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...

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