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.

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