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!

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