Friday, June 24

Season Four, Episode Seventeen: A "Vogue" Idea

The Summary:

Hello, dear friends! Are you ready to sail into the offices of Vogue (whilst not in the company of Anne Hathaway)? Good, I thought you might be. And so--let us go!

So, as part of her "perhaps I should try to actually get my financial life on track" campaign, Carrie has taken a freelance job at Vogue. (Beats taking a midnight shift at Piggly Wiggly, I suppose!) She breezes her way into the magazine's offices as confident as confident can be. She LOVES Vogue. She reads Vogue religiously. Surely, writing for Vogue will be a delicious dream come true?

Oh, dear reader. Of course it's not. Turns out, the editor she has been assigned to work with, Enid (played by professional-pisser-off-of-Dan-Quayle Candace Bergen) is kind of mean. Covers Carrie's pieces in red ink, is generally clipped and brusque and pull-no-punches-ish when she talks to Carrie about her work (and her need to revise, revise, revise said work. Revise it, I say!) Darned female bosses! Bitches all, clearly.

Carrie flees from the harsh Enid to go work with the charming Julian, another Vogue editor who takes a rosier view of her work, and goes pleasingly easy on the hard words and the red ink. All is well with Julian--he supports her professionally! He tells her delightful stories about his courtship of his ballerina wife! He seems all things nice and paternal! What could possibly go wrong there!

A goodish bit, it transpires, as Julian 1) suggests that Carrie has issues with men generally/daddy issues specifically because her dad walked out on her family when she was little, and 2) offers to help her resolve said issues by sleeping with her. Awww, Julian, you shouldn't have! No, really--you shouldn't have. Carrie tells Julian to go take a hike, dismisses his cheap, self-serving psychoanalyzing as... cheap, self-serving psychoanalyzing, and decides to work with Enid from here on out. Sure, Enid is harsh, but she is also helping Carrie to grow and develop as a writer, and maybe... a female boss who challenges you is better than a male boss who removes his pants in the workplace? Methinks so!

Charlotte and Miranda's plotlines are intertwined in this episode, as an eager Charlotte offers to throw a baby shower for a reluctant Miranda, and a reluctant Miranda (as reluctant people will) reluctantly accepts. If you will recall from Season 1 (if you can think back that far... it is difficult, I know! Miranda wore nothing but boxy pantsuits back then--HORRORS), Miranda is not so much a fan of baby showers--all the cutesy baby decorations; all the, as she puts it, "enforced oohing and aahing" over baby gifts, etc., etc. She wants a baby shower with no frills, no fuss, and fried chicken on the menu. The elegant, traditional Charlotte--resists this idea, and keeps cramming the shower with cutesy baby stuff, despite Miranda's objections. TENSION.

Said tension increases after Charlotte comes to Miranda's apartment one night to help her baby-proof it, and said help devolves into her calling said apartment "a death-trap" and making Miranda feel guilty and defensive for not yet having made decisions about breast-feeding, co-sleeping, and many other maternal matters. They fight, and Miranda worries that she (who is apparently capable of yelling at her struggling-with-infertility-and-divorce friend, even as said friend is throwing her a baby shower) lacks the necessary nurturing, patient qualities which will make her a good mother.

When Charlotte bursts into tears in the middle of her baby shower, however (an attendee had given Miranda a Tiffany's rattle identical to the one which Trey had given Charlotte in their struggling-to-conceive days--yeouch), Miranda discovers, however, that she is, indeed, capable of nurturing and comforting those she loves, as she helps soothe Charlotte during her meltdown. Turns out, a lady can still be loving and caring, even if she 1) is a Type A workaholic, and 2) hasn't read a single book about parenting. As always, SATC, you know how to shock and surprise me!

Meanwhile, in Samantha Land... it is soon to be Richard's birthday, and Sam is seeking the perfect present. He helpfully suggests having a threesome with a beautiful, 21-year-old hostess at a restaurant which they frequent, one Alexa by name. Sam was probably thinking something more along the lines of a spice rack... but okay!

Reckoning that Richard is going to have sex with other women either with her or without her, Sam reckons that with her is the best way to go, even though she herself would prefer to be monogamous. So she proceeds with the threesome, which (happily for her) proves to be disastrous, given the potent combination of Alexa's propensity for calling Richard "Daddy," and Richard's own distaste for getting older/recognizing that he is, indeed, of an age to be Alexa's father. (Which you are, sir. Deal with it.) They summarily kick Alexa out (sorry, youngster! Hope you can find someone nice, and maybe... more your age?), and Richard says that he and Sam should give monogamy a shot. A happy ending! [Ominously, under breath: "For now, anyway..."]

The Analysis:

Awesome Hair Cuttery Watch: So in somewhat of a tangent, I will note that Carrie cuts her hair in this episode, as a symbolic "I am starting my new life, and starting it looking amazing, by the way" gesture. (For my own musings about the all-important Cathartic Haircut, see the following from... golly, last year. Jeepers! My hair has gotten sooooooo loooong in the interim! Note to self: must get it cut again. Especially since haircuts seem to lead to jobs at Vogue!) I love Carrie's new cut, as, indeed, I have pretty much loved Carrie's hair across the board in the series. There... isn't too much of an analytical nature of these comments, I know. But... haircuts are neat! Yay! Haircuts!

People of Color Watch: One of Miranda's colleagues who comes to the shower is African-American. Nice for another brief flash of a professional African-American woman in the series (albeit, a very brief flash), and as an added bonus, her baby is adorable. Yay! Adorable babies!

Aging Madness Watch: This episode does raise some gender-specific worries about aging, particularly in the "I Want to Sleep with a 21-Year-Old" Richard-Samantha subplot. Sam is feeling anxious about this encounter, not only because she doesn't actually want to sleep with anyone but Richard, but also because she's concerned to see Richard manifesting a taste for waaaay-younger-than-her flesh. Troubling, indeed. [Note to self--Richard=creepy. Oh, wait, I already made that note about four episodes ago.] Sam laments (but does not question) the radical differences in how male and female aging are treated in our culture, fretting that "men get better looking as they get older, and women get--"--presumably the reverse, but she happily doesn't get to finish this unpleasant thought, as Carrie cuts her off with a sarcastic, "Threeways, apparently." Thank you, Ms. Bradshaw!

Happily, this episode voices these "male sexiness only increases with age! However, any woman over 32 is a withered husk!" stereotypes only to undermine them--Alexa is certainly beautiful, and surely seems like a nice kid--but at the end of the day she is, in fact, a kid, and Richard eventually realizes that he'd rather be with the complicated, interesting, and, of course, still bloody gorgeous forty-something Samantha. Good choice, sir! (Though please note that I still. Don't. Like. You.)

"How the Hell Do We Know?": Women Being Uninterested in Motherhood=Fine Watch: I do also enjoy how this episode just matter-of-factly demonstrates that Carrie and Samantha are completely uninterested in all things baby-related. They love Miranda, and are happy for her (especially Carrie), but they regard Baby Culture generally with a kind of bemused detachment. They happily buy Miranda gifts, and line up to celebrate with her, but at the shower they are visibly bored by the parade of presents, and cheerfully acknowledge that they don't know what a Diaper Genie is--and they don't care. In a culture which still places considerable pressure on women to become mothers and care about all things maternal, Carrie and Samantha's open lack of interest in The Baby World does rather warm my heart. (Please file this happy representation away for when we get to the movies, when Carrie is compelled to give a loooooong speech about how even though she is childless/child-free/what-you-will, she still loooooves kids. As opposed to luring them into her gingerbread house/eating them in her spare time? You shock me.)

"I'm Going to be a Terrible Mother": Ridiculous Pressures Placed on Women to be "Perfect" Mothers, Both by Selves and By Others Watch: ANOTHER thing I like about this episode (my liking... it seems boundless!) is the way in which it highlights the insane pressures which surround mothers and mothers-to-be in our culture, and the unfortunate ways in which women sometimes turn that pressure on themselves, and on other women. Miranda is terrified that she's going to be an awful mother because she hasn't read all the literature about parenting techniques, the benefits of breast-feeding, etc., etc., which Charlotte has. When Charlotte asks her what kind of mother she wants to be, Miranda replies "a good mother," and quickly learns that this answer is not, well, good enough--according to the parenting books which Charlotte has read, she has to have a much more specific parenting plan and parenting style in mind. (Charlotte: "Do you want to be a marsupial mom, or a stroller mom?" First of all--what??? And second of all--neither!!!)

Not to knock either books or research (I am a professor, after all, so books and research... rather my stock-in-trade!), as I am sure that doing research about what kind of crib you want your kid to sleep in, or reading books about how to navigate breast-feeding are very wise things to do... but this episode does do a nice job of pointing out that this literature/culture can sometimes be, not helpful, but actually oppressive, as it relentlessly makes you feel like a "bad parent" unless you are making all your youngster's baby food by hand, letting them chew on only hand-whittled toys, and have a point-by-point plan for their future intellectual success in place before they can even focus their eyes.

Charlotte is genuinely trying to be helpful when she follows Miranda around her apartment spouting baby advice, and talking about all the books which she's read and which theories she's absorbed, but said spouting sadly has the opposite effect, making Miranda feel like she's a sad, defective parent before her baby has even been born. The episode thus, I think, does a nice job of showing how easy it is to get sucked into the Model Mom vortex... and how ridiculous that vortex really is... for although Miranda doesn't know anything about marsupial motherhood (about which, again--what???), she's ready to love, care for, and foster her pending youngster. Perhaps that, in the end, is more important than having read a library of books about co-sleeping? Maybe?

Gender Essentialism Madness Watch: Have you missed it??? It's been quite some time since I've had to wag my finger [blogger, adopting a stern, school-marm-ish expression--or rather, a more stern, school-marm-ish expression than usual--pauses to do so] about the series' inclusion of "slam-your-head-on-your-desk-annoying" gender essentialism--but I get to do so again now. Yay! I suspect that it shall be just like riding a bike--one never forgets how, really--once learned, it lingers in one's very bones and blood, never to be lost again.

ANYWAY. When Miranda is lamenting to Carrie that she's worried about what not having a full-time father figure is going to do to her baby (even though... Steve?), Carrie says that her baby will have a good father figure in its life--namely, Miranda herself. As the boys of the gone- but-never-forgotten MST3K would say, "Well, I can see that... huh?!?" The notion that Miranda will be a good "father" figure to her baby because she likes sports, and is professional and ambitious, is one which I find both insulting, and dopey. (A twofer!) I also find the implication that "mothers=loving nurturers, father=sports-obsessed providers" binary stereotypical, and distasteful. (A four-fer!) Plus, where do LGBT parents fit into this binary? Oh, we're not supposed to care about LGBT parents? Apologies, my mistake!

Notable Quotables: Carrie, when asked by Julian why she's so drunk after drinking only one and a half martinis: "I didn't eat breakfast, and I'm a size two. Which should make me perfect for Vogue." Unsavory, I'll grant you, in its suggestion that Carrie has bought into our culture's General Body Image Madness with the whole not-eating-thing, but still--it makes me laugh. A little Vogue related humor--starts your day right! (And also--breakfast. Look into it, Bradshaw!)

Carrie to Enid, after Enid says that Carrie knows nothing about either men or shoes: "Men, I may not know. But shoes--shoes, I know."

Next Up...?: Season finale, season finale! Can it be true? How did we get here so fast? [Blogger carefully ignores the fact that she started writing about this season during a bloody ice storm about a million months ago. La la la, I can't hear you, facts! La la la! CANNOT hear you!] And with the season finale comes... DRAMA! Will notorious womanizer Richard cheat on Samantha? Will noteworthy pregnant woman Miranda decide to exchange Pregnancy for Baby? Will legendarily "idiotic when it comes to Big" Carrie do something totally dopey and ill-advised when she learns that Big is moving to California? Will punching-bag-of-the-writers Charlotte's work as a docent at MOMA result in comic disaster? I am going to say... yes, yes, yes... and yes!

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