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

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