Readers! Once again it is my happy (well... happy from my point of view, anyway--I cannot know your sentiments on the matter) responsibility to tell you that even though I once again fell off the face of the earth for, like, a year, I am not, in fact, dead! Woooo! I am, instead, in the Midwest (allow me to forstall your inevitable "and the difference between those two states of being is...?" crack, my coastal friends--the Midwest is awesome--I live in walking distance from a huge farmer's market, and at state fairs, they sell fried butter on a stick. It. Is. Great.)
Since I posted last, I have moved to a shiny new town (so. Many. Boxes. To. Unpack.), and started a shiny new job, teaching at a shiny new school. (There is a pretty fountain outside of the building where I teach! Hooray! I love pretty fountains!)
Having finally dug my way out from under all of my boxes (Movers, to me: "Are you seriously telling me that all of those are filled with books?" Me: [Hangs head in silent acknowledgment and guilt]), purchased all the requisite furniture (somewhere to sleep? Check. Somewhere to leave all of the untidy piles of papers which I am always promising to organize, but never do? Check.), and gotten my new semester underway... I return to Carrie's stoop, to heap flaming coals upon the heads of the SATC writers once more. Ah, flaming coals. How I have missed thee! And you, of course, dear readers. You, e'en more than the coals.
Though we'll see how much "wrath of God/me, who has set herself up as God" flaming-coals-type-rhetoric we get into in this here summary of Season Four... because if you've read my rantings and ravings on the subject to date, you'll know that I actually lovvvve Season Four--it's my favorite season of the whole darned series for. Sure. But how did it do, compared to other seasons, in its representations of our friends The Gays? Of people not as lily-white as Elizabeth R smeared in mercury-based makeup? Let us see, shall we?
People of Color Watch: All right, so in Season Three, we had nineteen characters of color, five of whom were, you know, actual characters (i.e., not just the taxi driver who holds the door, or the sales clerk who has one line, but actual characters, with real weight and heft and a reasonable amount of substance to them.) And in Season Four, we have (please insert your own drumroll here, as appropriate...)--nine characters total (people who were simply physically present), and three characters of any substance. Oof. Progress--we have not made it.
If anything, I think we may have actually taken a step backwards, since one of the most prominent LGBT characters, Samantha's briefly-girlfriend Maria quickly goes from being an interesting, nuanced, real-seeming person to a screeching, loony-tunes, fiery-Latina stereotype. Boo. Maybe Season Five will introduce some characters of color of some of real complexity and depth...? [Optimism, sitting on the blogger's left shoulder, smiles weakly and uncertainly--Pessimism, sitting on her right, smirks evilly and complacently.]
LGBT Folks Watch: Well.... okay, we have to admit defeat on the characters of color front, but what about LGBT characters? Perhaps there are some glimmers of hope there? [Optimism takes a hearty swig out of what, despite the early hour, looks suspiciously like a vodka bottle. Pessimism looks ever more like the proverbial cat who has eaten the proverbial cream.] In Season Three, we had seven LGBT characters, five of whom were actually real, flesh-and-blood, significant-to-the-story type people. And this season we have... six LGBT characters total, four of whom I would say are actual characters of any note or significance. Huh. [Optimism's eyes: begin to look unpleasantly red around their rims. Pessimism: raises its fingers in what is either a V for Victory sign, or a British "sod off" gesture.]
Ah well. It seems we are destined to camp out on precisely the same ground which we were forced to dwell on in Season Three--not that many LGBT characters, and those who do appear... not a little stereotypical and troubling? Like Maria, the possessive, needy, "I value emotions over sex at all times, because I am a lady person of the female gender" lesbian lass? Or like Oliver, the "I am obsessed with sex and shopping to the exclusion of all else" gay gent?
[Optimism, seeming to rally a bit from its drunken, self-pitying stupor, makes an effort to sit up and protest.] Okay, okay--in the interests of not surrendering absolutely all to the Powers of Darkness, I will concede that 1) Once again, Anthony is one of our LGBT characters, and though the character is distinctly problematic in several ways, Mario Cantone is quite entertaining in the part, 2) Once again, Stanford is one of our LGBT characters, and Willie Garson brings tremendous wit, verve, and all-over delightfulness to what is often a flat, "I am here to say something sassy to help Carrie through her straight distress, and then disappear back into the Gay Ether, from whence I came!" type role, and 3) one of the LGBT characters of note in this season, Oliver, actually gets in some interesting, nuanced thoughts about open relationships before he and his awesome Aussie accent are shoved off-stage. [Optimism hiccups happily, seemingly unaware that it is now sitting on the empty vodka bottle.]
And what else is striking and of note in Season Four, you ask? Why, let us see!
I'm actually going to throw Pessimism a bone here, and start off with the bad and ugly--though perhaps it's less because I want to wallow in the negative then that I want to save all of my gushing for last. Because gush--I most assuredly will. [Pessimism--looks sulky. Kicks the now-sleeping Optimism rather sharply in the leg.]
1) SLOPPINESS AND OVERALL UNPLEASANTNESS IN DEPICTING SAM'S RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOMAN. Sigh. Do you remember the days when Samantha first started dating Maria, dear readers? Oh, those were happy days. The sun was warmer then, I think. The birds sang more sweetly--the breeze blew more gently. Maria was actually a pretty neat character back then, and Sam, though a bit flummoxed by finding herself attracted to a lady, was nonetheless receptive to the idea that she might be a smidge more sexually fluid than she'd actually thought. It was all so grown-up and complicated and thoughtful. Ah, memories!
A pity that we suddenly slid sideways into Maria being a dreary, sexless killjoy, and Samantha concluding that lesbianism just wasn't for her (even though... she'd never actually been a lesbian in the first place?), because chicks are such a hyperemotional drag. Bummer--that surely was one.
2) CLASS PRIVILEGE--LET US CONTINUE TO PRETEND IT IS NOT THERE, MUCH LIKE AN UNPLEASANT UNPAINTED PATCH ON OUR WALL, THAT WE CANNOT BE BOTHERED TO RETOUCH: (Can you tell that I've just moved into a new house, from the metaphors that I'm slinging about? My little unpainted patch is in my stairwell, in case you were wondering.) You may recall me carping, when Miranda decides to continue her pregnancy and embark on her life as a single mother, that the show doesn't pause for so much as a millisecond to reflect on the class privilege which makes Miranda's "of course I can take care of my future baby with no difficulty, and no financial aid whatsoever from its father" attitude possible.
I know this is a small piece of a much larger pie--why do we have to hear Carrie whining all the time about how poor she is, while continuing to buy Jimmy Choos by the dozen? Why do we even raise the issue of potential financial ruin only to immediately and conveniently dismiss it? The unacknowledged-class-privilege-of-our-four-leading-ladies pie--it is one which has vexed and irritated me since Season One. And I hate being vexed and irritated by pie--it is usually such a friend and ally to me!
But despite these caveats... golly, but I do love Season Four. Why, you ask? (Or probably, don't ask--much like Optimism, you may well have sunk into a stupor at this point). In no particular order, I give you:
1) ABORTION. Women talking about it in a deep, complex, thoughtful way. Acknowledging the reality that abortions are common, that many women have them, and that their feelings about them are sometimes complicated, sometimes straightforward--but that, no matter what, the right to choose what to do with your own body is a pretty darned fantastic. YES.
2) MOTHERHOOD. Some women don't want to be mothers, and that's fine. Some women do want to be mothers, but find navigating pregnancy in a culture which has all kinds of weird ideas about how pregnant women are "supposed" to behave uncomfortable (and inhabiting a pregnant body uncomfortable, to boot.) Realism. NICE.
3) INFERTILITY. Some women who do want to be mothers find out that (biologically) they can't. And that is sad, and confusing, and awful. Acknowledging and exploring such a (still taboo) subject in such a thoughtful and emotionally astute way--FABULOUS.
4) AMBIVALENCE ABOUT MARRIAGE AND LONG-TIME COMMITMENT ON THE PART OF THE LADIES. Not all women want to be married. (Do you hear that, SATC movies??? Not. All. Women.), and that's fine. A broad spectrum of ideas about love and commitment and cohabitation, outside of the white-picket fence paradigm, exists. And sometimes, not even love is enough to bridge the gap between two people when it comes to when and whether to tie the knot. Stepping outside of our bride-obsessed culture to consider the feelings and ideas of a woman who throws up when she finds out that her beloved boyfriend is about to propose to her? PRICELESS.
5) MORE CUDDLY GOODIES ABOUT HOW FRIENDS CAN BE FAMILY, AND ABOUT HOW BEING SINGLE IS NOT ABJECTLY TERRIBLE. And trust me, I am especially loving this whole vein of Season Four at the moment, because I have been getting a LOT of static about being a single lady since I moved. (Maybe everyone in my old home was just used to my tragic spinsterhood...?) I kid you not, a goodly percentage of the moving people/cable installers/neighbors whom I've met so far have done some version of "Wow, it's JUST YOU? You're going to be living here ALL BY YOURSELF? You DIDN'T MOVE WITH ANYONE?" when I have disclosed my unwed/unpartnered status. It's gotten to the point where I've considered handing out cards: "Yes... it is JUST ME."
ANYWAY. Such encounters (and if I had a dollar for every one that I've had so far, I could buy myself more than one of those aforementioned fried-butter-on-a-sticks) make me particularly appreciative to see something of my "is it absolutely necessary to say, 'Awwwww,' like my puppy just died, when I tell you that I'm single?" state of mind reflected in dear Season Four, which ends with all four of our leading ladies pretty newly single (in some cases, really newly single), yet still looking forward to their futures with hope and excitement and a sense of promise.
Over the course of the season, the ladies found being coupled sometimes wonderful, sometimes hard, always stimulating. And at the end of the season, they are back into their single lives, finding them... sometimes wonderful, sometimes hard, always stimulating. So maybe... coupled or single... life contains elements of the unknown, the unexpected, and the potentially wondrous? Perhaps... the sun shines on the partnered and the unpartnered alike? Season Four/The Magic Eight Ball says... yes. And for that, I hug it to my icy-cold spinster's heart.
And So... In Comparison with Other Seasons...: I love it. Perhaps that was obvious to you already? [Optimism has somehow managed to wake itself up, and find a circlet of roses to adorn its newly-cheery brow. Pessimism is peering into the vodka bottle, in the vain hopes of detecting an errant drop remaining in its dregs.] Not to say that it is not shot through with problems and issues and missed opportunities... but on the whole, it is just so, so great. It asks tough questions, refuses to offer easy answers, and tells stories which are complicated, realistic, and emotionally resonant.
Also, Carrie wears a vintage cape at one point, and we get two whole episodes of Roger Sterling swanning about in a suit. As they apparently say in the fashion industry... me likey.
Next Up...?: A wee preview of what awaits us in Season Five. (Brief preview of my preview: new motherhood madness aplenty, a recurring role for the charmingly wackadoo Amy Sedaris, increasingly inventive and entertaining "we are trying, with mixed success, to conceal that two of our lead actresses are preggers" outfits for Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon to sport, and an adorable writer for Carrie to flirt with.) I don't know about you, but I am psyched!!!