The Summary: Ah, buddies whom one happens to sleep with, let us consider them!
So Carrie, as we know, is continuing to recover from her break-up from Big. [Pauses once again to feel pleased that Carrie and Big are, indeed, broken up. Chris Noth certainly is pleasant to look at, but said pleasantness is considerably diminished all when can think about is punching him in his handsome noggin.] Part of said recovery includes reconnecting with John (notably played by Dean Winters, who had a memorable run on 30 Rock as Liz's dopey ex-boyfriend, Dennis. My guess is the gent is Phi Beta Kappa and plays chess in his spare time, so expert is he at playing dolts.)
As you may have already guessed, John is the fuck buddy of our title--the gent whom Carrie has always gone back to for pleasant diversion while waiting for/recovering from Great Love. Though... what if John himself was really the Great Love all along? (Rom com writers of the world, take note! I smell a plot a'brewing there!) Carrie decides to give actually dating the guy a whirl, and, predictably, it is a disaster. John is very sweet and all, but is also possessed of not too much in the way of intellectual vigor and nothing whatsoever in the way of humor. Alas. Buh-bye, John!
Noting that going back to John as a respite from romantic turmoil is her unceasing pattern, Carrie also muses on what the unceasing patterns of her friends are, when it comes to affairs of the heart/boudoir. Charlotte's, of course, is to never take the initiative with blokes, and to remain leery of even asking them out, for fear of seeming too "forward." But by golly, in this episode, Charlotte becomes determined to break away from this pattern and ask out every guy in the five boroughs--which, predictably, is a disaster. She double-books two dates in one night, and (as any sitcom writer from 1950-present could have told you), the aforementioned two dates end up finding about said double-booking, getting ticked, and promptly dumping Charlotte. Buh-bye, Guys Whom Charlotte Asked Out for the First Time in Her Life!
And what is Miranda's pattern, you ask? (Besides wearing really boxy, unflattering pantsuits--stylists of the show, we get it. Miranda is in a traditionally masculine profession. She possesses such stereotypically masculine attributes as being career-focused, aggressive, and liking sports. You don't need to actually dress her up in masculine clothing all the time for us to get the whole "Miranda is not conventionally feminine" thing. Your point=more than made.) Dating angry guys, of course! Current angry guy is fellow lawyer Kevin, who totally bugs Miranda by being unrelentingly bossy, harsh, domineering, and abrasive. Except when it comes to their Intimate Moments, that is, in which she greatly values and appreciates these qualities. Hmmm. Tricky. In the end, however, not even their Intimate Moments are enough to make up for Kevin's decidedly unpleasant personality and relentless angry pessimism. And so... buh-bye, Kevin!
Samantha's pattern, of being open to sexual experiences of all sorts, types, and descriptions, continues unabated, when she accepts an invitation to join her new neighbors (whose Intimate Moments she has been overhearing through her bedroom wall) for a threesome. Without... having met them, or knowing the first or last thing about them/what they have in mind for their night together. Seems perfectly safe to me!
She waltzes over to their apartment one night, dressed (or perhaps more accurately, undressed) to kill--but then quickly decides that moving forward is a bad idea. Because... maybe going into the home of people you know nothing about, with no one knowing where you are, isn't the smartest move in the world? Silly, common-sensical reader. Of course it's not that. It's because when she claps eyes on said neighbors, she finds that they are a middle-aged couple with "I do not go to the gym every day for five hours" type bodies. Um, ew. Unless you are under 40 and/or look like you stepped out of the pages of Self magazine, then the idea of you as a sexual being... totally. Gross. Buh-bye, couple who got so unceremoniously dumped by Sam!
Non-Analytical Thing I Nonetheless Pointlessly Feel Compelled to Note: In this episode, both Carrie and Charlotte sport a succession of very pretty headbands. Since I got my hair cut short, I have become kind of obsessed with headbands. (It's like a smoker turning away from cigarettes to gum--I don't have clips anymore, people, I need something else!!!) I watched this episode with a friend (who had actually just helped me pick out a fetching new headband WITH FEATHERS ON IT), and the whole time we talked less about sexual politics, and more about how cute the headbands which Charlotte and Carrie were wearing were. So in conclusion--HEADBANDS. I love 'em.
ANYWAY. Back to solemn matters.
Obligatory Moment of Gender Stereotyping and Essentialism Watch: (You knew there would be one! There's always at least one! There is no escape!) So, what important lesson do we learn today from "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" Land? When the ladies are discussing Charlotte's decision to double-book two dates in one night, Samantha declares that Charlotte is "becoming a man." (Please pull out your notebook and pen and write down the following: "Men: inclined by nature to date more than one lady at the same time/towards sexual variety. Women: not so much. If they engage in such behaviors/exhibit such desires they are, in fact, 'becoming like men.' ")
Charlotte quickly follows her assertion that she intends to go on two dates in one night by wondering how on earth she's going to manage to eat two dinners in a row. (Carrie: "... and just like that, she was a woman again.") Please pull out that pen and paper again and inscribe the following onto the first blank page that you see: "Women: too delicate and lady-like to eat more than delicate, lady-like portions of food. They are just like little birds, little birds, I tell you! And a woman who might not express anxieties about excess food consumption--not a ladylike bird, but an unfeminine pig, of course." (You don't need to write this bit down, but please note that I am officially beyond the pale of femininity, because I would have nooooo trouble with that whole two-dinner scenario. I was a grad student for seven years, after all. I've learned to never look a gift-meal in the mouth.)
Sigh. I dislike both of these little moments of gender essentialism/stereotyping here, because they are both so wearily, drearily familiar--straight men are expected to go on the offensive and pursue more than one woman at a time (doing so, in fact, makes him more of a "man"), whereas for straight women to do precisely the same thing is both an anomaly and a problem. And something which Charlotte promptly gets punished for, as both of her dates ditch her as soon as they find out about her double-booking shenanigans. Sigh.
The whole "the idea of women consuming more than one salad a night is clearly ludicrously unfeminine" moment also sits badly with me, because it seems to underline the idea that women "naturally" don't have much an appetite for food--and that if they do, this, too, is an anomaly and a problem. Since the four actresses playing these characters are thin and Hollywood-toned, this whole "however will I manage to eat so much?" angle carries, I think, an extra layer of unpleasantness. I am much fonder of those rare and precious moments earlier in the series where we see Carrie gleefully tucking into a plate of spaghetti, or happily settling in with a bucket of popcorn--things which I am sure Sarah Jessica Parker has never done in her life, but still--I relish watching pop culture representations of women relishing their food. Which I guess means that I am becoming a man...?
Is There a Thread of Distastefulness Running Through the Fuck Buddy Concept, or Has Studying the Nineteenth Century for So Long Simply Turned Me Into a Victorian Prude? Watch: So, when Carrie tells her friends that she plans on actually dating John, rather than just sleeping with him, Sam shakes her head in consternation and wonders why Carrie would want to do something so foolish as to "take the only person who's in your life purely for sex and turn him into a person." Hmmmm. As soon as I heard that sucker, I wondered how I would feel if this was, say, Entourage (shudder), and this remark was made during a manly bout of manly man-talk, about a woman. Would I find said sucker offensive? Absa-bloody-lutely. The idea of men reducing women to sex objects? Not so fond of it. The idea of women reducing men to sex objects? Granted, this doesn't have the same layers and layers (and centuries and centuries) of accumulated "patriarchy gives men the right to sexually objectify and exploit women" crud caked on top of it, but still... not so fond of that, either.
So, does this make me a judgmental neo-Victorian in the Charlotte York mold? I do hope not. I think it's more how Sam talks about John than the actual dynamics between Carrie and John which I find troubling here. Because I think Carrie does think of John as a person, even before she starts dating him, and is solely sleeping with him. Theirs seems to be a fully mutually consensual, non-exploitative connection--it's not that John is pining for Carrie, and she's callously playing with his feelings, or vice versa. They both understand the scope (and limitations) of their connection, and are happy with them. And they treat each nicely, and respectfully, to boot. (Which is more than I can say for some of the men whom the ladies actually date, during the show...)
So to conclude--I am fine with how the show handles the Carrie-John plotline, not so fine with how the women actually talk about it. Repeat after me, ladies of SATC: "Objectifying men the way that men have traditionally had permission to objectify women--not so helpful/is giving me a stress headache."
People of Color Watch: The janitor whom Sam asks about her new neighbors, Jesus, is Hispanic. He has about three lines, all of which are delivered in halting English. Of course they are. None of that lazily confirms any stereotypes that I can think of, in the slightest.
Middle Aged People Are Icky Watch: What else don't I like about this episode, you ask? Clever reader, you probably already know from my summary. You are so sharp, nothing gets by you! I do not like the fact that Sam is so clearly repulsed by the not-thin, not-young, not-conventionally gorgeous couple whom she'd planned on having a threesome with. Now, I am all in favor of Sam backing out of this escapade. (Meet these people for coffee first, learn something about them prior to committing becoming unclothed and vulnerable in their home, and tell someone what you are up to, for the love of Pete, woman!!!) But I am not in favor of her backing out because, ick, people who are not Hollywood-gorgeous are obviously gross and unsexy.
I'm not saying she (or any of us) has an obligation to be attracted to or interested in sleeping with any one group in general or any one person in particular. But I am troubled that it's clearly the couple's appearance/age which repels her here--and I'm not so fond of seeing that repulsion/seeing the fact that these folks, even though they are neither young nor beautiful, still have a dynamic sex life, played for laughs, as it most surely is here. ("These are the people who made that racket?", etc.) She actually runs away from their apartment in horror, for Pete's sake. Good call, because as we all know, the un-beautiful were given extra speed by our friend Evolution, to make up for their Lack of Looks! [Blogger places her forehead gently on the soothing wood of her desk, and prays for temporary oblivion through sleep.]
Next Up...?: "Shortcomings," which features the writers in their usually punny sort of mood--Carrie begins dating a SHORT story writer who has some pretty significant SHORTcomings which reveal themselves, um, SHORTly after they start dating. (The word of the day, children, is... SHORT.)