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.

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