Friday, January 14

Season Three, Episode Eighteen: Cock A Doodle Do!

The Summary:

I hate this episode title. Just thought I'd get that out of the way now.

But what of the episode itself, you ask? What's happening there? Well, Carrie is facing two main issues--the first is being that the vets on her block have put roosters on their roof, and said roosters are waking her up at the crack of dawn every bloody morning. (Who among us has not faced a similar situation, I ask you?) Annoyed by this, Carrie initially decides that she'll still put up with it, so as to allow the roosters to enjoy fresh air and freedom. But she subsequently decides that she actually can't handle their racket, and asks the vets to move the roosters into the basement of their building... which they do. This is supposed to be symbolic of... something (the nature of freedom? the difficulties of making peace with our neighbors? the benefits of an outdoorsy life?) but I'm not quite sure what. I don't think the writers are quite sure what, either, to be honest. I think they threw the roosters in here primarily so that they'd have the chance to make numerous "cock" puns. And on that score, at least... mission accomplished!

Carrie's second issue is more significant, in that Big has gotten in touch with her, as he wishes to see her, and talk over The Affair and its aftermath. (What could possibly go wrong there?) Carrie decides that she will, indeed, meet him, which precipitates a huuuuuge fight with Miranda (while they are at a thrift store, no less--lower your voices, ladies, we must not upset the bargains!) Miranda, not unreasonably, thinks that this is a massively bad idea, as Carrie seeing Big... tends to lead to Very Bad Things. Things take an ugly turn when Miranda accuses Carrie of being "pathetic and needy" when it comes to Big (ding ding ding, I do believe we have a winner!), and Carrie counter-accuses Miranda of being excessively judgmental, and having "thrown Steve away." Yiiiiikes.

But all's well that ends well, in the, well, end. Carrie and Miranda make up, and though Carrie does indeed meet and talk to Big, Very Bad Things (for once) do not happen. They talk about the affair, how stupid they both were to engage in something so destructive and damaging, muse on the fundamental disorder and chaos of life... and then Carrie leaves. Big (in typically suggestive Big fashion) says she's welcome to stay... but she does not, realizing that Big as Romantic Prospect/Sexual Partner=Very Bad News. Progress! [Blogger to self, ominously, under breath: "For now, anyway...."]

And speaking of Miranda... in addition to fighting with Carrie, Miranda is obsessed with the idea that the woman who works at her favorite Chinese restaurant is laughing at her, for ordering the same take-out food every week. (Yes... seriously.) She realizes in the end, however, that this is silly (thank you), and that the woman could care less about Miranda and her dining habits.

In addition to this fighting/Big-meeting/Chinese takeout madness, Miranda and Carrie also (gosh, their plotlines just go on and on, don't they?) bump into Steve and Aidan, and learn that both gents have new girlfriends. (And Aidan also has a madly unflattering new goatee, which--yuuuuck.) Carrie and Miranda are appalled that they are both still obsessed with what went wrong in those relationships, while their exes have (seemingly effortlessly) already moved onto new ladies. Are men just fundamentally less obsessive about matters of the heart than women? (Bloggers' verdict: than women in general--no. Than these particular women--yes!)

Miranda later bumps into Steve AGAIN (you would think Manhattan was the size of Little Tinysville, Indiana, population 362, the way this show carries on), and they have a pleasant, friendly conversation, in which Steve reassures Miranda that she didn't "throw him away," and they chat amicably about his new girlfriend. Hooray for showing the potential which exes have to act like grown-ups, and even to be friends! Excellent!

Okay, I think we can now safely move onto Charlotte and Samantha and their shenanigans... phew! So, Charlotte, as we know, has separated from Trey, moved back into her old apartment, the whole nine yards. She proclaims that she has sworn off men, is done with romance and sex and love, etc., etc. Ummmm-hmmmm, I totally believe her! Except... I don't, at all, and I am quite right not to do so. Trey comes to her apartment in the middle of the night one night, tells her he can't stop thinking about her since she left him, and they sleep together. As in, actually sleep together... all of Trey's issues when it comes to Bedroom Matters seem to be magically gone! Nice how that works out.

If this was your typical romantic comedy, I reckon things would stop there--Trey finally realized what he'd lost in Charlotte, and miraculously gets his act together both emotionally and sexually, and now they can live Happily Forever After. But the show does something a little more interesting and complicated with this scenario... neither Charlotte nor Trey is sure of what their next step should be here. Do they want to try to get back together? Do they want to be married--to each other, one, or at all, two? They don't know! And so, we don't know! Nobody knows! UNCERTAINTY. And there Season Three leaves us, with Charlotte poised somewhere between singlehood and married-ness...

Samantha, meanwhile... sigh. This is the most painful plot line of the lot, which might be why I saved it for last--delay the pain as long as possible. So, the street on which Sam lives is also a street on which three trans sex workers (Destiny, Chyna, and Jo by name) pick up their clients. This trio is rowdy. Said rowdiness distresses Sam not a little--she wants a quiet life, a quiet neighborhood! So she gets into an increasingly unpleasant feud with the three women, which finally results in a detente after Sam throws a party for them. (???) This might not sound too horrendous on the surface, but trust me... it is. There is enough talk of "half-men, half women" to choke a horse/make your humble blogger want to hide under the covers until the horror has passed.

The Analysis:

People of Color Watch:
The three trans sex workers whom Sam battles with in this episode are all African-American, and (as we shall see)... they are not represented too terribly positively! Two of the women whom Miranda interacts with at the Chinese restaurant which she goes to/freaks out about are (perhaps not entirely shockingly) Asian. They both have very few lines, very minimal parts to play in the episode, and relentlessly get referred to as "the Chinese take-out lady," and similar. If I have learned nothing else from SATC, I have at least learned that that all Asian women are either a) dragon ladies, or b) work in Chinese restaurants. Good to know!

Marriage: Some Actually Not Entirely Uninteresting Reflections About It, Yay! Watch: First, to the good stuff. Because soon enough, we're going to have to dive into the Sam plot line and let me assure you... that is alllll bad stuff. Okay, so, discussions of marriage. I think this episode actually does some neat stuff in thinking about marriage and our society's ideas about/pressures surrounding it here--goody!

As Charlotte laments to her friends about her newly separated state, she declares that "the only thing worse than being 34 and single is being 34 and divorced!" To which Miranda quickly replies that actually, being 34 and trapped in a miserable marriage is worse than either of those things... a sensible perspective which I think that we, as viewers, are actually supposed to agree with. (Excellent!) Perhaps being happy (whether that happiness comes through being married, partnered, single, whatever) is more important than avoiding the "stigma" of not being married/being divorced--a shocking concept! And... one point to Ms. Hobbes.

Charlotte and Trey also have a pretty interesting conversation about their marriage specifically, and about marriage generally, in the wake of their tryst--Charlotte asks Trey why he agreed to marry her in the first place, if he wasn't sure that he was really the marrying kind/interested in being married, and (in addition to noting that she is a splendid and wondrous person--nice touch, sir), says "I thought it was time--I'm of a certain age--people expect you to get married," to which Charlotte replies "Sounds familiar..." Eureka! An acknowledgment that our society pressures both heterosexual women and men to get married! Can it be true???

I surely do appreciate seeing Trey note that, though he'd been perfectly happy as a single 40-something gent, he nonetheless felt considerable pressure to marry, just because he was at (or even past) the age at which he was expected to be paired off by his family, his friends, and the world in general. And said expectations, of course, had the unfortunate effect of prompting him to actually get married, even though he didn't think that he was suited for, or inclined towards, the married state. Nice to see the writers highlighting the fact that our society's notions that singlehood past a certain age is undesirable (at best) and unacceptable (at worst)... can have some adverse consequences! And nice to see Charlotte and Trey actually talking about this stuff--maybe if Trey had opened up this line of communication at the beginning of the season, we all could have been spared all of the grisly Miseries of the MacDougal Marriage stuff?

"Chicks with Dicks": Wince-Inducing Discussions of Trans Women, Sex Workers, and Humanity in General Watch
: So the stuff between Sam and Destiny, Chyna, and Jo in this episode... is a little unpleasant. How is it unpleasant? Well, dear readers, let us count the ways:

1) All four SATC women clearly regard these three women as amusing (at best) and icky (at worst.) When Sam helpfully provides her own definition of a "transsexual": "chicks with dicks--boobs on top, balls down below," Miranda says, "I don't see the appeal there." Because goodness knows, the most important thing here is what you do and do not find "appealing," Ms. Hobbes. (That point I gave you before? Taking it away now! So there!) Showing our four, cisgendered female leads talking about these women and their bodies as though they are absurd (at best) and distasteful (at worst) plays into some rather unpleasant attitudes and ideas about trans women and their bodies as "unnatural" and "disgusting" which I find it truly unpleasant to see on display here.

2) The show also definitely plays Destiny, Chyna, and Jo's sex work for laughs here--Sam amuses the other three ladies by recounting their conversations about their clients, which Carrie and Miranda meet with uproarious laughter (and Charlotte hears in appalled silence, naturally.) Given the fact that numerous trans women (especially trans women of color) turn to sex work because of their difficulties accessing other types of employment, and that they face a disproportionately high rate of sexual assault and abuse while doing that work, I find that this whole "ha ha, how amusing these ladies are, with their dirty mouths and their amusing sexual practices" angle here a little distasteful. Maybe Destiny, Chyna, and Jo freely chose to become sex workers, and enjoy their work. But given the realities of systematic discrimination against trans women, the high levels of poverty among trans women, and the fact that these three women are shown working on a street corner being harassed by cops... my tendency is to doubt it.

3) And just to pile it on, the episode also engages in some truly (say it all together with me now) unpleasant gender essentialism, as well. Because goodness knows, the best way to respond to trans people, and questions about the inherent untidiness and fluidity of gender identity, is to staunchly insist that the gender binary is REAL and UNSHAKABLE, dammit! I defy you to even attempt to shake it!

So Sam is initially able to have pleasant dealings with Destiny, Chyna, and Jo because (as Carrie's voice-over notes) "Samantha always knew how to get her way with men--even if they were half women." I see. Please pick up your ever-present notebooks, and scrawl down the following important concepts: "A person cannot truly be transgendered. Similarly, a person cannot transition from being a man to being a woman, or define themselves as being a woman, while still in any way being biologically male. If you are a transgendered woman who has not yet had/does not intend to have bottom surgery, then you are not trans nor a woman, but rather 'half man, half woman.' " How useful this is to know!

Similarly, things eventually go wrong between Sam and these three women because... they are "half women" after all, and as such (I'll bet you can guess!)... really bitchy! Seriously, women. Even when they are not "real" women, they still cause lots of trouble with their bitchy, bitchy ways, am I right? [Blogger goes to lie down, to dream of a world in which the only trans characters in the series were not represented in such a simplistic, reductive, negative, and distasteful way. Oh, sweet, sweet dreams...]

Next Up...?: Coming up on Monday, we take stock of Season Three--what were its highs? What were its lows? Why did that whole "wearing giant flower pins on one's shirt" fad actually take off, when it is so inherently loopy, impractical, and potentially fire-causing???

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