Wednesday, June 22

Season Four, Episode Sixteen: Ring-a-Ding-Ding

The Summary:

Ah, rings of various sorts and descriptions! Let us contemplate them!

So, as we know from our last episode, Carrie's relationship with/engagement to Aidan is over. [Blogger moves her lace handkerchief delicately to the corner of her eye, to mop away the ladylike amount of moisture which has gathered there.] And it is sad, and awful. He leaves her for good in this episode, and in the wake of said leaving, Carrie cries on her bathroom floor for hours. (Sarah Jessica Parker notably goes without makeup to play these "hideous break-up and break-up fallout" scenes, which has a pleasing ring of reality about it--few things annoy yours truly more than the "I ostensibly have the flu/have been weeping for days, yet my mascara is still flawless" moments on the tee-vee or the movie screen. Please, Hollywood. Please.)

Aidan is giving Carrie 30 days to get together the cash to buy her apartment back from him... otherwise, the apartment shall be hers no longer. Yikes! It's at this point that the episode at least flirts with financial reality (well done, episode!) because Carrie, of course, is broke. She's an over-spender and an under-saver, and has just about nada in the way of financial assets. Unless you count her shoes. (Carrie, as Miranda helps her do the math re: where all of the money which she's made has got to: "I've spent $40,000 on shoes?" This is why I am a devotee of Payless, Bradshaw!)

Where to go to get the money? What to do to get the cash? The bank turns her down for a loan, and though Miranda and Samantha (but, notably, not Charlotte--which we shall return to anon) offer her the money, she refuses to take it. Big also offers her the cash (???)--she accepts his check, but tears it up when she sees her friends' looks of horror at the very idea of her taking funds from her erstwhile Demon Lover. (And maybe my look of horror, too, which I suspect may have been powerful enough to burn through the TV set.) Miranda: "When a man gives you money, you give him control." Ding ding ding, one point to you, Ms. Hobbes! Rip rip rip, Ms. Bradshaw! What are you waiting for?

As aforementioned, when Carrie is lamenting her financial woes, as Miranda and Samantha are offering to loan her the requisite cash, Charlotte is remaining conspicuously silent. Carrie, furious, later confronts her with said lack-of-help-offering, and Charlotte explains that friendship and money don't mix terribly well, and that it's up to Carrie to stand on her own two feet and face her own financial demons, anyway.

Unfortunately, while she's making her "female independence! wooo!" speech, she still has her wedding ring slapped on her finger, and is standing in the massively expensive apartment which her soon-to-be ex-husband had bought for her. It transpires that one of Charlotte's new hobbies is putting her wedding ring on, and wandering around what used to be her and Trey's apartment, admiring both the apartment and the ring as she does so. I see. (Might I suggest knitting as an alternative?) Carrie points out that a "stand on your own two feet, no matter how hard or unpleasant it may be" message seems a little odd coming from a divorcing woman who's still wearing her wedding ring, and the two friends part rather sourly.

Said sourness is happily diffused by the end of the episode, however. (Excellent!) After contemplating other uses for her wedding ring (maybe she could have it melted down into a pendant? Or earrings?), Charlotte concludes that she can't quite bear the thought of her wedding ring--which she had loved so much, and had worn with such hope and happiness--being casually used to make her some random purty jewelry. What she CAN bear, however, is the thought of giving her wedding ring to Carrie, to use to buy her apartment, turning, as Carrie says, "her painful past into my hopeful future." Awwwww. Now that is friendship, right there! (Close personal friends of mine, please take note: you can give me any and all Tiffany diamonds you may have on hand any darned time you like. I will use them to make a down payment on... BOOKS.) So we leave the Carrie/Charlotte storyline with the two ladies realizing that "we're alone again"--scared, but also feeling optimistic as they look forward to the next chapter in their lives. Delightful!

What else is there to say about Charlotte in this episode, you inquire? In addition to pressing her gorgeous wedding ring into Carrie's expectant palm (lucky palm), Charlotte is looking for a job. Not that she technically needs a job--Trey has given her their old apartment and, we understand, quite enough money to live on comfortably, sans paid employment--but rather because she loves the art world, and wishes to get back into it.

Sad fact is, she can't get hired because she has too much experience for the jobs which are available. Bummer. Sorry that you're being denied the chance to pursue the work you love, Ms. C. Feel free to slip me any of that extra cash which you've got lying around any old time you want--stuffing money into envelopes for me might help to fill up all those idle hours, after all!

Okay, so from Carrie and Charlotte, we move to Miranda. Miranda... is super, super pregnant. (Aren't television pregnancies neat? She discovered she was pregnant in Episode Eleven, and by Episode Sixteen, she is just about ready to pop. And real pregnant women of the world laugh bitterly, and throw things at the television.) Turns out... pregnancy is physically challenging! You shock me. It has all kinds of things associated with it which Miranda finds rather unpleasant--she is gassy all the time. Her hands and feet have swollen up beyond anything she could have ever previously anticipated. She is also thinking about sex round the clock, which... she finds inconvenient. She confides in Steve about allll of said problems, and he 1) tells her that she is not, contrary to her own belief, ugly, but rather has the much-hyped pregnancy glow, and 2) agrees to sleep with her. Well... at least this time... no risk of pregnancy!

Meanwhile, Samantha (whom, I will note, is wearing a mudflap girl necklace in one scene--oh, Ms. Jones. Do you not remember all of my previous ranting about Playboy iconography? Do I need to send you off to the corner to re-read Female Chauvinist Pigs? Well--do I???) is annoyed at Richard. Richard, it transpires, is continuously showering her with expensive gifts (nice work if you can get it--being the shower-ee, I mean, not so much the shower-er--pricey!), but always signs the cards which accompany said gifts with "Best" and not "Love." "Best," seriously, Mr. Wright? Embarrassing. "Best" is a bit stiff when you're writing to your great-aunt, let alone your inamorata.

ANYWAY, running into Richard's personal shopper in his apartment one day, Sam learns that said shopper has been both picking out her gifts, and writing out her cards. (Seriously, Senor W.? Delegating even the purchasing of love tokens?) She also learns that he's been buying love tokens for far fewer women since Samantha came on the scene. (I guess that... passes as good news?) Panicked at how much he has disclosed to Sam about his buyin' and card-writin', the personal shopper readily agrees to the Terms of Her Silence--Sam will tell Richard nothing about their chat, provided that the shopper starts signing the cards on her gifts "Love, Richard." Samantha Jones: fights dirty, wins a different four-letter word on her gift cards.

Confronted with a card expressing his love to Samantha, Richard tells her that he does, indeed, love her. Nice how that works out! In response, Sam tells him that she loves... the very expensive bracelet which he gave her. She still can't quite bring herself to use the L word. Sigh. Ah well. She got a nice bracelet out of the deal, anyway!

The Analysis:

People of Color Watch: Minimal. When Carrie (very briefly) decides that she'll save money by taking the bus instead of cabs, she ends up talking to an African-American woman, who is also waiting for the bus. (To recap: delicate white ladies in stilettos--take cabs. Sassy black ladies in sensible shoes--take buses. Glad we cleared that up.) The salesperson in a shoe shop which Carrie and Miranda go a' shoe huntin' in is also African-American. He is allowed a few brief moments of sarcasm before being banished to the episode's margins. Buh-bye, sir! Enjoy your (apparently) bus ride home!

LGBT Folks Watch: Richard's personal shopper is gay. Seems like a nice bloke, from the one scene we get with him. Fair enough!

Wedding Rings Turning Up in Unexpected Places Watch: (I realized that that sounds potentially dirty as I was typing it, but no matter! I will just clean my mind out with soap, and continue.) I do quite like the ways in which this episode plays with ideas about the Sacred Wedding Band.

I totally forgot to mention in my episode summary (mind=sieve) that Aidan wants Carrie to keep the engagement ring which he bought her (one more reminder that Aidan, though not the gent for Carrie, is quite painfully nice), and that she refuses, because it would have been too painful for her to keep it--she'd never be able to look at it without thinking about Aidan and their Lost Love.

Charlotte, by contrast, is holding on tight to her wedding ring, because even though her marriage is very, very much over, and ended in a perfect disaster of a horror of a mess, looking at (and wearing) the ring still somehow makes her feel safe and secure. Over the course of the episode, however, she discovers that while she can't stand the idea of something which she had once so cherished being destroyed/melted down into earrings or some such, she also can't move on with her life still using the ring as a security blanket.

And I quite love the scene in which Charlotte proposes (see what I did thar?) that Carrie take the ring, and use it to buy her beloved apartment. The writers quite carefully have the scene replicate an actual wedding ceremony/proposal (Charlotte: "Will you take this ring?" Carrie, tearing up: "I will."), which I found quite charming. It plays quite nicely into the series' "there are many kinds of love, and among the most enduring and significant of these is love between friends" theme. Carrie and Charlotte may have both been devastated by their relationships with the good, but-not-right-for-them men whom they've just loved and lost--but they'll always have one another's love and support, no matter what. Awwww. Friendship. And lots of close-up shots of a Tiffany ring. Swooooon.

Massive Class Privilege Conspicuously on Display Watch: Do you feel that it's been too long since I sourly noted how blithely SATC glosses over class inequities? You do? Well, then, isn't this just your lucky day, because I am about to sourly note how blithely SATC glosses over class inequities! Hooray!

A pity, really, because this episode, more than most, actually flirts with reality re: money--because the opulent lifestyle which Carrie has been living on her limited means, it transpires, has really messed her up, finance-wise... and she actually has to reckon with that.

Unfortunately, her reckoning lasts about a minute and a half, during which short span of time she is offered the cash by both her wealthy friends and her wealthy ex-boyfriend. So the path to financial responsibility seems to lie in... having rich friends? [Note to self: must get rich friends. Additional note to self: spending past seven years as a grad student--not the best move, rich-friend-obtaining wise. Final note to self: Drat!]

The simple fact that Carrie has monied friends, and Charlotte a monied soon-to-be ex-husband, who enables her job search to be purely about intellectual fulfillment rather than economic necessity, need not be a problem in and of itself, of course... I just find Carrie's "I'll be a bag lady--a Fendi bag lady, but a bag lady" and "I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes" talk a little wearing. (In much the same way that all of my "I am so pooooor" talk when I was a grad student must have been wearing.)

Because Carrie is never going to be in serious financial jeopardy--she has what is (unrealistically) a quite lucrative job as a free-lance writer, a closet full of designer goods she could sell if push came to shove, and friends with the financial wherewithal to bail her out in times of trouble, as need be. (Much like my own "poverty" consisted of being a middle-class girl who couldn't go out to eat a lot, and bought all of her books used. Boo-bloody-hoo, poor bloody me.) That is not what real poverty looks like, and it is disingenuous to use language which pretends that it is. So can it, Carrie. (And retroactively--can it, self.)

"No One Will Hire Me!": Unpleasant News on the Job Front Watch: There has been a lot of job-related anxiety in the SATC verse of late, has there not? Not too long ago, we had Miranda lamenting the negative impact which she suspected that her pregnancy and subsequent baby might have on her career. And not too terribly long before that, Charlotte's friends warned her that if she left the paid workforce as a woman in her 30s, she might never get back into it.

Grim stuff, no? And it grows grimmer yet--this is one instance in which the series is looking an unpleasant reality dead in the eye, rather than smilingly pretending not to see that it is there, in the first place. ("La la la, I can't see you, Unpleasant Reality, because I am closing my eyes! La la la, please go away now, because keeping my eyes closed this long is getting booooring!"), Charlotte left the gallery world for (she hoped) motherhood, only to find that when the door slammed behind her, it reeeally slammed behind her--and now she can't find her way back in.

Bummer. All that talk about on-ramps and off-ramps for professional women who plan on taking some time out of the workforce for motherhood... looks like that's not working out so well, just yet! Guess we'd better get on that! (Of course, even jobless, Charlotte is still more fortunate than 95 percent of American womankind, in that going back into the paid workforce is about her mental need for stimulus rather than her physical need to eat... nice work if you can get it, Ms. C... if you will forgive me that particular figure of speech.)

So in sum--a small handful of gold stars for the writers, for acknowledging the difficulties which professional women have if they dare to step off the high-powered career track for a spell--and also for showing that Charlotte both misses and loves her work. I know that the show isn't really about the women's professional lives, but still, we get to see Sam savoring her work as a P.R. guru, Miranda richly enjoying her lawyer-ly life, Carrie finding great joy in being a writer... kind of nice to see Charlotte step out of her usual bruised/comic princess mode for a bit, and be a woman who passionately loves, and misses, her immersion in the art world. We haven't gotten to see that side of Charlotte in quite some time, and I, for one, am glad to do so. Even if... it is all about the frustrating parts of her professional life. Boo, frustration!

"Look at My Fingers... They're Like Sausages": Pregnancy as Actually Difficult Watch: Points to the writers, too, for emphasizing the parts of pregnancy which don't usually seem to make it into commercials, maternity-wear ads, etc., etc. (All those happy, shiny-haired, clear-skinned ladies, looking fit as fiddles and glowing like the sun, etc., etc.) Kind of like the much-lampooned menstrual products ads, in which energetic women leap about in white leotards. Turns out, female biological experiences... can be a bit messier than that! During The Menstruation, one often feels sleepy and nauseous (and that is if one is lucky.) During pregnancy (from what I hear), a whole host of other physical unpleasantnesses can arrive. And kudos to the writers for bringing those up, and de-romanticizing pregnancy a bit. Having Miranda complain about how some of the less charming physical complications of being preggers is another nice thumb in the eye of the "everything about pregnancy is grrrreat!" myth. And you know me, I do love a good thumb in the eye!

Next Up...?: "A 'Vogue' Idea," which features, well, Vogue, as well as a guest appearance by Murphy "My Real Name is Actually Candace Bergen" Brown, a baby shower, and a three-way. Lively!

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