Monday, November 29

Season Three, Episode Twelve: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The Summary:

Ah, Affair Fall-Out! Let us wallow in it! Ooh, and also-weddings! Hooray!

So, as we know, Carrie has ended her affair with Big. (Thank the Goddess and all of Her saints. ) But of course, the pain and mess of the affair still linger... Aidan is none the wiser about all of Carrie's sneakin' around, but Carrie feels that she has to, well, make him the wiser. Isn't not telling him cruel? But then, on the other hand... wouldn't telling him be cruel--hurting him, just so she can assuage her own guilty conscience? Waffle, waffle, waffle--see-saw, see-saw, see-saw.

Anguished at the thought of hurting Aidan, but unable to deceive him any longer, Carrie tells him everything... right before they are about to leave for Charlotte's wedding. Ohhhh, dear. Great timing as ever, Carrie B.! Suffice it to say... Carrie ends up going to that ceremony alone. Aidan comes to the wedding later, tells he loves her, but that this isn't the kind of thing he can get over. He cries. She cries. It is sad. Booooo. And so... buh-bye, Aidan! See you in Season 4!

Meanwhile, Charlotte is getting ready for her bridal day. She is gleeful that her dating life is officially over, and that, after all of her years of wishing to be, she shall finally be wed. She is also quite happy, because her wedding means the advent of her honeymoon, and (as she reveals to the ladies the night before said wedding), she hasn't slept with Trey yet. (Charlotte: "I've been saving myself!" Carrie: "But you're not a virgin!") Her friends are dubious about the wisdom of Charlotte's pre-marital chastity (Sam: "Honey, before you buy the car, you take it for a test-drive!"--ah, likening men to objects, delightful), but Charlotte is happily confident, despite her friends' doubts, that all will be well.

And you know what happens when Ms. York is happily convinced that all will be well? If you guessed a word that begins in "dis" and ends in "aster," then by golly, you would be right! Unable to wait any longer, a very drunk Charlotte shows up on Trey's doorstop the night before their wedding, and requests that consummation take place immediately, if not sooner. And... it turns out that Trey is impotent. As in, not just in this one instance, but... frequently. Ohhhhhh, drat.

Charlotte confides in Carrie about said impotence... right before she is about to walk down the aisle. (Good timing as ever, Charlotte Y.!) Carrie tells her 1) that it happens to everyone, and was probably just nerves on his part, and 2) that if Charlotte wants to become a Runaway Bride anyway, that Carrie is right behind her. But, as Carrie notes, "Charlotte was 34, single, and standing in a $14,000 wedding dress. She was getting married." (I think I'd be likely to stay single and pawn the dress, meself, but no matter!) And get married she does, heading off to an uncertain honeymoon, and an uncertain future...

Sam, meanwhile, sleeps with one of Trey's Scottish relatives, Caleb, who has come to town to be in the wedding. She can barely understand him, because his accent is so thick (but I can, even when he is ostensibly totally incomprehensible... must be in the blood! Thank you, Scottish forebearers!), but does not care, as he is very dashing, and often kilt-clad. Having a penchant for Scottish gents in kilts... this, I cannot fault her for!

Miranda, meanwhile, is dating Harrison, a gent she met at a speed-dating event. At said speed-dating event, Miranda got shot down by every gent she chatted to, after telling them that she was a lawyer. However, when she introduced herself as a "stewardess" (good to know it's still, what, 1971, in Ms. Hobbes' head) to Harrison... she struck gold! (If you can call Harrison "gold," which, personally, I would not.) Harrison, it seems, is an E.R. doctor. Or... so Miranda thinks, until she accidentally cuts herself in his presence, and he nearly faints at the sight of her blood. Turns out he's not so much an E.R. doctor as he is an Assistant Manager at an Athlete's Foot. I see. Learning this fun fact, Miranda dumps him for being a liar... even though she, too, is a liar. Huh. Oh well. At least their break-up results in no tears or long-lasting emotional damage! I'll take it! Buh-bye, Harrison!

The Analysis:

LGBT Folks Watch
: Stanford attends Charlotte's wedding (he is Miranda's fall-back date, after she dumps Harrison, post Blood Incident.) He is wearing a spiffy suit... but has nary a line. Ah well. Always a pleasure to see you, nonetheless, Mr. Blatch!

Once Again, We Have the "Gorgeous Woman Paired Off with An Ordinary-Looking Bloke" Dyad--Mercy, But That One Never Gets Old! Watch: I do find it rather annoying that, once again, we have a scenario in this episode in which a beautiful woman (this time, one Miss Miranda Hobbes) is romantically paired off with a pleasant but decidedly-ordinary looking bloke (this time, one "I Pretend I Am A Doctor, But Am Actually Not" Harrison Whatever-His-Last-Name-Is,-Can't-Say-That-I-Picked-That-Up.) Now, I have nothing against pleasant, ordinary-looking blokes. I wish them all the best, in all of their chosen pursuits and endeavors. And I have no problem with the heart following its own eccentric course--a beautiful person should surely (like all the rest of us) listen to The Feelings more than they should to The Superficiality when it comes to making decisions about who to date, who to sleep with, who to care about, etc.

It is just so mind-numbingly cliched and dull to see the "lovely woman, un-lovely man" pairing yet again/so unendingly and relentlessly in our pop culture ... I wish the entertainment industry would give that a sucker a rest. What about... pairing beautiful men off with un-beautiful women, every now and then? (And not treating same as a joke, I hasten to add.) And featuring not-beautiful women in leading, rather than in "funny best friend" supportive roles, from time to time? (Outside of the independent movie circuit, I hurry to note.)

I am all for the writers featuring a swain for one of our leading ladies who doesn't fit conventional standards of male "hotness"--i.e., Harrison is pale, rather weedy, and has some pretty extensive, unruly body hair. Nice to let him slip out of the Men's Health-esque model of what makes a gent attractive, to be sure--but pair this "we can embrace male characters who are not conventionally attractive" thing with the women of the show who are 1) conventionally beautiful, 2) perfectly toned, 3) meticulously made-up, 4) painstakingly waxed... I like it not. Remind me again why we can't create spaces for women to not fit the exacting standards of female beauty upheld by our culture in popular entertainment...? Ohhhhh, right.

Gender, The Professions, and Sexual Politics... Are We Presenting This in A Thoughtful and Interesting Way or Are We Not? Watch:

We Are: Ah, what a good episode this is.

We Are Not: Ummmm, which episode were you watching, now?

We Are: The same one you were watching, of course! And I thought it was great! Miranda brings up this super point about how sometimes women who are super-dedicated to their careers are sometimes thought of as unfeminine and undesirable in our culture. Genius!

We Are Not: Yeeeeeah... okay, so maybe she kind of sails near an interesting point there--the ways in which women in traditionally male-dominated professions might sometimes face some negative and unpleasant stereotyping about how unsuitably "masculine" they themselves are. Kind of.

We Are: Right, like, I said--this episode is a--slam. Dunk.

We Are Not: Yeeeeeeah... not so sure I can agree with you on that one, my friend.

We Are (with genuinely innocent bafflement, eyes open very wide): Whatever do you mean?

We Are Not: Wellllll... let's start with Miranda pretending to be a "stewardess." First of all--flight attendants had to wage some pretty serious battles in the '70s to get their title changed from "stewardess"--because, you know, that title is... actually pretty demeaning.

We Are (face falling): Go on.

We Are Not: And when Miranda pretends to be a "stewardess"... she kinda pretends to be... an idiot. She adopts this breathy Marilyn Monroe voice, and keeps saying these really dopey things... and maybe... suggesting that lady flight attendants are morons... lacks charm?

We Are: (suddenly downcast): I suppose that it might.

We Are Not: And perhaps is there a little flavor of distastefulness thrown into the mix, as well, in that Miranda finds Harrison the Doctor eminently dateable and desirable, but Harrison the Athlete's Foot Manager... not so much?

We Are: (brightening a little): Ahhh, but might that be less "I am reluctant to date a pleb" and more "I want to be with someone who is passionately engaged in a profession they care about deeply, and not someone working in an industry which they are clearly bored by, and deeply embarrassed about"? After all, Miranda was all in favor of Steve working in a bar... because he loved working in a bar. It was his path.

We Are Not (pensively): Huh. I hadn't thought about it like that.

We Are (eternally the optimist): Soooo... we kind of agree? A little bit, anyway?

We Are Not (sighing): Fine, fine, fine. But I stick by my flight attendant criticism!

We Are (cheerily): Fair enough!

Likening Men to Cars/Ridiculing the Idea of Not Having Sex Before Marriage--What Do We Think? Watch: All right, so, I think that the whole "Charlotte and Trey not sleeping together before they tie the knot, and the appalled way that the other ladies react to learning this fun fact" thing needs to be unpacked a little, here. For starters, I am quite firmly convinced that Sam's "kick the tires before buying the bike, or whatever metaphor it is she uses exactly" affirmation definitely fails my "if a man was saying this about a woman, would I find this distasteful?" test. Or I guess... passes it. Whatever, you know what I mean--the idea that you try someone out like they're a blender or an iPod, to see whether or not they're "defective"--not one I love. Let's try to avoid thinking of and talking about people as though they were objects, now, shall we?

However, I do think that the ladies are pointing to something important here, even if they're doing so in some problematic ways... said important thing being that sex in the Charlotte-Trey relationship (even before we get to the whole impotence thing which... yikes) has been a little wack-a-doo from the get-go. Unlike the ladies, I don't have a problem with Charlotte choosing not to sleep with Trey before they get hitched... but I do have a problem with the reason why she chooses not to do so.

Because Charlotte hasn't slept with him yet, not because of religious or moral convictions, or because of any lack of any desire on her part... but rather because she feels that that is the way to snare her man--remain chaste, and you get to be a wife. Ummm, seriously? Did we all suddenly get catapulted back to 1955, and I somehow failed to notice? (If I have to live in the '50s, what with the vicious racism and the severely curtailed opportunities for the womenfolk, I at least expect to be issued with some fabulous gloves.)

Also--I find it a little messed-up that Charlotte and Trey don't seem to have communicated about sex in any way whatsoever, pre-getting-hitched--their sexual pattern during their courtship seemed to be purely--Trey pushed, Charlotte refused... and that's about it. Ummm, maybe before getting married, couples should talk a leetle more about sexual matters beyond "no, you may not touch me there"? This seems wise?

So in conclusion--I don't think that the writers have done terrible work here. (Hooray, I love not thinking that the writers have done terrible work, for a change!) They make it pretty clear, I think, that the main problem with Charlotte and Trey is that, in many ways, she hasn't been herself with him--instead, she's played games, and denied what she really wants for the sake of appearing a certain way/maintaining a certain image in his eyes. ("Because what I would really like to do is sleep with Trey, I will steadfastly refuse to do so, so that he will think of me as a 'lady.' EXCELLENT.")

I wish that Miss York (sorry, Mrs. McDougal--a Lucy Stoner, Charlotte is most certainly not) was not now stuck in such a pickle/such an unpleasant marital situation. But to have the writers indicate that she got into said pickle (in addition to Trey's loopiness, which is certainly also at fault here--we must share the blame equally!) because of her refusal to follow her own desires, and her decision to value snagging a husband over making sure that said husband knew who she really was... not too shabby!

Notable Quotables:

Sam, at Charlotte's little bachelorette gathering: "Marriage doesn't guarantee a happy ending--just an ending." I hope that the York-McDougal wedding party has time to get that one embroidered on some napkins in time for the ceremony!

Carrie, on her friends, who have stood by her through the whole Affair Mess, and whom she knows will stand by her through any and all messes to come: "It's hard to find people who will love you no matter what. I was lucky enough to find three of them."

Next Up...?:
"Escape from New York," in which... are you ready to be shocked? The ladies... escape from New York! Dildo models and Miranda riding a mechanical bull in her bra are involved. Consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, November 24

Season Three, Episode Eleven: Running with Scissors

The Summary:

Okay, mes amies, are you prepared for us to continue to go deeper into the dark, dark nightmare which is the Carrie-Big Affair? Do you have a drink handy? (Perhaps since it is quite early in the morning, I ought not to encourage you to drink, but... desperate times call for desperate measures, here, people!)

All right, so, let us begin. Despite her vows to the contrary at the end of our last episode, Carrie has not ended her affair with Big, but rather... continued it. And said affair has become less "we are living out The Bridges of Madison County/The Prince of Tides/Other Romance-y Type Novel Centered on Adultery!" and more "we are meeting at hotels with mysterious stains on the walls at 2 p.m., ick, I've never seen a bug like that before, oh my goodness, why are we here???"

Carrie's relationship with Aidan is getting increasingly strained, so tense and unhappy is she, what with all of the guilt, angst, and anxiety that she is carrying around. Her affair with Big is also getting increasingly strained, with neither of them seeming to know quite what they want, what they're doing, or how to stop the Freight Train to Disasters-ville which they are currently on. Do they want to leave their current partners, and give being a real couple a shot again? They don't know. One minute, they think yes, the next minute--no. Ambiguity, uncertainty, confusion--they reign supreme.

Carrie tells Miranda about the affair, to try to get her to slap her upside the head and bring her violently back to reality and common sense. (YES, good call, Bradshaw.) Miranda tries (bless her heart) but her efforts are in vain. Charlotte bumps into Carrie and Big outside of a seedy hotel, and tearfully reproaches Carrie for her "sleeping-with-a-married-man" behavior--but her sorrowful denunciations also do no good. It isn't until Carrie gets caught by Natasha in her and Big's marital home, and Natasha ends up tripping, falling, and smashing out some teeth, that Carrie finally gets it--she, and the affair, have officially come to the end of the road. She finally breaks it off with Big, after he comes to the hospital to be with his now tooth-deficient bride. (Carrie, to Big: "We are so over. We need a new word for over.") And... she walks away from him. YES. Peace in our time! [Ominously, under breath: "For now, anyway."] Feel better soon, Natasha! And Big... may I once again invite you to go boil your head?

All right--onward! What about the other womenfolk, who are not blighting their lives or the lives of others with their extramarital shenanigans? Let us see!

In addition to freaking out about Carrie's painful involvement in the Marriages of Others, Charlotte is freaking about her own pending marriage--or rather, her own pending wedding. She can't pick a dress! She can't pick accessories! The horror! Seeking to prevent her from having a mental breakdown over such Bridal Angst, Samantha tells Charlotte to hire a stylist--which she promptly does, one Anthony Marantino by name. Anthony takes Charlotte to Vera Wang (!) to help her pick out her dress. With the help of Anthony's sage guidance (and his relentless bullying of the salesgirl), Charlotte is, indeed, able to find her dream wedding dress. Said dress is very pretty. But though I like pretty dresses as much as the next dress-fancying lass, personally, if I had that kind of cash, I'd have bought a gorgeous vintage wedding dress for cheap online, and used the excess to gad about Europe, instead. But... Charlotte York's wedding, Charlotte York's rules!

Sam is also freaking out (what an episode of stress this is turning out to be!), in large part because of having met Tom, who is, as Carrie puts it, "a New York legend--steadfastly single, and sexually very active... in short, the male Samantha." (Nice that she's not the female Tom, I guess!) Sam would very much like to sleep with Tom, and the feeling is mutual. So the freaking out comes from... where? From the fact that Tom won't sleep with Sam unless she's had an H.I.V. test... which she's never had, and is terrified to have, for fear that it will bring her bad. News. Her friends reassure her--they've had H.I.V. tests, they're fine. Sam will have her H.I.V. test, and she'll be fine. And she does, and she is--but not before fainting at the clinic, waiting for the results. Ouch! That floor looked pretty hard!

Miranda isn't freaking out in this episode, so much as she is flirting with a sandwich. Allow me to explain. Every time Miranda walks down this one block, the Subway employee paid to stand outside of his franchise wearing a sandwich costume tells her to "eat me." (As Miranda puts it: "He didn't say it in the sandwich way, he said it in the sexual harassing way." Indeed he did--that is one dirty-minded sandwich.) Initially angry and indignant about being harassed in this way (which... yeah, I'm with you so far), Miranda quickly becomes intrigued and even turned-on by this Mysterious Sandwich Stranger (and now... you've officially lost me.) Oh, how the ladies love to be solicited by creepy strangers on the street! How it does ensnare their senses and bewitch their brains! [Buries head in arms.]

One day, Miranda asks the MSS to remove his mask, so that she might see the man behind the sandwich. He does so, and it is revealed that he is a handsome young man. (Of course he is.) Miranda decides, however, that their love cannot be, because "she was a lawyer, and he was a sandwich." Of course she does. Because rejecting a guy because he works at Subway makes MUCH more sense than rejecting him because he sexually harasses random women on the street. Sheeeeeeesh.

The Analysis:

Let Us Now Play Everyone's Favorite Party Game... Slut-Shaming! Watch
: This isn't as bad as it could have been, I'll grant you--if this was a gloves-off, no-holds-barred, down-and-dirty slut-shaming event, Sam's H.I.V. test would have come back positive, and the writers would have stricken her with illness for her harlot-y, whorish ways. Happily, the writers are not so draconian... Sam gets to both live, and flourish, despite having taken a few twirls around the block.

HOWEVER. There is nonetheless some mild slut-shaming--or at least, some mockery of Sam's sexual behavior in the episode... when Sam sits down with a nurse to discuss her sexual history, the writers make a lot of hay out of how sluttttty Sam is. The nurse asks Sam how many sexual partners she's had, and Sam takes a looooong time to think about it, asking the nurse, after a good couple of minutes of silent tabulation, "ummmm, this year?" The writers definitely play her "I can't even remember how many gents I've slept with!" moment for laughs here which... is mild, I'll grant you, but added to all of the other "Sam, you are such a tramp! And your trampiness amuses me!" moments in the series--it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

And while we're on the subject of Sam and the nurse--when the nurse asks her about her sexual practices, Sam burbles along quite happily until the nurse asks her about anal sex, at which point Sam drops her eyes and issues a muted admission that yes, she does engage in that particular practice. Not the first time the writers have suggested that there is something particularly shameful about the ladies enjoying anal sex, though I do wish it was the last!

"I Can't Have Sex with a Sandwich... Can I?": Ladies Who Lovvvvve Being Sexually Harassed--With Some Distasteful Class Politics Thrown in For Good Measure--Watch: Most annoying, however, is the Miranda storyline, for two primary reasons. Would you like to know what I think that they are? I hope so, for I am about to tell you, regardless.

1) Said storyline implies that sometimes, sexual harassment can be, well, sexy. And... it isn't, and it can't. There's a crucial distinction to be drawn here, I think, between enjoying male attention (which, if respectfully and not creepily or intrusively done, I reckon many a straight lass does) and enjoying men randomly asking you to give them blow jobs while you're walking down the street (which I'm going to go out on a limb and say nary a lass does.) The writers don't make that distinction, which I feel... is a little bit of a problem! Man who catches your eye and smiles at you while you pass him on the street... fine. Man who grabs, exposes, or in any other way highlights his gentlemanly area, whistles, shouts out X-rated suggestions, or honks his car horn at you... not fine.

Such behavior does not make me feel flattered, it does not make me feel desirable, it does not make me feel sexy--it makes me feel creeped out, self-conscious, and concerned for my personal safety. And if a man routinely solicited me on the street, I wouldn't start spinning romantic daydreams around him, I would report him to the cops and/or start walking down a different street. And in a world in which women do get harassed on a pretty routine basis when they dare to venture out into the public sphere (do they not know this is the proper domain of men???), I find it distinctly distasteful that the writers suggest that Miranda finds this harassment all a sexy adventure. [Blogger hits the buzzer--because I've just decided I should have a buzzer, why not?--to express that the writers have run afoul of her house rules.] Repeat after me, writers--being harassed--not. Sexy. For. The. Women. Folk.

2) Eager as I am for Miranda to walk away from Captain-Creepy-Sandwich-Pants here, and glad as I am that the writers don't end the episode with her having a fling with him (praise the divine powers of the universe for that one)--the reason she turns him down, in the end, I find to be quite lame. Because she turns him down not because he sexually harassed her, but because she's a lawyer, and he works at Subway. Ummmmm, Miranda, sweetheart? Didn't we have this conversation when you were dating Steve? Didn't you actually slap your friend Charlotte's wrist a little, for telling you that you shouldn't date Steve because he was "working class"? Didn't we learn from that that the barometer of whether or not to date someone is, you know, whether or not you actually like them, and whether or not they are the kind of person who will or will not harass women on the street, and not whether or not they are an investment banker, or similar? I... had thought so. But it seems not! My mistake!

Next Up...?: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," in which we analyze and deconstruct the absolute rubbish policy which our government and military are foolishly persisting in upholding, despite the fact that it is not only patently discriminatory, but makes no bloody sense to boot... oh, no, wait, I'm sorry, the episode is actually all about Charlotte's wedding! (Yay, I love SATC weddings! Except, it may shock you to learn... this one's gonna be a little rough.) And the episode is also about Carrie feeling that she needs to tell Aidan about her affair with Big. (Um, yay, for watching people cry and hearts be broken...?)

Monday, November 22

Season Three, Episode Ten: All or Nothing

Hello, dear friends! How I have missed you! (Whether or not you have missed me is another question, and one which I will not embarrass you by asking you to answer.) It is truly wretched and unacceptable for me to have been radio silent all last week--how dare I? Alas, I have come to the point in the semester where I feel as though I am drowning in a veritable sea of grading and academic labors--my youngsters have book reviews due, paper proposals due... it does not end.

But--let us put Grading Madness to the side for the moment, and turn to Adulterous Madness, instead. For though Carrie, unlike me, is free from the grading which now haunts all of my waking hours, at least I, unlike Carrie, am free from adulterous enmeshment with a married cad. I'll take piles of papers over emotional self-destruction any day! And so... let us proceed!

The Summary:

All right, so, delaying the pain no longer--let's talk Carrie and Big--The Affair.

So, as you may recall from 2007, or whenever it was that I last posted (it feels a veritable AGE), in our last episode, Carrie caused me to develop an ulcer by sleeping with Big. Big, who is, of course, married to another (one) and a world-class blighter of Carrie's life (two). [Head makes violent contact with desk.] Carrie cannot stop thinking about said Big-Sleeping-With, both in an appalled "Mercy, what have I done?" sort of way, and in a shamefacedly delighted "Mercy, but I did enjoy what I did" sort of way. I don't know about you, but I scent danger in the air...

Carrie confides in Sam about her illicit luvvvvv (assuming, quite wisely, I think, that the Big-Detesting Miranda and the About-To-Be-Wed Charlotte might not react to news of her Big-Flavored Assignation positively), asking Sam what's wrong with her, how could she have done such a dreadful thing, etc. Carrie is clearly looking for someone to give her a good slap upside the head (ooooh, pick me, pick me!), and firmly point out to her the profound unwiseness of taking a stroll down Affair Boulevard with Big. Alas, sadly for her (and for us) Sam is not the right person for this particular job (Carrie: "Don't you want to judge me, just a little?" Sam: "Not my style.") Now, I am usually a big fan of the non-judgmental-ness, but for Pete's sake, Sam, now would be a nice time to judge/to take Carrie by the shoulders and shake her till her teeth rattle.

Left to her own devices, Carrie does all in her power to forget about the Big-Sleeping-With--files her articles, defrosts her fridge, organizes her shoes... but to no avail. She still has Big on the brain. [Blogger's note: With all due respect to freelance writers, whom I know in real life are overworked and underpaid, I cannot help but think that this is where not having the seemingly endless leisure time which our fictional free-lancer appears to have might have been useful. I suspect that most of us would have to actually schedule time to obsess about our pending slide into adultery, rather than try to distract ourselves from it by idly moving our shoes from one part of our closets to another.]

ANYWAY. Carrie calls Big. [Hand smartly slaps forehead.] She insists that they need to rationally discuss what happened between them... which quickly translates into "sleep together again." [Forehead connects painfully with wall.] As Carrie embarks on The Affair Proper, Aidan declares his love for her. (Not while she's actually in flagrante with Big, obviously, that would be... awkward.) Of course he does. Carrie responds to this declaration with a corresponding assertion of affection--less, it seems, because she genuinely does love him, and more because she feels guilllllty about the fact that she is two-timing him with her morally-questionable ex.

Things quickly start to go pear-shaped in Affair Land (are we shocked?), with Big calling Carrie while Aidan is at her apartment, acting jealous, threatening to leave his wife, and causing Carrie to lose Aidan's dog. (Only temporarily, happily, the pooch makes his way home safe and sound, in the end--fear not, animal lovers!) Carrie ends the episode tearfully vowing to herself that she will end the affair pronto, because she finally seems to be aware that conducting said affair seems likely to end in heartbreak and disaster, not only for herself and Big, but also for innocent parties Aidan and Natasha. Yeah, we'll see how that goes.

And what of the other ladies, you inquire? Well, Charlotte is throwing herself head first into Bride and Wedding Madness--some parts of which she loves (i.e., getting to pick out ludricrously expensive wedding china at Bergdorf's), some of which.... not so much (i.e., having to negotiate the terms of her pre-nup with Trey's mother.) Because, it turns out, 1) Trey won't marry her without a pre-nup, and 2) Trey's mother Bunny is the one who sets the terms of said pre-nup, with Trey washing his hands of it entirely. (Once again, from the peanut gallery, I note.. the whole "my mother pretty much runs my life, and I quite like it that way" thing... red flag, Ms. York!)

Charlotte wisely has the lawyerly Miranda review said pre-nup, and learns from her that she'll "only" get $500,000 after a few years of marriage (HA), and will get a set sum of money for every son that she bears... but no money whatsoever for any daughters. Charming! Charlotte is most troubled, not by this whole-sale devaluing of female children, but rather by the fact that she is "only" worth $500,000. (Again I say--HA.) She is terrified to negotiate with Bunny about these financial terms (Charlotte: "Negotiate??? I can't even buy stuff on sale!"), but swallows hard and does so anyway--threatening Bunny that she'll back out of the marriage unless the pre-nup bumps her net worth up to a cool million. (How... romantic?) Bunny backs down, the pre-nup is signed, and Charlotte is once again restored to perfect happiness. [Blogger mutters bitterly under breath, to self: "Glad that this whole mess of a story line made someone happy, anyway, 'cuz it sure as sugar wasn't me."]

All right, so--onto Miranda. Miranda's plot line bores me almost to the point of tears, but does not, at least, make me want to smash things, as Carrie's and Charlotte's do, so... progress! Miranda meets George, who works at her law firm's Chicago branch, while he's in New York on business. They hit it off. After George returns to Chicago, they start having phone sex. Which goes swimmingly, until Miranda discovers that she is one of George's many phone sex partners. And so, she breaks off contact with his multi-phone-sex-partner-having self. [Blogger struggles to keep eyes open and remain upright, so uninterested is she.]

Sam, meanwhile, has the flu. As in, a really bad flu. During the course of said really bad flu, she tries to get one of her gentlemen conquests to come and help her out with some manly household tasks which have arisen during her illness (i.e., her curtain rod has come unsprung. And her female friends couldn't help her with this because...?) Finding that none of the men she's recently slept with is at all interested in helping her through her illness, a teary Sam laments to Carrie that being a single woman sucks, that a lady's life is meaningless unless she has a man who loves her, and that she is all aloooone. (Carrie: "We are not alone, we have each other." Thank you, Queen Adultery, nice to see you're still doing some good around here.) Happily, once Sam recovers, she puts all of her "as a single woman, my life is a bleak pit of bleakness, because only a man's love could give meaning to my life!" talk behind her, and blames her expression of said sentiments on the severity of her illness, and her heavy-duty medication. All right, then!

The Analysis:

Piece of Trivia Which I Feel Compelled to Shove Down Your Throat Against Your Will
Watch: So, when Big shows up on Carrie's block and starts a huge fight about the future of their affair, said huge fight scene was shot on a street in the Village where one of my very dear friends actually lives. Neat, huh? I mean, not to you, why should you care, but I was all "I have so been on that street. I so recognize those awnings" when I saw it. It made me feel PDS (Pretty Darned Special), I can tell you.

So It Appears We Are Actually Taking Adultery Seriously for Once, Thank Goodness For That, Watch: So I have ranted on this blog before about how darned much the show's often cavalier attitude towards cheating has irked me. Non-monogamy and open relationships or marriages? Mazel tov, enjoy yourselves, consenting adults, who candidly make respectful decisions about their emotional, romantic, and sexual lives. My blessings upon you.

But sneaking-behind-people's-backs cheating? Quite different, and quite distasteful. I like it not. And it's kind of nice to see the show taking the very real human costs of such behavior seriously, for once, rather than writing another "my, what an amusing lark adultery is, tee hee!" type story. The writers make it clear from the very beginning that by cheating on the sweet Aidan (and being complicit in Big's cheating on the harmless Natasha), Carrie is wading into very dark and deep waters, indeed, and that her cheating is doomed to wound and damage, not only herself, but all parties involved, however innocent they might be.

And while of course I would prefer not to see Pain and Doom descending on all of these peeps' heads (okay... except for Big, I'm totally cool with that--heap on those coals, writers/gods of vengeance!) I'm glad to see the writers taking this whole mess seriously. Give yourself an appropriate number of cookies, writers!

Ah, Let Us Once Again Conflate Massive Economic Privilege with Female Self-Assertion and Empowerment Watch: So, as you may have already gathered, I find the Charlotte plot line here totally irritating. Now, I am aware that this here show of ours focuses on characters who are rich--or who are, at the very least, far more economically privileged than the majority of the American public/than we humble plebs in the audience. And watching these ladies' relentless conspicuous consumption and careless erasure of their class privilege (i.e., Carrie is forever lamenting how "poor" she is, all the while living in a nice apartment in a great neighborhood in one of the most expensive bloody cities in the world, and buying designer clothes and shoes--she cries poor when she, say, can't afford a fabulous dress--boo frickin' hoo, Marie Antoinette, my heart bleeds for you) is certainly irritating in and of itself.

But when it comes to matters of the pocket book, I am most troubled by the writers' (not uncommon) conflation of "female independence and self-assertion" with "buckets and buckets of shining cash." Because the writers clearly intend Charlotte's "I am demanding a million dollars in my pre-nup" plot to be a triumphant narrative,which is all about Charlotte learning to be brave, and stand up for herself. Now, I am all for being brave and standing up for yourself, but forgive me for being troubled by the fact that all of Charlotte's discussions of "what she's worth" here boil down to how much she is worth... financially. According to terms determined by her husband-to-be's family, and contingent on her making a success of wifehood (again, on their terms), no less. Yeouch.

If Charlotte was making a bid for a raise or pay equity at work, then I could buy this "more money equals more female empowerment" notion. But Lily Ledbetter Ms. York is not, and I find it hard to celebrate her "victory" of getting more cash out of her future mother-in-law, while not in any way challenging the fundamental assumptions behind this rather nasty pre-nup. (Which of course includes the idea that sons and heirs are worthy of cash, but daughters and non-heirs are not, for the love of Pete, people. Is this seventeenth-century France??? Because if so, I would at least like a fabulous wig to compensate for the whole-sale devaluation of girl children here.)

"The Choices Are Endless": Ah, How Nice to Know that Women Are Totally Emancipated! Woooo! Watch: So Carrie makes a little speech in this episode which I find deeply annoying in large part, I suspect, because similar sentiments are expressed with alarming frequency by my students who (charming people though they are) seem firmly convinced that we live in an age of total gender parity, and that the ladies of today have noooo barriers whatsoever standing between them and full and equal participation in all parts of American society/the world in general. How nice for we womenfolk! Oh, wait, I forgot... that is actually total balderdash. Sexism lives, mes amies, as your intelligent selves are all too painfully aware.

Carrie, by contrast, intelligent woman though she is... does not seem so aware of this fact. Here's her leetle post-feminist speech, for your amusement/bemusement: "Since birth, modern women have been told that we can do and be anything we want--be an astronaut, the head of an Internet company, a stay-at-home mom... there aren't any rules anymore, and the choices are endless.... But is it possible we've become so spoiled by choices we've become unable to make one?"

All right, so, let Cranky Feminist have at this sucker. Cranky Feminist sayz:

1) First--CF sourly points to the class privilege implicit in these statements about "modern women." Do all girls and women have access to the kind of education and training which would make becoming, say, an astronaut possible? CF says--no! That's kinda contingent on having the economic wherewithal to go to college, grad school, and so on, and so forth. (Let alone have the fundamental encouragement to excel in math and the sciences...)

Do all women have the option to become stay-at-home moms and full-time homemakers, outside of the paid workforce, if they wish to do so? CF says... no! That, too, is contingent on having the economic resources to survive as a family on one income... and that is also assuming that all mothers have partners who can prove said income in the first place, which... is not so much the case!

So far: Carrie's-Delusional-Assertions-About-the-Limitlessness-of-Women's Choices-in-Modern Society: 0. Cranky Feminist: 2. [CF smiles like the proverbial cat-who-has-found-the cream, and cracks her knuckles--she is just getting started.]

2) Next up: Cranky Feminist vs. Carrie's-Declaration-That-The-Ladies-Have-Endless-Choices-And-Live-In-A-World-Without-Gendered-Restrictions-Or-Rules. [CF can barely speak, because she is doubled over in half-hysterical laughter at this one, with tears (partly from the laughter, but mainly from the pain) streaming down her face.]

So... do we, in fact, live in a world in which women have nothing but choices, choices, choices, and there aren't any rules about proper gender roles and behavior anymore? CF... thinks that this one is so patently ridiculous that it almost isn't worth refuting, but nonetheless states the obvious and says... no! Let's see. Do women have full, equal access to any profession they choose? Nope. Do women still face gender-specific discrimination and harrassment in the workplace in particular, and in the public sphere in general? Yup. Are women who have male partners, and who have children, still expected to accept primary responsibility for domestic labor and child care in their homes and families? You bet your sweet bippy. [CF thinks that she could go on in this vein forever, but settles for the new score--Carrie's-Delusions-About-Post-Feminism: o; CF: 3, and moves on.]

3) And finally... have all of the choices which all women now (ostensibly) have universal and complete access to made them flighty, indecisive, and unable to settle on anything, or commit to anyone? (Which seems to me/Cranky Feminist to sail perilously close to the "Sigh, life was soooo much better before feminism made women's lives so complicated" argument. Yeah, take me back to the good old pre-feminist days--how much I would have enjoyed having to marry in order to secure my economic survival, and having little to no ability to determine my own reproductive future. Those were the days!)

CF says... no! The only thing that Carrie is right about here is that women in the early 21st century do, indeed, have waaaaay more choices about their lives and how they want to lead them than their mothers or grandmothers did. But having more rights, opportunities, and choices--does not, CF/I would contend, turn women into indecisive flibbertigibbets, but rather gives them more scope to build independent lives for themselves, of their own choosing. And I/Cranky Feminist... am hard-pressed to see the downside there.

And so... our final score: Carrie's-Post-Feminist-Loopiness: 0. Cranky Feminist: 4. Woooooo! U.S.A! U.S.A.! [Ignores reader grumbling that the contest hardly seems fair, when the judge of the contest is also a participant in it. Heck, the process may have been corrupt, but the conclusions... they are still sound.]

Maybe Singlehood Is Not A Horror and A Curse, After All, Watch: In the Samantha plot line, I think that the writers do rather a nice job of digging themselves a rather unpleasant anti-singlehood trench, but then nimbly hopping out of it, back onto solid, pro-singlehood ground. [Blogger wonders to self if trench metaphor works, or if it is too reminiscent of trench warfare. Shrugs, makes a note to re-read All Quiet on the Western Front again soon, and moves on.] Because of course, when ill, Sam spouts every anti-singlehood cliche in the book: all single women are tragically alone in life! All single women's lives are devoid of meaning, because they lack a man's love! (Because of course... all single women are straight. Good to know!)

Happily, Carrie (although acting totally insane in this episode otherwise, please make it stop), is the Voice of Reason here, noting that Sam will never be alone, because she has the love and support of her friends. Awwwww. And once no longer on heavy-duty meds, Sam too recants her "marriage is the only route to happiness for the ladies, why is my life such a hollow lie???" malarkey. Excellent. Nicely done, writers, maintaining your "sure, loving and being loved by a good man is swell, but it is just possible for the heterosexual ladies to also have swell lives even sans said good man" stance here. I tip my hat to you.

Next Up...?:
"Running with Scissors," in which the ladies engage in various kinds of profoundly unsound and unwise behavior--I know, like we haven't seen enough of that lately. For the love of Pete, people, do I have to send you reminder cards reading "Please refrain from marrying strangers who are controlled by their domineering mothers" and "Please do cease and desist engaging in any and all adultery which might be filling your days at the moment" or what???

Friday, November 12

Season Three, Episode Nine: Easy Come, Easy Go

The Summary:

Hello, my friends. I hope that you have some strong meds on stand-by, as this episode... seems positively designed to cause headaches. I know that you are brave and valiant individuals, however--and so, into the breach let us march!

So Carrie is pretty darned happy with Aidan. He is a delightful bloke, treats her with respect and consideration, makes her laugh, all that good stuff. Carrie, happy with a nice man? Surely, this cannot last. And indeed, it does not. As we know from our last episode, Big is once again prowling on the periphery of Carrie's life, making ambiguous noises about his Marital Discontent. Except in this episode, these noises get much less ambiguous, in that--1) a drunken Big tells Carrie that his marriage is a failure, and that he's consequently planning on leaving his wife of seven months (Big to Carrie: "If you know anyone who's interested..."), and 2) a hungover Big calls Carrie the day after this drunken assertion to say that he would leave his wife, but that getting divorced would be way too expensive for him (classy as ever, sir!)

Carrie is furious, disgusted, and quite convinced that this most recent example of despicable behavior on Big's part has finally gotten him out of her system, once and for all. But... of course, it hasn't. Having rented a hotel room to write in while Aidan is stripping the floors in her apartment (more proof of 1) Aidan's niceness, and 2) the writers' cracked-out delusions of what freelance writers can afford to do and not do--go to a coffee shop to write, woman, it's a little cheaper than renting a bloody hotel room), Carrie is followed to said hotel by Big. They have a rather heated discussion in which Big proclaims that he doesn't really know what he wants or what he's doing, but that he misses Carrie, knows his marriage was a mistake... ahhhh, and that he loves Carrie, as well. I see.

Carrie is furious, disgusted... yet quite thunderstruck by Big dropping The L Word. While her brain and her common sense inform her that this is just another chapter in the never-ending "Big=Bad News/Destroyer of Home, Hearth, and Happiness" saga, her heart and her flesh... are rather more susceptible. And so... she sleeps with him. (If you had just gone to Starbucks like I told you to, none of this would have happened, missy! Unless coffee shops in New York are waaaay more permissive than the ones in Pennsylvania...?)

JEEPERS. Okay, so, what else is going on this episode? Sam's plot line provides the most vivid contrast, so let's start there. Sam is dating Adam, a gent who has, she declares to the ladies, "the funkiest tasting spunk." (Apparently, it is a mix between rotten asparagus and Clorox. Delightful.) Never one to accept defeat, Sam tries to tackle the problem by getting Adam to eat a healthier diet, in the hopes that this will resolve the Asparagus-and-Clorox-Issue. Turns out, it doesn't. When she addresses the Taste Issue with Adam directly, he refuses to believe that anything which he himself has created could be so revolting. So Sam makes a deal with him (I cannot believe that I am about to type this, but I must)--sample your own essences, and tell me what you think of their delicate flavor, or say buh-bye to oral sex forever. And so... sample his essences he does. Appreciating the game spirit which this gesture reveals, Sam nonetheless eventually concludes that she cannot be with an Asparagus-and-Clorox-Tasting-Gent long-term. And so... buh-bye, Adam! Buh-bye, plot line which, although rather icky to recap for y'all, at least made me forget about the Carrie-Big Mess for a minute!

Miranda and Steve, meanwhile, are in the final throes of their break-up. He's still sleeping on her couch, as he can't find anywhere else to live. Miranda, in the spirit of "just because we're no longer together doesn't mean that I don't want you to be happy and thrive elsewhere, and also, I really do want you off my couch" helps him to look for a new apartment. He finds one--but not before he has started seeing other ladies, whose voicemails start popping up on Miranda's home phone. (Oh, the days before widespread cell phone use, how cruel they could be!) Delightful.

They finally part ways quite cordially, with some tears, well wishes, and promises to keep in touch. A grown-up break-up, well done, y'all. (Though, Steve, giving your new ladies Miranda's home phone number, seriously? Did you hit your head and become Big for a second? Because that is some high-grade thoughtlessness there!) Buh-bye, Steve! For the moment, anyway...

Charlotte, meanwhile, is still dating Trey, and is quite firmly convinced that he is about to propose to her. Even though... they barely know each other. (Miranda: "You've just met, I've had pairs of pantyhose longer.") She meets his mother, the hair-bow-wearing, chain-smoking, old-money-possessing Bunny (I hope that's a nickname, but one never knows...), and sees that Bunny pretty much has Trey under her thumb--she gently makes a suggestion, Trey instantly acquiesces to said suggestion, whatever it may be. Some women might find this "my mother can quite effortlessly control me" thing unsettling, but Charlotte is delighted, for it shows that Trey is amenable to feminine influence. Ummmm, goody?

One night at dinner, Charlotte (in approved Bunny style) gently suggests to Trey that they get married. Trey (in patented Trey fashion) instantly acquiesces to said suggestion, saying "All right-y." The tradition-loving Charlotte is, of course, not delighted to be engaged, but rather appalled by how said engagement happened. Trey wasn't the proposer, he was the propose-ee! He wasn't the asker, he was the ask-ee! (Carrie: "Who cares about those stupid rules?" Charlotte: "I do!") Brooding over this for awhile, Charlotte decides that she will just invent a new and improved engagement story, in which Trey proposes to her in front of Tiffany's. Ummm... all right-y!

The Analysis:

Watching Carrie Get Sucked Back Into the Toxic Whirlpool of Big Madness YET AGAIN Watch: Ah, so here we are again, watching Carrie do something quite self-destructive, by re-entangling herself with a quite reliably destructive gent (and cheating on her quite reliably charming boyfriend in the process, of course--thus placing a rancid cherry on top of this already unpleasant-tasting sundae.) It seems to me that we have before us a classic Wuthering Heights type situation--in Gent A, we have a man who is kindly, thoughtful, considerate--an altogether lovely and delightful individual. In Gent B, by contrast, we have a sulky sociopath, who likes to string up dogs in his spare time. Which of these gents ought our heroine to be devoted to, and compelled by? I suspect most of us would go with Gent A, appreciating his kindliness, and lack of tendency to hang small animals from trees. However, which of these gents is our heroine devoted to, and compelled by? Alas, it does seem to be Gent B, who although emphatically mad, bad, and dangerous to know, possesses a capacity to strike to the core of our heroine's heart in a way which Gent A does not. Heathcliff may be a thoroughly nasty piece of goods (it still baffles me that he is held up as a romantic hero in the popular imagination--he's a rapist who kills small animals, people), and Big an immature, commitment-phobic twerp... but our heroines love them. Oh, hearts. Why must you lead us in such unsettling and unwise directions?

"I Can't Do That, That's Gay": Ah, Panic About Being Tainted By Gayness, How Pervasive Thou Art: So when Sam makes her "drink of the poisoned well from which I have been made to drink, or else" offer to Adam, he protests that he can't possibly sample his own gentlemanly essences, because to do so would be "gay." Ah, watching a straight man panic about his heterosexuality being in any way questioned or challenged! What a pleasure it always is! Since this anxiety is presented as quite ludicrous by the writers, I think this moment is less troubling than it is yet more sorry proof of the rather pervasive "for me to be seen as gay would clearly be the worst thing ever" attitude on the part of some straight gents. I can think of lots of reasons to not want to sample one's own bodily fluids, but fear of being perceived gay for doing so... not one of them!

"There Was No Ring, No Kneeling, No Nothing": Depressingly Unromantic Wedding Proposals Watch: I will agree with Charlotte here that her engagement story is a wildly unromantic and depressing one, but less for the reasons which she herself outlines (that everything is out of whack because she should have been the one to be asked, not the one to do the asking--oh, the gender disorder!) and more because she barely knows the man whom she is proposing to, and because he seems to accept her proposal with the same casual, unemotional calm which most of us would reserve for assenting to take a stick of gum. Trouble. Ahead. There. My. Friends.

On the plus side, I think the episode does happily side with Carrie, with her whole "who cares who proposes to who, as long as all parties concerned actually want to marry each other" attitude. And also on the plus side, I think that the episode does throw up lots of red flags when it comes to the Charlotte-Trey engagement--the writers are clearly sympathetic to Charlotte's desire to find the right man, fall in love, and get hitched, but they also represent her "I need to get engaged now, because I have an age-appropriate, in-many-ways-suitable man in my line of sight, and I must be in love, because he's... you know... nice... from what I've been able to gather so far..." attitude as a definite problem. Good writers. Give yourself a firm pat on the back.

Wait, We Are Actually Questioning Gender Essentialism Here, Seriously? Is It My Birthday Or What??? Watch: I cannot believe that I am about to type these happy words, but this episode actually takes a trite, cliched, oversimplified idea about gender difference and questions it. [Raises fist in a gesture indicative of victory.] Carrie begins the episode by thinking about how our society accepts the truism that men think logically and women emotionally, musing that maybe it's not "that cut and dried." Halle-bloody-lu-jah, in the therapy business, I do believe that they call that a break-through. A stereotype about gender difference actually buries the complex truths about how all of us, regardless of our gender, think, feel, and react to people, situations, and the world--and Carrie has just acknowledged this. YES. SUCCESS. [To self, ominously, under breath... for now, anyway.]

Notable Quotables: Miranda, on the different ways in which she and Steve are perceived in the wake of their break-up: "A thirty-four-year-old guy with no money and no place to live, because he's single, he's a catch. But a thirty-four-year-old woman with a job and a great home, because she's single, is considered tragic."

Samantha, cutting through Miranda's "I really do want the best for Steve, even though he is dating other women while still sleeping on my couch" protests: "Oh, please, there's always a contest with an ex, it's called 'Who'll Die Miserable.' "

Next Up...?:
"All Or Nothing," in which the Carrie-Big affair continues, as does my desire to step on a rusty nail, get tetanus, and end my pain, once and for all. And we also have some very festive discussions to unpack, about how modern women have unlimited choice and opportunities in their lives, and how there are no more barriers to female independence, success, or self-determination anymore. How nice to know! I'm glad to hear that my sense that our culture is still very much a sexist and hierarchical is totally off-base! Hooray!

Wednesday, November 10

Season Three, Episode Eight: The Big Time

[Blogger's note: Just so you know, I haven't been dilly-dallying over writing this blog post because it heavily features Big (oh, Big, my bete noire, the perpetual headache hovering around my poor, besieged, um, head), but rather because I have been spending more time than anyone ought to of late in Grading Hell. Oh, Grading Hell. Why did Dante never write of your terrors?

ANYWAY. Just wanted to clear that up/whine about grading. And so--onwards!]

The Summary: Oh, times which are big, let us contemplate them!

Okay, so, it seems like everywhere Carrie goes these days, she runs into Big. A Big who is darkly, ambiguously flirtatious, and makes vague, portentous statements about the potential unsoundness of his marriage. A Big who is clearly and visibly displeased to hear that Carrie is dating a man whom she finds, in her words, "perfect." A Big who (in an act of un-Big-like directness) leaves her a voicemail, telling her that he can't stop thinking about her. [Slumps forward over keyboard, afraid to go on.]

And what is Carrie's reaction to all of this Big Activity, you ask? An uncomfortable (for her, and also for we humble viewers--perhaps especially for we humble viewers) mishmash of feelings. She clearly wishes both to do the obviously sensible thing (tell his potentially adulterous self where he, and all of his dark flirtation, can go), and to do the patently unsensible thing (and hear his potentially adulterous, darkly flirtatious self out.) Her feelings, they are complex. My feelings, they are less so. ("Dear Big: Go boil your head. Best regards, Holly.")

So when we leave Carrie at the end of the episode, we leave her rather in peril--wishing to be uncomplicatedly happy with the charming (and totally single/available) Aidan, but with a complicated undertow of feeling pulling her back towards the rather less charming (and not at all single) Big. Alcohol--she may need some. Alcohol--I shall definitely need some.

And what of the other ladies, whose heartstrings are mercifully not intertwined with those of would-be adulterous cads? Let us see. Charlotte has officially begun dating Trey, her knight-in-shining armor from our last episode. Trey is all of the things which Charlotte has ever hoped for in a swain--namely, is handsome, blue-blooded, well-mannered, and rich. [Blogger thinks to self that self cannot stand to give yet another lecture to Ms. York about the raging shallowness of her current "Things I Am Looking For In A Fella" List, and so does not bother.]

Charlotte is quite convinced that Trey is The One. Charlotte is quite convinced that she is In Love. Her friends... are rather less convinced, on both fronts. [Carrie: "You've known him for two weeks. You can know his e-mail address, you cannot know he is The One."]

Quite certain, despite her friends' skepticism, that this is in fact Some Day, and that her Prince has officially come, Charlotte is taking a good solid page out of The Rules playbook, and is steadfastly refusing to sleep with Trey. This has nothing to do with an Aidan-esque, "I would like to know you better ere becoming your lov-ah" attitude, or with a genuine desire on Charlotte's part to not sleep with Trey just yet, but rather because, you see, you cannot sleep with a gent too quickly, lest he cease to respect you/come to think of you as too slutttty to one day be his blushing, white-veil-draped bride. Good to know! Moving on!

Let us venture towards The Land of Miranda next. I wish that it were a happier land, for all our sakes, but I fear that it is not. For it transpires that Miranda and Steve are having Major Problems. (But... Miranda was so darned happy doing his laundry but one short episode ago!) Steve wants them to have a baby. As in... now. Since they've only been living together for two months, and Miranda is up for partner at her firm at this precise moment in time, she feels that this is a bad idea. She conveys this to Steve. Steve... is sulky.

Said sulkiness leads Miranda to feel like she already has a baby in her house--and not the cute kind whom you can buy cupcake-shaped hats for, either, but rather the less cute "I am thirty-four years old, but am still going to sulk and give you the silent treatment, rather than rationally talk to you about what's bothering me" kind. Soooo, to recap: Steve is not happy, because Miranda turned him down re: the immediate baby-making. Miranda is not happy, because of Steve's immature behavior, not only re: the immediate baby-making, but also re: life in general. (Miranda to Steve: "I cannot be in charge all the time--we're supposed to be equals, partners!")

They have a huuuuge fight, which culminates in Miranda breaking up with him. Sadness. Not that I enjoyed watching Miranda going into raptures about how amazing it was to wash Steve's undergarments (what pleasure in life could be deeper or richer, after all?), but those crazy kids genuinely seemed happy together. Bummer! Additionally, Steve is actually nice, and goodness knows, nice men are in short supply in this here series. Ah well. Buh-bye, Steve! Or should I say... au revoir?

Samantha is also having rather a rough time of it, it transpires. (What an episode of Doom and Gloom this is turning out to be!) So Sam's period is late, and she is worried that her last period was, well, her last period--as in, on this earth, and that she has officially entered menopause. She... is not so pleased by this development. (Sam: "I'm day-old bread, my time is up!")

Sunk in despair about her alleged day-old-bread-ness, Samantha accepts a date with Len, a creepy guy in her building whom she had always rejected before, not because he is creepy, but because she considered him too over-the-hill for her. (Even though... they are clearly not that far apart in age?) Continuing her dark slide into the Slough of Despond, Sam ends up sleeping with Len--at which point, lo and behold, her period returns!... all over Len's quite sickeningly expensive sheets. Sam is delighted! Len is disgusted! (So am I--not about the menstrual blood, that, I'm familiar with--but with how much Len spent on his sheets. Such a ludicrous outlay of capital for mere bedding? Now that is icky.)

The fact that she is still a menstruating lady, rather than a menopausal one, means that All Is Right With The Universe, according to Sam. Suddenly, she feels herself restored to youth! Vitality! A lack of need to despairingly sleep with creeps she does not actually like! And so--buh-bye, Slough of Despond! Buh-bye, Len! Buh-bye, Len's ridiculously overpriced bedclothes! Hello, LunaPads/Diva Cup/Menstrual Product of Your Choice! (Too many exclamation points there, but I cannot help it!)

The Analysis:

Please Take Note: All Women Want Is Love, All Men Want Is Sex
Watch: So this episode made me think of nothing so much as that god-awful poster for that god-awful movie The Ugly Truth, which features stick figures of a man and a woman, with a cartoon of a heart drawn on the woman, you know, where all of our hearts, regardless of our gender, actually are, and the same heart cartoon drawn on the man, smack-dab in the middle of his gentlemanly area. Ah, suggesting that men think and feel with their penises! What a refreshing, charming, and original notion it is! Except, wait, nope, sorry, it's not actually any of those things, now, is it?

I am put in mind of this distasteful idea here because of the way that the Charlotte-Trey plot line wraps up in this episode. Trey (after TWO WEEKS, mind you) declares his love for Charlotte--to which declaration, Charlotte, of course, eagerly responds with a corresponding assertion of her love for him. (Two. Weeks. Here. People.) After this mutual declaration of affection, Carrie informs us, "That night, Charlotte got everything she wanted. Trey got a hand job." Delightful.

Please pull out your omnipresent notepads and scribble down the following: "Women are only interested in romantic love. Men are primarily interested in sexual gratification." Because, of course, throughout the episode, Trey has been angling for greater physical intimacies, and Charlotte, for greater emotional intimacies. Because that doesn't in any way play into any lazy stereotypes which I can think of, about women's and men's priorities in life! Blurrrrg.

"Men Are Like Cabs": Yet Another Heapin' Helpin' of Gender Essentialism Watch: So if the whole "women: seek love, men: seek sex" thing didn't annoy you enough, with its charmless oversimplifications of women's and men's desires and aspirations, you will be pleased to know that there is yet more annoying gender essentialism on hand in this episode, in the form of a conversation which the ladies have about how men are like cabs. (Yes, really.)

So, Miranda asserts that men are like cabs in that they "turn their light on" when they're ready to settle down and have a family. (Before that, they just drive around picking up women, without truly being available. Get it? Picking up? Available?? Cab metaphors???) Once their "commitment light" is on, however, they pick up the first appealing lady whom they see to be their passenger/wife/mother of their children. Sounds... romantic!

Miranda affirms that while it takes a long time for men to "light up" with the, um, cab flame of domesticity, most women have been lit with it "pretty much since birth." Please take up your notebook and pen yet again, writing the following words down, to be memorialized for the ages: "Men... delay making a commitment to a woman/family life/domesticity as long as possible. Interested in settling down into domestic life only after any and all possible wild oats have been sown. Women... eager to make a commitment to a man/family life/domesticity as soon as possible. In fact, wish to do same from the time they are wee tots." [Blogger places fingers to temples, in the vain hopes of massaging the pain away.]

Gentlemen, How They Despise Ladies Who Are Too "Fast" Watch: There are times, when I am watching SATC, when I feel as though I have fallen through the looking glass, and am immersed, not in a TV show from the 2000s, but a very confusing and contradictory guide to sex and dating from the 1920s. "Be sexy all the time! Lure your man in with your wily feminine wiles! Slap on that red lipstick, raise those hemlines to the roof! You exude sex. Heck, you are sex. But while you're busy doing that, please also keep in mind that if you let your fella take "excessive liberties" with you (this being the 1920s, we can't spell out exactly what that means, but use your imaginations), he will think you are a dirty, dirty tramp who deserves neither his love nor his respect--and he will be quite right to do so.") Ah, mental whiplash and headache-making mixed messages, we meet again. How are you, old friends?

I find such guidebooks distasteful (if also super fun to read--so much festive flapper slang!), much as I find Charlotte's "I want Trey to respect and value me as a person, therefore I need to curtail physical intimacies with him, regardless of my own desires in the matter" attitude distasteful. And to think, we were doing such good work with the slut-shaming but a few short episodes ago! Oh, back-sliding. How frequently we seem to engage in it.

"I'm a Little Older Than You": The Horrors of Female Aging--OH, THE HORRORS--Watch:
In addition to some irritating slut-shaming and some charmless gender essentialism, this episode is also worth noting, I feel, for its "nothing on God's green earth could be worse than being a woman and going through menopause, spare me the bleak horror of it all" discourse.

Samantha clearly feels that her sexual desirability, and indeed, the survival of her very sexuality itself, is contingent on her not getting older/entering menopause. Do menopausal and post-menopausal women experience physical changes which impact and in some cases fundamentally change their sex lives? Sure. Are older women relentlessly defined in our culture as less desirable than younger women? Absolutely. But does this mean that once a lady ceases getting visits from The Menses Fairy that she actually is "day-old bread," who has nothing left to look forward to on the romance-and-sex front than dull encounters with creepy blokes like Len? I'm going to go with... no, no, it doesn't.

I think that this episode rather loses its balance on the tightrope here, in its discussion about female aging. I don't think that there's anything wrong with showing that Sam is anxious about becoming older, and has been impacted by the relentless negative representations of older women as hopelessly unattractive and distinctly un-sexy which she's been subjected to, living in this wacky sexist and ageist culture of ours. We are all of us human, and living in a culture which calls women "cougars" for dating men five years their junior, but doesn't blink an eye at men dating lasses twenty years their junior--which starts pushing hair dye onto the ladies after their first gray hair, but calls men who have gray hair "distinguished," and so forth and so on, into infinity, surely does leave some scars.

It's buying into the distinctly unpleasant system which gives us those very scars which I find troubling. Sam's response here is not so much "so, the world thinks that I am undesirable since I've passed the age of 40/will soon stop menstruating/have refused to remain perpetually 22, now, does it? Well, then, bugger the world," as it is "ahhhh, the world is right, the world is right! Without my youth, I am nothing! Please come back, period, I'll buy you, um, whatever it is that periods like, if you do! Pretty please, with sugar on top???"

I realize that it is not easy for any of us to single-handedly take on a media and a culture which constantly tell us that we can't possibly be desirable or valuable or likable if we're not [fill in the blank: young, thin, white, able-bodied, "pretty," and so on, and so forth, into infinity.] But I'd have liked to have seen a little more push-back against the whole "for women, aging=unending nightmare of unwantedness and undesirability" attitude here, and a little less "phew, Sam got her period back, so therefore she can still legitimately be seen as sexy, and have a satisfying sex life" malarkey. Happily, the show actually gets better with age, when it comes to reflecting on women and aging. Coincidence??? I think not.

Next Up...?:
Return to me anon, and we shall discuss our next episode, "Easy Come, Easy Go." Since said episode features a drunken Big, and lengthy discussions on Sam's part about the undesirable taste of her latest gentleman's gentlemanly essences, I, for one, doubt there will be anything "easy" about it...