Wednesday, October 6

Season Two, Episode Fifteen: Shortcomings

The Summary: Ah, people who fall short of things, let us analyze them!

So Carrie is dating Vaughn, a talented, if also rather self-impressed, writer (the actor who plays Vaughn also notably played the character Jared, a talented, if also rather self-impressed writer in Season One... holy type-casting, SATC!). Vaughn is all right, but his family is amazing--super-charming and funny and just generally delightful. Carrie lovvvvves them. She forms a particularly special bond with Vaughn's mum, Wallis (who is played by Valerie Harper of The Mary Tyler Moore fame. Shows About Single Gals Past, meet Shows About Single Gals, Um, More Recent Past!)

If only her bond with Vaughn was so strong. But alas, it is not. Turns out, he consistently suffers from what I believe the kids today call premature ejaculation (or maybe it's doctors who call it that, whatever--that's what it's called by somebody) and absolutely refuses to in any way discuss or work on said problem. After trying and failing several times to talk to Vaughn about said issue, Carrie breaks up with him. She doesn't care about that, so much, but she is sorry to break up with Wallis. There are tears. Awwwww. Buh-bye, Jared/Vaughn! Buh-bye, Wallis/Rhoda!

Miranda, meanwhile, is dating Roger, a divorced gent possessed of one very spoiled and irritating son. Things are going swimmingly until Miranda mistakenly slams a doorknob into Little Lord Fauntleroy's face (it is an accident, I promise, Miranda's hands are clean!) Roger is livid, and breaks up with Miranda on the spot. Buh-bye, Roger! Buh-bye, annoying (and by now bloodied) child!

Samantha and Charlotte's plotlines are actually intertwined in this episode, which makes my life soooo much easier. Thanks, ladies! Okay, so, Charlotte's brother, Wesley, who is in the midst of an ugly divorce, comes to visit her. Wesley (who is rather nice-looking) is getting a divorce in large part because his marriage is plagued by sexual dysfunction. Sam (who has a thing for rather nice-looking gentlemen, fleeing marriages plagued by sexual dysfunction) meets Wesley. Perhaps you can see where this is headed?

Samantha and Wesley have a tryst (in Charlotte's apartment, no less... classy!), and Charlotte is livid, in large part because since she wants her brother to reconcile with his wife, rather than sleep with her friends. Said lividness leads her to rather violently slut-shame Sam ("Is your vagina in the New York City guidebooks? Because it should be, it's the hottest spot in town, it's always open!") Yeouch. Samantha is hurt, and stops talking to Charlotte. Wesley is livid, and talks to Charlotte only to tell her that that was an awful thing to say to her friend. I am confused, and ask the universe in general in what world rational adults like Sam and Wesley would have trysted at Charlotte's apartment rather than at Sam's. I am sure that Dr. Freud would have mannnny things to say about that one.

Anyway. Charlotte apologizes to Samantha, and Samantha accepts said apology. A story with a happy ending, for once!

The Analysis:

LGBT Folks Watch: One of Vaughn's sisters, Franny, is a lesbian. Franny is young, white, conventionally beautiful, and always dressed like Sporty Spice when we see her. (Of course she is, the lesbian ladies do love their sports, as we know.) She brings a date with her to one of the family gatherings which Carrie attends, Jenna. Jenna is young, white, conventionally beautiful, and as conventionally feminine (long flowing hair, visible makeup, etc.) as Franny is emphatically sporty (track pants, sneakers, etc.) (Of course, the lesbian couples inevitably fall into this sporty-girly dyad all the time, as we know.) Sigh.

A Moment of Gender Essentialism, Of Course, There Always Is, How Wearisome For Us, Watch: When Miranda and Roger first start dating, he tells her that he's one of those "weird male aberrations who likes to be married." Please make a note: it is strange and unusual for a straight gent to wish to get hitched. If you are a straight gent who does, indeed, wish to get hitched, you need to apologize for this fact, and talk self-deprecatingly about how weird you are.

How does Miranda reply to this shocking confession, you ask? By telling Roger that he's the "heterosexual Holy Grail." Please make another note, below the first: it is strange and unusual for a straight lady not to wish to get hitched. All straight ladies are seeking those "weird male aberrations" like Roger who seek matrimony. Glad we cleared that up!

Realism vs. Idealization of Sex Watch:

Idealization: So, Realism, as you know, I very often have my way in/with this series. My wicked, wicked way.

Realism [glumly]: Yup, Idealization, I know. You're the Queen/King of the Hill.

Idealization [preening]: I mean, I know we haven't gotten there yet, but remember that episode in Season Four where Samantha boasts about always being able to come during penetrative sex? HA. That was one of my best moments. So patently detached from reality. Loved it.

Realism [even more glumly]: Yup, Id, that was a good day for you.

Idealization: And you know how the show so often shows its leading ladies forming effortless, perfect sexual connections with gents instantly and completely? I mean, take Carrie and Big... in Season Four (which yes, I know, I know, we haven't gotten to yet, but work with me) she says they've never had anything less than spectacular sex. HA. Because that doesn't set up a standard which no living couple could ever attain, or anything! [Sighs contentedly.] Gee, but I do love my work.

Realism: [longing for a drink]: Is there a point here, Id?

Idealization [uncharacteristically nicely]: I'm glad you reminded me, R, because I think this episode actually gives you a moment to shine, for a change.

Realism [perking up]: You don't say? What moment is that?

Idealization: Remember when the ladies are talking about Carrie and Vaughn's problems? In trying to musing about said problems, Carrie says, "The first time is always weird."

Realism: Wow. I must have missed that! Did she, really?

Idealization [beaming patronizingly]: She did! She actually conceded that in real life, sex is not usually effortlessly perfect right out of the gate--that it can actually be awkward, and take some time and negotiation and communication to work!

Realism [dazzled by its untypical victory]: WOW.

Idealization [not wanting Realism to get puffed up too much]: Just don't get too comfortable there, sparky. You may have won the battle, but I'm going to win the war. You may be Napoleon, but I'm Wellington. You may have Anne Bronte, but I'm Charlotte.

Realism: [leaves to go get that drink.]

Ummm, "Frigid," Seriously, What, Is This 1890, Should I Also Be On the Lookout for These New Horseless Carriages? Watch: In explaining to Charlotte why his marriage is beyond repair, Wesley tells her that his wife is "frigid." Seriously? Did I just hit my head and wake up in In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play? Do we say things like "frigid" any more? Isn't "frigid" an antiquated term, which was primarily used in the early and mid twentieth centuries by stern Freudians wearing white coats to explain why ladies just couldn't settle into their marriages or to shame women who didn't fit normative definitions of sexuality? Isn't it, in most of its contemporary usage, pared with the word "bitch" to describe a lady who is withholding her favors from/failing to show interest in a gentleman? So in sum, Wesley--say that you and your wife were not sexually compatible. Say that you and your wife couldn't make your sex life work. But please don't call her frigid. I will only accept men calling women frigid if they are in a period film, and wearing frock coats as they do it. Thank you for your time and attention in this matter.

Are We Slut Shaming Sam, Or Are We Not? Watch:

Yes, We Are: Um, remember the part where Charlotte told Wesley that Sam "has some many notches on her bedpost, it's practically whittled down to a toothpick"? That sounds pretty darned slut-shame-y to me.

No, We Are Not: Um, yeah, but remember how clearly hurt Sam was by Charlotte's slut-shaming, and how the writers clearly wanted us to sympathize with Sam (who had had her friend be so mean to her) rather than Charlotte (who was so mean to her friend)?

Yes, We Are: Um, okay, but you can't tell me that all those comments about her whittling down her bedpost to a toothpick and her vagina as a popular tourist destination aren't meant to be punchlines? As in--"Ha ha, it's so funny that Sam is so slutttttty" punchlines. As in PUNCH-y punchlines.

No, We Aren't: Um, all right, I guess you do have a point there. Once again, we are playing Samantha's "looseness" for laughs. Yet... don't we reach a point by the end of the episode where we've learned a Very Special Lesson about being nasty and judgmental towards our friends' sexual decisions? As in... how that is a bad thing to do?

Yes, We Are: Um, yes, I guess that we have, I'll give you that. And can we agree that it is totally weird and inappropriate of Sam to not only sleep with Charlotte's brother (who is notably still married), but also to do so in Charlotte's apartment?

No, We Aren't: Um, totally. That is CRAZY.

Communication, Patience, All Other Things of Things Therapists Would Recommend Fully on Display, Excellent, Watch: I am actually quite pleased with the way that this episode handles the unraveling of the "Carrie/Vaughn-Or-Is-That-Jared-Stop-Casting-The-Same-Actors-In-Different-Parts-And-Thinking-I-Won't-Notice-SATC-People-I-Will-Notice" relationship. Carrie does everything she can to openly communicate with Vaughn about his, sigh, "shortcoming" (unlike Wesley, who probably just told his wife he thought she was frigid, adjusted his monocle, and marched off to hale a hansom cab.) She's not shaming, she's not blaming, she wants to make things work, and tries like the dickens to make things work. They don't work because Vaughn absolutely refuses to discuss the issue or even acknowledge the problem, and shuts down completely any time Carrie mentions it. So, Carrie--points for open communication and persistently seeking the sex life you want. Vaughn--no points for being too immature to respond in a grown-up way to such efforts.

Notable Quotables: Carrie, on her three bestest friends: "The most important thing in life is your family. There are days when you love them, and others when you don't. But in the end, they're the people you always come home to. Sometimes it's the family you're born into. And sometimes it's the family you make for yourself." Awwww.

Next Up...?:
"Was It Good For You?", in which the ladies attend a tantric sex workshop (entitled "How to Please a Man"... sigh--because, pleasing yourself? Who the heck cares about that), and Carrie dates someone volatile and unstable. So pretty much... business as usual in the SATC Verse!

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