Monday, December 6

BOCS Gets Drowned-in-Papers-fied

Hello, dear friends. I do hope that this post finds you all well, and keeping warm in this chilly winter weather (as applicable. It sure as sugar is as chilly as the dickens in sunny Pennsylvania. Brrrrrr.)

I write to inform you that I shall very likely be totally AWOL for the next couple of weeks (tears, violins)--the end of the semester is upon us/me (tears, gnashing of teeth)--Grading Hell is about to begin, and I reckon that the waves upon waves upon WAVES of papers which I am about to receive [braces self for impact] shall be keeping me away from BOCS (tears, and yet more tears) for a bit. And so--be well until we meet again, and please look forward to discussing the following, when we finish up Season Three, once we are together once again:

1) Carrie riding on a scooter, getting mugged, and deciding that sitting down to have a chat with Big's soon-to-be-ex-wife is a super idea [hand slaps forehead]

2) Miranda getting braces, dating a beautiful cop, and forming conspiracy theories centered on her favorite Chinese restaurant

3) Charlotte getting drunk in public, reconnecting with her old sorority sisters, and going all Lady Chatterley on us with a McDougal family gardener

4) Sam meeting a woman who is even more sexually open than she is, grappling with a bratty 13-year-old client, and getting into difficulties with some of the transgendered sex workers in her neighborhood

It shan't be dull, I promise! Much for us to look forward to, to be sure!! See you on the other side of Grading Nightmares!!!

Friday, December 3

Season Three, Episode Fourteen: Sex and Another City

The Summary:

Can we please leave L.A. already? I miss New York! But the ladies, surprisingly... do not. They are actually coming to like and appreciate the City of Angels. (That's it, I'm going to need to confiscate your "dyed-in-the-wool, until-death, hard-core New-Yorker" badges right now, SATC ladies! Hand 'em over!)

Wishing to fully appreciate all of the sun and sand (well... sun, anyway) of L.A., Carrie informs us that frequent bikini waxes have become a regular part of her L.A. routine. (To which I say... yeouch, both on account of the vulnerable flesh, and the yet more vulnerable pocketbook.) At the salon one day, Carrie has a miscommunication with her esthetician, and ends up getting a Brazilian wax against her will. Oops! And again I say--yeouch!

The year 2000--clearly, it was a more innocent time, as Carrie is horrified by having this done to her, and clearly regards being sans pubic hair as really, really weird (rather than as a default state for the womenfolk.) Meanwhile, in this year of Our Lord 2010, my students inform me that it is not at all uncommon for gals to start getting all of their pubic hair removed as soon as they actually have any to remove. Yeeeeeesh.

Anyway, Carrie blames her Brazilian for her decision to throw herself into a fling with Keith (played by Vince Vaughan, whom I believe was still an indie actor at this point... ah, the years before Wedding Crashers, they too were a more innocent time!) Keith is an agent for some super-duper fancy celebrities... or so he leads Carrie to believe. Turns out, he's more of a house-sitter for some super-duper fancy celebrities, as Carrie discovers when Carrie Fisher discovers her and Keith in a state of undress in her home. Ah. I see. Buh-bye, Keith/Vince Vaughan! (Is it too late to ask you not to make Fred Claus? I suppose that it must be.)

All right-y, onto the other ladies! Miranda has reconnected with her friend Lou (played by the delightful Sam Seder, whose Majority Report radio show helped me to survive the Bush presidency(ies)--thanks, Mr. Seder!), a formerly sarcastic, embittered New Yorker who is now a full-on convert to the sunny optimism of L.A. Sounds great! Except... turns out, it's not so much, because Lou has also embraced the "you must be thin and gorgeous" ethos of L.A., and has consequently taken to not really eating. Boo. Get thee back to New York stat, Lou--go out and get yourself a big ol' sammich at a diner, and start a liberal radio talk show! You'll be the better for it, I promise!

Samantha, meanwhile, meets Hugh Hefner at a party. Of course she does. And she is ecstatic, because he is her childhood hero. (Of course he is--what a great role model for the ladies Mr. Hefner is! I appreciate your staunch support of the pro-choice movement, Mr. H, but apart from that... you and I, we are not compatriots, allies, or comrades-in-arms.) She is even more ecstatic when he invites her and the other ladies to a Playboy Pool Party. Ummm... yay? The ladies attend, find it all a little creepy (SHOCKER), and end up getting thrown out after Sam accuses a Bunny of stealing her purse. Ah. I see. No Christmas card for you from Hef's swinging bachelor pad, then, I suppose, Samantha J.! Too bad!

Charlotte, meanwhile... is in L.A., too! After several more times trying to get Trey to talk about his ever-so-slightly troubling impotence problem and their ever-so-slightly distressing complete lack of a sex life, she gives up, and decides to jet off to L.A. for a break. (Ummm... I don't have a husband, impotent or otherwise, to take a break from, but mercy how I would like to have the ability to jet off to the West Coast on a whim which Mrs. McDougal possesses. Though of course, I'd be heading to San Fran and not L.A., thankyouverymuch.)

At the pool party, Charlotte ends up chatting with Ian, a gent who seems to be quite delightful... until he makes the unsolicited offer to pay for breast-augmentation surgery for young Charlotte M. (Ummm... can I take the money which that would cost and spend it on books, instead? I don't mind being Flat of Chest, but I would like to better Endowed with Books.) Remembering from this encounter how bizarre and dispiriting the dating world can be, by the end of the episode, Charlotte is eager to get back to Trey, and the city.

And this is a sentiment shared by all of the ladies (well... not the Trey part, just the city part, but you know what I mean)--at the end of the episode they realize that they love New York, belong in New York, and can't wait to be back in New York/back to their regular lives. Hooray for appreciating what you have! Hooray for ditching L.A.! Hooray for seeing the last of Hugh Hefner in the series! Hooray... in general!

The Analysis:

Recognizing That Not Eating... Is, Indeed, A Problem! Watch:
I realize that this is setting the bar pretty darned low, but I must say, I find the fact that the show presents Lou's refusal to eat solid foods (so as to remain "suitably" slender) as a problem... is a good thing! There's definitely some messed-up and problematic stuff which happens in the series regarding body image, and I'm reassured to have the writers call a spade a spade here, and say that Lou's eating disorder... is in fact an eating disorder! And that not eating normally just to conform to a narrow and unhealthy standard of beauty... is bad! Excellent!

And I guess it's something, too, to show that men (as well as women) experience pressures to look a certain way, and are encouraged to aspire to a distinctly unhealthy body ideal... sorry to see it happening to Lou, but still--nice job, writers, in noting 1) that eating disorders do indeed exist in men, and 2) making it clear that such disorders are baaaad. Give yourselves a fistful of stars! Or maybe... go and have a nice, healthy, filling meal instead... I suppose this is more fitting?

"I Am COMPLETELY BALD": Revisiting The Politics of Pubic Hair Watch: Though, if I am going to be scrupulously honest here, I suppose that the episode doesn't really enter into the politics of pubic hair, per se--there is never the least question, for example, of whether or not Carrie and the other ladies need bikini waxes so as to be fit to be seen in public, for example. (This "keeping your pubic hair meticulously groomed is a sign that you are doing your proper work of Being A Real Woman" theme also comes up in particularly distasteful fashion in the first film, I warn you in advance--with it being suggested that not having a scrupulously maintained Lady Area is an unacceptable violation of femininity, and a surefire way of losing your man, to boot. Charming!)

I suppose I think that Carrie's "it is so odd not to have any hair 'down there' " moment feels noteworthy to me, not because the show does anything to question the idea that a lady simply must suffer significant pain and spend large sums of money to keep her pubic hair in "acceptable" shape (because it doesn't), but rather because it seems so quaint and touching that removing all of your pubic hair would, indeed, still be considered odd, circa 2000.

Because in this current world which we appear to live in, this is not so much the case, and the pressure for women to remove even the whisper of hair from her Lady Area seems to be quite considerable. Now, if a lady wishes to go sans hair, I wish her nothing but luck with and joy of said hairlessness. But I do wonder about the cultural messages and ideals which make hairlessness, not one option among many, which can be chosen or not chosen without judgment, purely according to personal preference, but rather as the appropriate way to be "sexy." Living in a world in which twelve-year-old girls get Brazilians makes me wistful for a time when thirty-four-year-old women found them rather shocking and outre. Ah well. Days which have vanished (at least for the present), it seems!

"One Woman's Pornographer Is Another Woman's Spiritual Leader": Let Us Valorize Hugh Hefner, Shall We? Watch:
You may have already gathered that I find Sam's "I've loved Hugh Hefner since I was a mere slip of a girl!" thing a little distasteful. Growing up pouring over Playboy, and drinking in its messages about what makes a woman "sexy" and "desirable"... probably not the healthiest thing in the world for a lass? Perhaps it might be one piece of the puzzle, when it comes to thinking about why Samantha is so consistently obsessed with maintaining physical "perfection" (i.e., never allowing any visible signs of aging to, well, become visible on her body, etc.)? You grow up looking at cookie-cutter images of air-brushed, never-aging feminine "perfection"... this might shape how you view yourself as a sexual being and a woman, now, mightn't it? (I mean, I realize that we all growing up looking at such images--thank you, corporate media! Thank you, soulless advertising industry!--but I reckon that Playboy's passive, vacant model of female "sexiness"--perhaps even more potently toxic than the average rubbish which we all cope with? Makes you sad that the Playboy empire is teetering on its foundations, now, doesn't it? [Smiles to self smugly.])

I also wish that the show hadn't led us down The Path to the Playboy Mansion because it's such a bummer to see Samantha (who is usually all sexual agency, all the time) embracing the whole Playboy idea of women not as sexual actors, but rather as sexual objects. The Playboy version of female sexual liberation, after all, is about being "free"... to take your clothes off and pose sexily (but non-threateningly!) for gentlemen's viewing pleasure. Ummmmm... yay? Oh, and of course to be "free" to fit the extremely narrow mold of female "sexiness" on display in Playboy--almost without exception, young, white, blond, thin, able-bodied, heavily made-up, devoid of body hair or any bodily flaws or imperfections whatsoever, and surgically enhanced. Ummm... goody?

The closest which the episode gets to criticizing this unpleasant vision of female sexiness and sexuality is to have Carrie and Miranda react with baffled amusement to the parade of young, scantily clad, and often surgically-enhanced young women (and not young, not as scantily clad, and surgery-free men) whom they encounter at the pool party. Hmmm. I would have been more pleased if, when asked to attend said soiree, the ladies had refused and stayed in the hotel reading Carol Queen or some such, instead. Narratives which give women control over their own sexuality and are, you know, fundamentally interested in women as actual sexual subjects... I approve!

Next Up...?: "Hot Child in the City," in which we consider whether or not thirteen-year-old girls acting like thirty-something women is okay, and (correspondingly) whether or not thirty-something women acting like thirteen-year-old girls is okay. To the former, I say... no, and to the latter, I say... dear goodness, why would anyone even wish to do so such a thing? Being thirteen was dreary enough the first time, for Pete's sake--I am quite convinced that I shall have no desire to revisit the experience once I enter my thirties next year, thankyouverymuch...

Wednesday, December 1

Season Three, Episode Thirteen: Escape from New York

The Summary:

Okay, so, as the title may have already suggested to you--this episode features the ladies going on a road trip, away from their beloved NYC. (Or at least... the non-married ladies. Sorry, Charlotte!) A production company is considering optioning Carrie's columns, to transform them into a film (trust me, y'all, turning SATC into a movie or movies... bad. Idea), and want to fly her out to L.A. to discuss it. Miranda and Samantha tag along, and as you can imagine... hijinx ensue! And so... to those hijinx let us now turn!

Though I guess, if I am going to be perfectly accurate here, Carrie, for one, is not feeling terribly hijinx-y. She is, by contrast, actually feeling pretty darned miserable, in the wake of her break-up with Aidan, the bloody ending to her affair with Big, etc., etc. She hopes that leaving NYC for a bit will give her the chance to forget about Aidan, Big, and the whole affair mess for awhile. Yeeeeah... good luck with that!

Turns out, it's Matthew McConaughey who is interested in optioning her columns, and Carrie is summoned to go and meet with him. Now, I've always found Mr. M a charmless and vaguely creepy screen presence (apologies to The McConaughey, I hope that he's a very nice man in real life), and this episode does not in any way alter or modify this distaste on my part. In their distinctly bizarre meeting, McConaughey pretends to be Mr. Big (whom he hopes to play in the proposed film) and propositions Carrie--then shifts from propositioning, to asking Carrie why she and Big are both such deeply messed-up people, who ruin all of their relationships. Yikes. What fun for Carrie, on all fronts!

In the end, Carrie decides that what she needs is to not be interrogated by creepy strangers/movie stars about the mistakes she's made in her romantic past, but rather some time and space to figure them out on her own, re-group, and re-build her life. So that's what she decides to do. Sounds... surprisingly healthy and sane! Well done, Ms. Bradshaw!

Miranda, meanwhile, is feeling that she is too buttoned-down and repressed--she needs to embrace life, to be freer, to be sexier! Turns out that being life-embracing, free, and sexy translates, for Ms. Hobbes, into riding a mechanical bull in a bar, and tearing off her shirt whilst doing so. Ummmm... yee-haw?

Samantha... is not riding a mechanical bull, mercifully, but is rather getting to know Garth, a nice poet, who also happens to be a dildo model. (I am told that this is a very common combination.) Samantha very much enjoys sleeping with the poetic Garth, but has noooo interest whatsoever in hearing anything which he has to say, or learning anything about him. Delightful!

Garth says that he's been thinking about moving to New York, and would love it if he and Sam could continue seeing each other... Sam, embarrassed by the thought of introducing sex-industry-worker Garth to her fannnncy friends, and fundamentally uninterested in him as an actual person, vetoes this idea. But, as Carrie's voice-over says, when Samantha left the real man/poet/individual Garth behind, "she took the best part of him with her" (meaning, of course, the dildo which he'd modeled for, and had given to her.) Wow. That is... harsh!

Charlotte, in the meantime... is not in L.A. at all, but rather is still in New York, settling into her life as Mrs. Trey McDougal. Not entirely happily, since she and Trey, it transpires, never had sex on their honeymoon (after a couple of unsuccessful tries, they turned to playing golf instead... yiiiiikes.) Trey won't discuss the matter, and Charlotte is understandably upset both by said silence, and by the aforementioned Lack of Consummation.

Via the electric telephone, Carrie advises Charlotte about how she can determine whether or not Trey's impotence is physical or emotional... i.e., by wrapping a ring of paper around the unconscious Trey's penis, to see if he is capable of getting an erection while he's asleep. (I mean, is there a sitcom in the history of TV that doesn't have a variation on this plot line?) Turns out, the Paper Test reveals that... Trey is, indeed, physically capable of having an erection! Hooray, Charlotte is happy! Except... wait, nope, scratch that--actually, Charlotte is sad, because this means that she's dealing not with a physical problem, but rather with an emotional one. Ah. Tricky, that! Perhaps riding a mechanical bull and ripping your shirt off might help?

The Analysis:

Ah, Let Us Compare Men to Objects Once Again! Watch:
So as you may have already gathered, I find the whole "ah, Garth, how I do value your gentlemanly area, but no other part of your body, mind, heart or spirit!" thing rather distasteful. Ah, reducing men to their penises! How it does rival in charm the practice of reducing women to their vaginas!

Now, I would not be understood to condemn Sam entirely and completely here--she's bored by Garth? Fine. (His poetry is pretty dreary, I will admit--but keep following that muse, sir! Believe in your dreams!) She's just looking for a casual fling whilst in sunny California? Fine. But must this translate into such a nasty disregarding of Garth as an actual person, as well as a (I guess talented is the right word...?) dildo model? Must this translate into Sam actually referring to him AS "A DILDO," rather than as a human being? I feel that it does not.

I also rather dislike that the primary reason that Samantha rejects Garth isn't it even that she finds him dull (which... fair enough, some of his poems last a loooong time), but rather because of the nature of his chosen profession. (And no... not talking about the poetry here.) When Garth brings up the possibility of he and Sam continuing to see each other in New York, Sam's first thought is that she couldn't possibly introduce "Mr. Dildo" (as she dubs him) to a room full of her glamorous friends at a Met gala. Are you bloody kidding me? Soooo... you support the sex industry, eagerly participate in it as a consumer... but would be ashamed to be on the arm of someone who freely chooses to work within it? I disapprove, Ms. Jones. Disapprove, I say!

Miranda Hobbes, Supporter of Rape Apologist Logic Watch:
So in this episode, as Miranda is lamenting to Carrie about how much she wishes that she could let loose and be more openly sexual (which, fair enough, follow your bliss, Ms. H--but could there have been a better way to feel free and sexually confident that ripping a perfectly good shirt off, whilst riding a mechanical bull, in the middle of dive bar...?), she points out a woman wearing a short, tight, low-cut gold lame dress, wishing that she could be more like this Golden Lady.

Carrie instantly assumes that, because of the way that she's dressed, that the GL is a sex worker. (Of course she does. Because for a woman to appear in public in racy garb means that she definitely must work in the sex industry. Or... perhaps not?) Admiring the GL's willingness to dress in such an overtly sexy way, Miranda demands of Carrie, "Do you think there's any chance she's not up for sex?" No. She. Did. N't. But alas... yes she did. Our own Miss Hobbes, invoking the extremely creepy language and logic usually drawn on by rapists. ("I could tell that she wanted it because of what she was wearing," etc.) Delightful.

Except, nope, sorry, my mistake... that was actually a HORRENDOUS thing to say. The only way you can know that a lady is definitely "up for sex" is if she tells you that she is. Otherwise... no. Maybe gold is her favorite color. Maybe she had a bad day, and wore something festive to cheer herself up. Maybe she just wanted to go out on the town looking sexy, dang it. But--and please repeat after me, Miranda H.--just because a lady is wearing a sexy dress does not mean that she is signaling her complete sexual availability to the world at large. And affirming that she does... plays into the nastiest possible "well, if she hadn't been wearing X, I wouldn't have done Y" rape-apologist type logic.

And now if you will excuse me, I need to go watch "My Short Skirt" on an endless loop on YouTube. "My short skirt is not an invitation, a provocation, an indication that I want it, or give it, or that I hook. My short skirt is not begging for it--it does not want you to rip it off me, or pull it down." A-bloody-men to that, sister.

Next Up...?
: "Sex and Another City." Yup, we are still in L.A. Boo, I miss the East Coast! I miss it even more when the ladies attend a pool party at the Playboy Mansion. Yes... they really do. [Pillows head in arms, and seeks comfort in sleep.]