issues, whatsoever. But still... glad to see a shout-out to the 5'10" women of the world in the title, nonetheless!

OKAY. To the actual episode. Carrie discovers that Big and Natasha are officially married (via "the single women's sports pages"--i.e., the Weddings and Celebrations section of The New York Times. They are fun to read, I will admit, but I'd still choose the Book Review over both forms of "sports" pages any day, thankyouverymuch.) She is, as you can imagine, very upset by this news--less because she herself wishes to be The Bride of Big (GOOD, I am officially counting this as progress), and more because Natasha (who is very young, very beautiful, and always immaculately polished) makes her feel so darned inferior.

She spends a good bit of the episode readying herself to impress Natasha at a "Women in the Arts" luncheon they are both signed up to attend--only to have Natasha not show up. Darn it! Happily, by that point, Carrie has realized that trying to impress/one-up Natasha is a fruitless, ultimately self-destructive endeavor, and that she's the one who needs to learn to be happy with herself, flaws, imperfections, and all. Yay!

And what of our other three womenfolk? Samantha's plot line is the most straightforward, so let's get that sucker out of the way first. Sam learns that a very beautiful gentleman masseur at the spa which she goes to is well known for treating his lady clients to what I believe the kids on the street nowadays call "a happy ending"? Possessing this information, Sam books an appointment with this "spreading sunshine wherever he goes... and he goes lots of places" gentleman. (Which... why, does this not strike you as creepy in any way, Ms. Jones, what with the whole "paying for sex" angle here...?)

But, when the day of her appointment arrives... go down on her he does not. When Sam, ahem, encourages him to do so, he complains that she's harrassing him. She, in turn, complains that she only booked an appointment with him because he had such a good reputation for things other than massage... which, unsurprisingly, results in the beautiful masseur getting fired. (Because maybe... sex with clients... violates one or two eensy, weensy regulations?) Hope that he severely revises his cover letter/resume before sending those puppies out again. "Among my particular interests and skills are violating the most basic ethical codes of my profession." Now THAT'LL get you a callback!

Charlotte is also having spa-centric problems (heck, we've all been there, haven't we, ladies? Oh, right... I, and lots of other women in these United States of ours, can't so much afford to go to spas/to have spa-related problems!) The idea of hanging out in the steam room or locker room sans clothes makes Charlotte intensely uncomfortable, because she feels so self-conscious about her body/thinks her thighs, specifically, are so very, very ugly. She eventually faces her fears, however, and settles in for a steam sans towel--yay for victories over body self-hatred! Now can I have a free spa pass? I'm not really comfortable being naked in front of strangers, either, but if you gave me a free massage (not a happy one, mind, I'm not Samantha) and festive seaweed-themed treatments, that might help me get over it!

Miranda, meanwhile, has problems which are not related to the spa in any way. Instead, they are related to her new cleaning lady/housekeeper. (I have plenty of problems with mine, too, specifically with how darned lazy and incompetent she is--but I can't so much fire her because I am her.) Glad to know that this episode is rapidly transforming into the "Problems Directly Connected to Your Economic Privilege, Mercy, How Bad I Feel For You, Get Ready to Witness My Tears" hour!

What's wrong with this new cleaning lady (one Magda by name) you ask? She has a very specific vision of How Ladies Should Lead Their Lives, and Miranda does not live up to this vision in any way, shape, or form. Ladies should drink tea. Miranda drinks coffee. Ladies should spend their leisure moments making pies. Miranda has no interest whatsoever in making her own baked goods. (Miranda, to Carrie, after Magda has made her feel badly about her lack of Baking Prowess: "Do you have a rolling pin?" Carrie, to Miranda: "Are you kidding? I use my oven for storage.") Ladies should set their sights on getting themselves a good fella and marrying him, pronto. Miranda has the good fella, but isn't sure that she wants to get married to him or to anyone, pronto or at any other time.

Ladies should not be possessed of a sexuality which exists independently of (and might be potentially threatening to) their men. Miranda has a vibrator by her bedside and uses it, even when her man is nowhere in sight. Magda, seeking to "help" correct this "problem" replaces said vibrator with a statue of the Virgin Mary. (Not to be confused with vibrators shaped like the Virgin Mary, or similar.) Oh dear.

After this incident ("Mary-gate"?) Miranda finally snaps, and tells Magda that she likes her coffee, she likes her store-bought baked goods, she likes her vibrator, and that if Magda can't handle the fact that she's working for an unmarried, undomestic, actively sexual lady... then it's buh-bye, Magda. Magda decides that she can handle it. So Magda stays, and the Virgin Mary goes. Buh-bye, VM!

The Analysis:

Uninteresting Fact I Am Going To Tell You Even Though You Doubtless Do Not Wish to Hear It Watch:
So, I feel compelled to tell you that I saw the fantastic actress who plays Magda, Lynn Cohen, on the subway in New York soon after SATC 2 came out, and it was totally. Cool. She is stunning (if my hair can look anything like hers when I go gray, I'll be one happy lady), and was super nice to a girl who came up to her and gushed at length about how much she loved SATC. If I'd been her, I would have been all "I also played Golda-Frickin' Meir, in case you're interested," but she was all things kind and gracious. Also--love that she takes the subway just like non-actress-y New Yorkers.

People of Color Watch:
One of the women, Mimi, whom Carrie talks to at the "Women in the Arts" lunch she attends is African-American. Mimi gets in a pretty good Joyce Carol Oates joke, which I appreciated (love the random literary humor--wish they'd thrown in more of that to warm my erstwhile English major heart)... but alas, she is but a minor part of the episode.

One of the fired masseur's former clients, Katie, is also African-American. Apart from being ticked with Samantha for getting her very favorite Happy Ending Bestower fired, she, too, plays a very small part in the episode. Nice work as usual here, people!

Bludgeoning Us With "Ethnic-Ness" Watch: This is the first time that the Ukrainian Magda appears in the series, and just in case we missed the fact that she is an Ethnic Cleaning Lady, the episode plays Russian-y type folk music every time she appears. Why not just show her wearing a kerchief and doing Ukrainian folk dances every time we see her, and have done with it? We get it--she is the charmingly out-of-date Old World, Miranda is the modern and sophisticated New World. Now, bring me some kolach, and get out of here!

Who Cares About the Youth of Tomorrow or Serving the Community in Any Way? Watch: So, at the Women in the Arts lunch that Carrie attends, she falls into a conversation with a woman who asks her to volunteer some of her time to work with disadvantaged youth who want to become writers. How charming! As a freelance writer, Carrie certainly has the time, and sometimes nothing pulls one out of one's own petty problems than getting involved in one's community... except, of course, Carrie bites the woman's head off (Carrie: "I write about sex... is that something they'd like to learn, these kids? How to write about blow jobs, and stuff?") and dismisses her. Buh-bye, opportunity to use one's time and talents to benefit someone who is not one's self!

Now, I get that SATC is escapist in many ways and that we, as viewers, would as such rather see the ladies chatting as they make their way through the gorgeous shoes at Manolo Blahnik than ladling out soup at a dingy, underfunded homeless shelter, but... is it too much to ask that Carrie not heap coals of fire on the head of a woman who suggests that she actually become positively involved in the community in some way? I suppose that it is. My apologies.

Yay for A Distinct Lack of Female Bitchiness, and For a Generous Helping of Female Friendship and Solidarity Watch: One might well be concerned that this episode--which, after all, centers on Carrie's feelings of rivalry with/inferiority to Natasha--might easily have become one of those ever-popular "women are naturally catty bitches, who always have their knives at each other's throats" fests. But, happily, it doesn't. Even Natasha herself doesn't come off at all badly here. When we see her interact with Carrie, she's actually really nice. The writers could easily have made her a nasty piece of goods who does all in her power to make Carrie feel badly about herself... but they don't, and she isn't. She's a kindly person who just happens to (without in any way seeking or desiring to) stir up all of Carrie's (pre-existing) anxieties and insecurities. And by the end of the episode, Carrie has realized that she can't blame Natasha for being (or herself for not being) model-gorgeous and effortlessly graceful. She needs to let her feelings of resentment and inferiority go, wish Natasha well, and learn to appreciate herself as she is. Which... she does. (Or at least, starts to do.) Lovely.

The episode also racks up some points on the "highlighting women's support and love for each other, rather than their nastiness to each other" scale in its representations of Carrie and Charlotte lovingly talking one another through their respective crises. Charlotte assures Carrie that feeling inferior to Natasha is ridiculous--that Carrie must be blind not to recognize her own wit, intelligence, and general amazingness. Carrie assures Charlotte that feeling bad about her body is ridiculous--that Charlotte must blind not to recognize her own beauty, and crazy to not give herself the same kind of loving respect and affirming encouragement which she always gives so generously to her friends. Goody.

Dealing with Body Image Issues Pretty Respectfully and Thoughtfully For Once, Thank Goodness for That Watch: And speaking of Charlotte's anxieties about her body... I think the episode does a pretty good job of grappling with them here. Even though Charlotte fits the mainstream beauty ideal quite neatly (being white, thin, fit, able-bodied, etc.), she still clearly feels that she is unacceptably flawed, imperfect, and un-beautiful. Sad to see this, but, alas, it does seem to conform quite well to the realities of how many American women relate to their bodies.

Acknowledging these insecurities, the episode then proceeds to work to undermine them, with Charlotte being offered the support of her friends and Charlotte herself choosing to face her fears about baring her imperfect body, in the quasi-public space of the spa. It seems as though she's found at least some measure of peace by the end of the episode (ah, would that it were always this simple!), recognizing that all women, regardless of what they look like, have anxieties about their bodies, and that she needs to stop beating herself up for not being "perfect." Smells like progress to me--I'll take it!

Is the Whole "Blurring the Line Between Sex Work and Non-Sex Work" Thing a Little Creepy Here, Or Is It Just Me?: Now, I do not want to pull a SATC Season One "ahhhh, sex work, how immoral and awful it always and inevitably is!" type thing on you here, but I do have some concerns about how the episode develops the "masseur who gives his lady clients a little--okay, a lot--something extra" plot line here. I dunno, something about it just doesn't sit quite right with me.

I know that the show is in many ways a comedy, but I s'pose the fact that it plays this scenario purely for laughs troubles me a little. "Ha ha, rich women casually paying a not-rich man for his sexual services, with the man in question seeming uncomfortable with the expectation that sexual service is now a default part of his job! Tee hee!" Sam getting him fired because he doesn't provide her with the sexual service she was expecting from him (and that he clearly does not want to give her) makes me a little uncomfortable. She can just casually walk away from the whole situation, but he is still very much fired, and I'd reckon the chance of him getting another job, given the circumstances... not so great.

It's true that it seems as though he himself opened the door to this kind of thing happening, if he illicitly started adding sexual services to his repetoire... but do we know that he did so purely out of free choice? Or was doing so part of his seeking to keep his job by keeping certain female clients of his happy? The power/money imbalance between client and masseur, the ambiguity about what the masseur did and did not freely choose to do... I like it not. Let's have fewer plot lines centered around the casual bartering of masculine (or feminine, for that matter) flesh in future, now, shall we?

"Who Is This, and What Is She Doing In My Bedroom?": One Point to Autonomous Female Sexuality Watch: I also quite enjoy the Miranda plot line here (putting aside the problematic, "let me not in any way examine the class privilege which enables me to hire a full-time housekeeper, but just whine about her imperfections to my similarly-privileged girlfriends instead," of course.) Kind of nice to see Miranda so fiercely defending her life as it is, and insisting that she shouldn't be made to feel badly because she's not domestically inclined or necessarily interested in making wifehood a central (or indeed, any) part of her life.

I particularly enjoy watching Miranda deliver her "Shockingly, I am a sexual person independently of my boyfriend, and that is perfectly okay" speech. Given the way that the show has handled women's pursuit of sexual pleasure independent of partnered sex in the past, it's especially nice to see Miranda defend her right to her vibrator, specifically, and to a sexuality not exclusively centered on Steve/any other gent, generally here. How pleasant it is, to not have them give me migraines, for a change! Clearly, this is destined to not last.

Notable Quotables: Carrie, on embracing her own imperfections: "I will never be the woman with the perfect hair, who can wear white and not spill on it." (Me. Neither.)

Next Up...?:
On tap for Wednesday? "Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl...", in which Carrie dates a laidback, charming gent who is demonstrably neither emotionally abusive nor insane. Yay! Except... wait, nope, sorry, spoke too soon--there are HUGE PROBLEMS afoot there, in that he is slightly younger than she is (HORRORS), and bisexual. Clearly even though he is also a smart, charming, and interesting person... these are massive, probably insurmountable obstacles? (Why do I feel a headache of the magnitude of the one which I got when Charlotte dumped a sweet-natured pastry chef purely because he was "too feminine" coming on...?)

Friday, October 22

Season Three, Episode Two: Politically Erect

The Summary:

Welcome, my friends. Are you prepared to talk about the politics of sexuality, SATC-style? I do hope so, because that is what we have on tap for today. There is no escape--no alternative. Taking a deep breath, and clutching our belief that electoral politics actually does have some relevance to women (beyond how it impacts their dating lives)--let us begin.

So Carrie is dating politician Bill Kelley. Bill is dreeeeamy. Oh, and also smart, engaging, and funny. How nice for Carrie! Except... nope, spoke too soon, I'm afraid it's actually not. Because it turns out that Bill's very own personal fetish is, not singing in the rain, but rather, enjoying golden showers. Ah. This reeeeally creeps Carrie out, and she has no interest whatsoever in engaging in this particular activity. After she gamely offers Bill some non-urine-related, but still golden-shower-y type alternatives, he tells her that actually, never mind, because he can't be dating a sex columnist while he's running for office anyway. Doing so will damage his public image with the puritanical American public, you see. (Does NYC possess a puritanical public that I am not aware of?) Perhaps this approach was not the best way to dump Carrie, as she responds by writing a column all about Bill's pee-related proclivities. Yeouch. (Though given that this is New York... I think he'll be fine!) Buh-bye, Bill!

Miranda, meanwhile, remains unsure about whether or not she wants to commit to Steve. He's told her (in a nice, no-pressure-y sort of way), that she's the only lady he's interested in dating, and he'd very much like to "go steady," when, as, and if she's ready. Miranda cares about Steve, but also finds some things about Steve deeply annoying/problematic. Perhaps she should keep looking before signing on for Going Steadys-ville? She is deeply immersed in making a clinical "Things I Like About Steve, Things I Don't Like About Steve" pro and con list (doesn't she know that I'm the only redhead around here who gets to make clinical pro and con lists?) , when Steve tells her that he loves her, after which Miranda jettisons the list, and retains Steve.

And speaking of lovvvvve--Charlotte has officially begun her campaign to find herself a husband. Unsurprisingly... it doesn't get off to a great start! She goes to one of Bill's fancy-pants fundraisers in the hopes of meeting a suitable gent (and by suitable, of course, we mean... rich. Oh, Ms. York, didn't we already have this conversation about the shallowness of your "things I am looking for in a gent" list? It seems you have already forgotten/deliberately chosen to ignore my reprimands.) She doesn't. On the suggestion of one of the couples she meets at said fundraiser, she throws a "used date" party--everyone woman who attends has to bring an ex-boyfriend/man in whom she no longer has any romantic interest. Well, I can't see that being a recipe for disaster in any way! Except... the one guy whom Charlotte actually hits it off with ends up getting back together with his ex-girlfriend. At her party. On her bed. (Classy!)

And what of Samantha, you ask? She has inadvertently agreed to date Jeff, who is a little person. Sam is leery of dating Jeff, because he's a little person... but does so anyway. She is leery of sleeping with Jeff, because he's a little person... but does so anyway. Even though she genuinely likes him, and genuinely enjoyed sleeping with him, she tries to break up with him... because he's a little person. Jeff tells her that this "little person-specific dumping" is little (could I not have found another adjective...?) more than bigoted rubbish. Samantha agrees. They date for awhile, and break up, not because Jeff is a little person, but because Samantha is, well, Samantha. Buh-bye, Jeff!

The Analysis:

LGBT Folks Watch
: At one of Bill's fundraisers, Stanford asks Carrie to set him up with Bill's campaign manager. Carrie agrees, but alas, it transpires that the aforementioned campaign manager is not interested in Stanford. Bummer, sorry, Stanford! I reckon that both Stanford and The Stanford-Rejector count for our tally, as both have a decent amount of screen time in the episode. The campaign manager is shown to be something of a jerk (he rejects Stanford because Stanford doesn't have nice enough arms... seriously?)... but since this is no more negative/shallow than the way many of the series' straight male characters are portrayed... I spy no particular bigotry on the horizon! Goody!

People of Color Watch: A woman whom Sam talks to (or rather, at... the woman herself is silent) at a party is Asian-American. Said actress pops up later in the series as a child-care worker... who is also silent. Nicely done, SATC, sprinkling silent women of Asian descent about the place!

"You're Dating a Munchkin": Little People Watch: So, how does the episode handle its first (and I believe, only) little person character, Jeff?

Badly: In that Carrie does, indeed, refer to him as a munchkin. In that when Samantha sleeps with him, she likens the experience to being with a "horny Smurf." (Was that absolutely necessary?) In that Sam and the ladies alike instantly dismiss Jeff as a serious romantic prospect, on the sole basis of his height. (Charlotte: "Anything under five feet is unacceptable.")

Not So Badly: In that Jeff is represented quite positively--he's smart, interesting, funny, and not crazy, which is more than you can say for 85 percent of the other suitors who appear on this here program. In that he directly confronts Sam for her "I am dumping you purely because I am embarrassed to be seen in public with you, not because I don't like you/want to date you" malarkey. In that Sam herself realizes in the end that this attitude is malarkey, and ends up quite happily dating Jeff for longer than her usual Keeping A Specific Gent around time frame. So... could certainly be better, but could be one heck of a lot worse!

Fetishes, Fetishes, Everywhere Watch: I always feel my muscles tense and my breath hold a bit when the series tackles folks with non-normative sexual desires and inclinations... so when it transpired that Bill likes him some golden showers, I was naturally intrigued to see how well they would walk the line between "respecting the fact that Carrie isn't interested in this particular activity" and "depicting this activity as completely vile and bizarre for all 'normal' people, everywhere." Let us see how they did!

Actually, They Did a Pretty Good Job: So, given how they've handled this kind of thing in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they manage Bill's story line pretty well here.

Actually, They Did a Really Bad Job [skeptically]: Oh, they did, did they?

Good Job: Yeah, I think so... Carrie's definitely open to trying to negotiate on this one... she's not inclined towards participating in this activity herself, which is cool--no reason why she should do anything she doesn't want to do--but she wants to work will Bill, and try to find some kind of compromise that she's comfortable with, that will also give him the Golden Shower-esque Experience he seeks. The reason things don't work for them is not because she runs from his freakish self in terror, but because he dumps her for being a "sleazy" sex columnist. So, boo on Bill and yay on Carrie, I say! Good Job for the win!

Bad Job: Okaaay... but are we forgetting the long stretches in the episode where Bill's inclinations are mocked, derided, and received with abject disgust by Carrie and the other three ladies? The endless puns about urine? ("The princess and the PEE, etc.") The implications that he is only interested in this practice because there is something wrong with him Upstairs, in the Brain Area? I think the episode provides plenty of fodder to the "this series presents people with sexual fetishes as icky folks with deep-seated psychological issues" camp... which is to say... MY camp.

Good Job: Fine--I will grant you that as soon as Bill opened his mouth about something off-the-beaten-track he was interested in sexually, I knew he was a goner. No bloke is going to be around for more than two episodes if he expresses such interests. Not on the SATC writers' watch!

Bad Job: Fine--and I will grant you that the episode primarily judges and condemns Bill, not because of the golden showers thing, but because he dumps Carrie like a hot potato purely because he is ashamed of her chosen career.

Good Job: Friends, then?

Bad Job: HARDLY. See you again soon, Fetish-Lover.

Good Job: [under breath]: Not if I see you first.

Women Are Flightily Apolitical/Think of Politics Primarily in Terms of How Hot Gentleman-Politicians Are Watch: So I first saw this episode in 2004, not long before the presidential election that year. I only remember this because I was so fired up about the election (my second "voting for the President of my country" experience... surely, it would go better than the first time? Or... perhaps not), and was consequently deeply pissed off by the way in which this episode handled the question of women and politics. I don't know about you, lady readers, but I actually really care about politics. I care about who we choose to govern our country, and what they choose to do with the power and trust which we invest them with.

The ladies of SATC? Not so much! Carrie, as we know, isn't even bloody registered to vote, and declares that she finds politics irrelevant. (Yeah, it's super irrelevant who is in a position to decide whether to overturn policies like Don't Ask, Don't Tell, send our country to war, and select and confirm Supreme Court justices. Who cares whether or not particular groups have full civil rights, if American servicepeople are fighting and dying overseas, if Roe vs. Wade gets overturned, after all?) Samantha bases her presidential votes on which man is the best looking. Seriously. [Braces self for onset of a migraine.] Charlotte is interested only in politics because it's a "great way to meet men." (RICH men, naturally, as previously discussed.) Miranda... has nothing to say on the subject. OH MY GOSH. Way to represent women as thoughtless, frivolous, apolitical ninnies, people. And to think Alice Paul got force-fed, just to give you votes to fritter away. Hang your heads in SHAME, ladies, SHAME, I say!

Next Up...?: Return to me after the weekend is over, and we shall discuss "Attack of the 5'10" Woman." (I dare you to find one person who puts me at the scene of this alleged attack, just one! Unless... they're talking a 5'10" woman NOT myself? I suppose this is just possible...)S

Wednesday, October 20

Season Three, Episode One: Where There's Smoke...

The Summary:

Once again, we start a new season (yay!) and once again, the start of our new season involves us dealing with Carrie in Pain (boo!)--and in pain from the same source, i.e., having broken up with Big. Again. (Double boo! Except, also double yay!, because once again I am glad to not see them together.) Said Big-Related Pain has lead Carrie to be totally uninterested in dating--which is kind of bad timing, as a very fetching politician, Bill Kelley (aka Roger Sterling from Mad Men--helloooooo) is totally into her. Bill asks her out. Carrie says no. Bill asks her out again. Carrie says no again. [Rinse and repeat.] Carrie asks Miranda why it is that she is so reluctant to even consider dating Bill, even though she does actually like him. Miranda suggests that it's because Carrie has been so gravely wounded by Big, that she's terrified of risking receiving similar wounds at the hands of another gent. Carrie acknowledges the truth of this statement, and decides to be brave and give dating Bill a shot anyway. Their first date is pretty nice. Excellent! Now slap a vintage fedora on Bill, and everybody's a winner! (And by everybody, of course, I mean... me.)

And what of the other ladies? Samantha meets a fetching fire fighter, and decides to make her "having sex in a fire station" fantasies a reality. She does so, but trouble arises when she forgets that fire stations are, you know, first and foremost not a Site for Trysting, but rather a Base for Fire Fighting Operations--and when an actual fire breaks out during her Trysting Time, she ends up nekkid and humiliated, seeking her clothing amidst the wailing of sirens. Ah, who amongst us hasn't been there?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Miranda has decided to have Lasik surgery. Steve (with whom she is still suspended in "Are We A Couple Or Are We Not?" Land) wants to help her cope with/get home after said surgery. Leary of being in any way dependent on Steve/any bloke, Miranda refuses said help/support. Steve provides said help/support nonetheless, in a very charming "I recognize and respect that you are an independent woman, but perhaps you'd like someone to help you out just a little when you are high as a kite from all the druuuuuugs they're going to give you?" sort of way. Miranda is touched. I am touched. Touched-ness--it is a common thread among the redheads.

Charlotte, however, is having rather rougher of a time of it. (All together now, "poor Charlotte!") She is sick unto death of being single. She wants to marry a nice man who loves her and whom she loves, and is having a very hard time locating such a gent. She is sad, and then drunk, and then hung-over, and then lamenting to the other ladies that all she/single women in general want is to be rescued by her/their very own white knight. (Carrie, to Charlotte: "Did you ever think that maybe we're the white knights, and we have to save ourselves?" Charlotte, to Carrie: "That is so depressing.")

Charlotte is grimly determined that this is the year that she is going to get married, come hell or high water. (Because setting rigid time tables when it comes to matters of the heart... always works out super well!) Although it seems that it just might (briefly), when Charlotte's very own white knight seems to materialize in the form of one Arthur (GROAN), a handsome gent who punches out a bloke in a bar who is aggressively hitting on Charlotte against her will. Awwww, chivalry! Except... turns out it's not, and that Arthur is not so much chivalrous as he is a sociopath who is looking for any excuse to scrap with people. (All together now, again: "Poor Charlotte!")

The Analysis:

People of Color Watch:
At the beginning of the episode, the ladies attend a "let us judge the beauty of various fire fighters" charity event. (This explains to you how Sam met her fire fighter--not that we really need an explanation, because if Sam wants to meet a fire fighter, surely she shall do so--by hook or by crook, convenient charity event or no.) One of the beautiful fire fighters to be judged is African American. One of the ladies doing the judging, ditto. Neither has any lines, or any meaningful role in the episode. So we're off to a roaring start then!

How Can You Not be Registered to Vote, OH MY GOODNESS, Have You No Sense of Your Responsibilities as a Citizen??? Watch: So when Carrie first meets Bill, he (in politician fashion), tries to chat her up by... talking politics. During said politically-weighted flirtation, it emerges that Carrie is not registered to vote. And in point of fact... has never voted in the city of Manhattan. And since the series implies that she moved to the city as a lass of about twenty... I find this deeply troubling. All those statistics about how single women are the constitutency least likely to vote--well, now I know who to blame for that! It's Ms. Carrie Bradshaw, setting such a horrendously bad example for single women in the tri-state area/everywhere.

Carrie and her friends treat her non-voting-ness as a charming example of her free spirit and kookiness--I, by contrast, want to club her over the head with the nearest handy rock, and turn her over to the League of Women Voters to be reprogrammed. I dunno, Carrie B., is it just possible that you might want to vote to protect women's right to choose in New York (a right from which you yourself have personally benefited)? Or if you, say, had a gay best friend, that you might want to vote to give him the right to marry his partner, or to be fully protected by hate crimes legislation? Grrrr, the political apathy (even in the fictional) ticks. Me. Off.

Please Do Sign Me Up For The "I Like Steve" Fan Club
--I Call Being Secretary!-- Watch: Yay, Steve. It is a true pleasure in a series in which most of the men whom the ladies have been romantically involved with to date have either been nasty, crazy, or just generally wildly unsuitable or distasteful in one way or another, to come across Steve, who is kind, thoughtful, and respectful. He has no desire to encroach on Miranda's independence--indeed, the writers make it clear that one of the things which he most values about Miranda is that very independence. Whether Miranda is his friend, girlfriend, or something in between, he wants to, as the pop psychologists say, "be there for her"--not asking for anything in return, just wanting to be a help and a support when Miranda is drugged out of her mind, and wearing amusingly unflattering surgical goggles. Awwww. I am a fan. [Ominously] FOR NOW, ANYWAY.

"Women Just Want To be Rescued" Watch: In addition to appreciating Steve's "I care about you and want to be with and help you, while not being in any way domineering or creepy" attitude here, I also appreciate the way that this episode handles Charlotte's proclamation that all the straight ladies secretly want is for the Perfect Guy to drop out of the sky, land at their feet, and solve all their problems/make their life perfect.

I think they handle this whole notion quite well in the Carrie/Bill plot line, for one thing... the episode ends in would-be sweeping fairy tale fashion, with Carrie adrift in the middle of Long Island, having missed the last ferry back to Manhattan and with no way to get home, and Bill handily driving up to give her a ride/rescue her. (Quite similarly to the way in which Big "rescues" Carrie off the street in the pilot, come to think of it. [Insert obligatory booing and hissing at the mention of Big here.])

But the writers neatly turn this would-be "boy saves girl" narrative on its head, as it transpires that Bill has no bloody idea where they are, and actually needs Carrie to give him directions to get them both safely back to everyone's favorite island. [Carrie: "Sometimes a woman absolutely has to be rescued. And sometimes, a woman absolutely has to rescue a man."] Nice. So rather than "men saving women" we have "men and women, both a little lost and adrift, helping each other out." Mercy, but that does please my egalitarianism-loving heart.

I also think that they handle this notion quite well in the Charlotte plot line, shockingly enough. (Because charming and talented as Kristin Davis indisputably is, her character often gets trapped spouting the most patently ridiculous 1950s--if not 1850s--"women are just delicate flowers who wither without a strong, manly vine to wrap their fragility around" type nonsense.) I actually quite like the way that the writers handle Charlotte's tremendous sadness and frustration that after nearly two decades of dating, looking, trying, and hoping she still hasn't found The Right Guy. Charlotte wants to love and be loved, to get married, and to have babies. Her dreams for her future center around family and domesticity, and she is understandably downcast when, at an age where she had hoped to be hitched and with a couple of kinder under her belt/roof, she is still single and sans youngsters.

And I think the writers treat that sadness and anger with respect--suggesting that Charlotte is more than entitled to those feelings, and that there's nothing wrong with her frustration that these particular dreams of hers have not yet come true. (I tell you what, if I hadn't had the chance to go to grad school and do some globe-hopping by now, I would be just as sad--and probably just as drunk--as Ms. York is here.) Dreams of what we'll get to do and be when we're grown-ups--we all have them, and it is indeed quite the bummer when, for one reason or another, said dreams (of whatever sort or description they may be) do not come true.

Where the writers suggest that Charlotte has gone wrong, I think, is with her expectation that falling in love, getting married, and having babies are the magic bullets. At the dawn of Season Three, Charlotte still seems firmly convinced that if only she can find The One, everything will click into place, and her life will be The Happy Perfect Dream World forever and ever, amen. Hmmmm. I'm not sure that that's true, so much! As my single and childless self understands it, it is just possible to still have problems even when married to a man who loves you/when you have children whom you very much wanted. As I understand it, the big secret is that there is no magic bullet--much as the sun shineth on the good and the evil alike, so too does it present challenges for the child-free and the child-having--for the partnered and the single--alike. And if you expect The One to sweep in and make your life complete/perfect, you're setting yourself up to date a sociopath, who punches people in the face for no reason.

The writers, miraculously, actually seem to side with Carrie over Charlotte here--Carrie, who while still hopeful about love, recognizes that in the end, she can't expect anyone to "save" her. That ultimately, she is the one who has to save herself--giving up, as one of my favorite Vagina Monologues puts it "the fantasy, the enormous, life-consuming fantasy that someone or something was going to do this for me--the fantasy that someone was coming to lead my life, to choose direction." Carrie believes in love, but not in the Right Guy Who Makes Your Self and Life Whole. And since she ends up driving off with a dashing Mad Man at the end of the episode... I think the writers are telling us that she is majorly onto something there.

Notable Quotables:
Charlotte, on her painful Dating Fatigue: "I've been dating since I was fifteen, I am exhausted, where is he???"

Next Up...?:
On tap for Friday, "Politically Erect," which (in addition to providing us with some truly painful puns... I mean, "politically erect," seriously? Was that absolutely necessary?) features the ladies discussing the politics of sexuality, the ways in which sexuality informs politics, and how darned hot Thomas Jefferson probably was. Which, if you are talking about the actor who played him in the John Adams miniseries (upon whom I have a violent crush) I totally agree with.