Friday, December 23

In the Final Analysis... Season Five

Hello, dear friends! [Insert obligatory note here about how, once again, I went radio silent for a loooong stretch of time without so much as a by-your-leave, because the demands of the academic life grabbed me by the throat and refused to let me out of their death-grip until now. Not that I am not absolutely delighted to have the chance to be in said death-grip, because surely, I am... though I have missed you all. Awwww.]

And so, as we jump back into life after our (okay... my) unplanned two-bloody month hiatus--are you ready to pass judgment on Season Five and all its delightfulness and (correspondingly) lack of delightfulness? I do hope so, for I (as I so often am) am in rather a judge-y mood today! (Perhaps this is because I have been grading so much recently, which always makes me moody and vindictive? Who can say?) In any case... to the judgment!

People of Color Watch: Okay, so, to start us off... how are we doing re: the tally of people of color present in (let alone featured in) SATC? Has Season 5 transformed the SATC verse into a veritable rainbow of diversity and inclusivity? Oh, sweet readers. What do you think?

Alas, if your thoughts tend towards the pessimistic... you are sadly all too right to let them do so! In Season Four, we had nine characters of color, three of whom had any real substance, significance, or meaning to the plot, and in Season Five we have... six incidental characters of color who are just kind of there (possessing one line, appearing as a silent background character, etc.), and two of any real substance or significance. I know that Season Five is way shorter than Season Four, but still... progress--this is not it.

And more unfortunately still, both of the characters of color present in Season Five are magical African-American women, who exist primarily (okay, exclusively) to make our white heroines feel all warm and tingly inside. (The chaffeuse who drives Carrie home from her book party makes her realize how much she has accomplished by getting said book published, Miranda's neighbor Kendall offers practical advice, and makes Miranda feel better about her life as a mother, etc.) Awww, thanks, magical black ladies! You make my life as a race-privileged white woman sooooo much easier! Now please disappear entirely until I happen to need you to boost my self-esteem, 'kay? Many thanks!

LGBT Folks Watch:
All right, so, super-short Season Five--doesn't really get us too far, when it comes to diverse, thoughtful representations of people not as white as, well, my Kabuki-white self. But what about the queer folks, I hear you ask? What about their presence (or lack thereof, your humble blogger notes pointedly) during the season?

Weeeellll, in Season Four we had two incidental LGBT characters, who came and went without making much of a peep/impression and four more substantial, significant characters, and in Season Five we have (lackluster drumroll, please!)--four characters, total, all of whom actually play a meaningful role in the episodes, but still... depressing!

Of the four, we have Anthony (playing his usual role of "entertaining sidekick to Charlotte"), Stanford (playing his usual role of "dryly witty sidekick to Carrie") Bobby Fine (playing the sadly-only-temporary role of "catalyst for our four straight female leads to muse about their romantic lives"), and Marcus (playing the delightful role of "nice boyfriend to Stanford, and pleasing eye-candy for us all.")

I mean, I guess this isn't too bad? Yes, Anthony is pretty much just here as comic foil to, and source of moral support for, Charlotte, but at least Stanford gets a rather more substantial plot line this time around, as his relationship with the charming Marcus develops? And yes, Bobby is present primarily to spark romantic cogitation among our four leads, but his story line also raises intriguing, complicated questions about how love works, and what it means? Okay. I'll go with this as not toooo terrible. [Blogger pauses to incline her ear to an invisible audience.] What was that you said? Something about lesbian women existing, too? I'm sorry I... don't know what you're talking about. I think lesbianism is a myth invented by the liberal media.

Things to Clap One's Hands Together with Glee About:
What else is there to say about Season Five, then? In no particular order, things which made me happy about said season:

1) JACK BERGER. Oh yes--you know I was going there! And not just because I have a crush on Ron Livingston, and find him adorable. (Though this... is certainly true.) I just appreciate seeing Carrie (potentially) with someone who is as smart and verbal and sarcastic as she is, for a change. Big=too busy smoking and being adulterous to be wordy. Aidan=too busy whittling and looking sweet-but-doomed to be wordy. Berger=too busy being wordy to notice that some members of the SATC audience have a thing for him. Oy, Jack! Over here!

2) SINGLEHOOD MUSINGS. It will surprise you not one, well, single, solitary bit if you have read this here blog before that one of my favorite things about this season/the series in general is its take on Ladies and the Single Life. Yes, some of the ways that this season explores those issues are kind of messed up (suggesting that all unmarried ladies end up as oddballs who chat about their drug habits to complete strangers in diners? Seriously?).

But on the whole--I think the season does some good solid work here. Sam decides she'd rather be single than be with a cheating jerk (about which, more anon.) Carrie keeps facing her demons about being a single lady in her 30s... ultimately realizing that she has a pretty darned blessed life which she ought to be grateful for, and that there are worse things than being unwed and over the age of 35. And I appreciate the show, er, showing that this is something of a struggle sometimes (sometimes she gets lonely! sometimes men she fancies are already taken! sometimes society makes her feel like a freak for being sans ring!), but that fundamentally, the single life is one worth living. Thanks for that, writers, much appreciated!

3) MOTHERHOOD EXPLORINGS. I also quite enjoy the hard-headed way that this season tackles motherhood. It doesn't just give Miranda a baby and leave everything else in her life unchanged, but rather stresses again and again and again that pretty much everything in her life has changed, in the wake of her becoming a mother. And that that's not a bad thing, but that it is a hard thing--that she needs to find a way to stay connected to her friends, and to date, and to manage her insanely demanding lawyer-y job, all the while meeting the immense emotional and physical demands of new mommyhood. And that sometimes... that is more than a little tricky!

And bless SATC for not glossing over the complexities and challenges, as well as the pleasures and contentments, of motherhood. It's nice to see Miranda as cranky and tired and frustrated when she can't figure out how to breast-feed, as well as kind of gobsmacked at the sheer wonder of having this new little person in life. Complexity. Nuance. I am such a fan of both!

4) SANE DECISIONS WHEN IT COMES TO THE MENFOLK, FINALLY, THANK GOD. Over the course of Season Five, what a pleasure it is to see our leading ladies, for the most part, making quite sane, rationale, and healthy decisions when it comes to their entanglements with the menfolk. Well done, y'all! (With a possible exception of Miranda sleeping with Steve, and then freaking out about what that might mean, and skipping town... but I guess the writers needed to give us something to look forward to/dread in Season Six?)

Otherwise... full marks, writers! Carrie: behaves surprisingly rationally and non-self-destructively in her dealings with Big, and wisely only allows herself to flirt with the delightful Jack Berger when he is officially and completely sans girlfriend. Charlotte: FINALLY starts to move away from her "I can only be interested in gents who are pretty and rich" shtick, and lets herself care about someone who is... okay, still rich, but not conventionally pretty. I'll call that one for Team Progress! Sam: finally decides to dump Richard, who is an unpleasant, womanizing creep. Good. Call. There. Jones.

Things to Bury One's Face in One's Hands in Despair About:
But you know it's not all sunshine and roses over in my neck of the woods, don't you? Oh, dear readers. Of course you do. So what about this season did I find icky and unpleasant, you ask? Welllllll:

1) STRANGE, DISTASTEFUL COMMENTARY ABOUT JEWISH FOLKS AND HOW ANIMALISTIC AND WEIRD THEY ARE. It continues to baffle me that in writing about New York City (a town known for having one or two Jews around, and possessing an overall friendly and receptive attitude towards The Chosen People)--and in several cases being Chosen People themselves--the writers are so "creepily stereotypical-bordering-on-anti-Semitic" when it comes to their depictions of Pretty-Much-The-Only-Significant-Jewish-Character-In-The-Series-Thus-Far Harry. He is crass! He is vulgar! He is sweaty! His body is oddly, comically/quasi-monstrously hairy! PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

2) WEIRD, UNPLEASANT REPRESENTATIONS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT RAIL THIN. I do continue to feel a distinct displeasure at the ways in which this season reflects on the question of Miranda's ostensibly significant weight gain. Because 1) Cynthia Nixon is bloody gorgeous, and suggesting her body is somehow inferior, defective, or less-than is quite ridiculous--this season she may look more like a woman who has had a child, doesn't go to the gym every morning for three hours, and actually eats solid food, and it would have been nice to see that celebrated, rather represented than as a "problem" which needs to be fixed, and 2) Cynthia Nixon was actually bloody pregnant during this season, and any time we get into critiquing a pregnant woman's body (even if the character herself isn't pregnant), I feel a flicker of dislike and distaste.

I am also still bummed that they played their Weight Watchers plot line the way that they did--shilling for Weight Watchers at all (one), and making the cute bloke Miranda meets there automatically be a comic romantic misstep on her part, rather than a serious romantic prospect for her (two.) I guess it was nice to see a not-rail-thin-bloke be a romantic interest on the show, even if it is for about a minute and a half, and he is summarily discarded...? Maybe...? Slightly...? A little bit...?

3) UNDESIRABLE, UNCOMFORTABLE REPRESENTATIONS OF CLASS POLITICS. I feel like I say this every season (oh, because the show engages in it every season, I knew there had to be a reason!), but the ways in which class politics are depicted on the show (when they are depicted at all) continue to make me uncomfortable. This particular season, I am undelighted to see how Steve's working-class, Queens-based family are represented: as sleazy, drunken rubes who can't even make it through a christening ceremony without getting sloshed and hitting on someone. How vulgar people not part of the 1 percent are! Especially the Jewish ones, as I understand it...

Next Up...?: We take a sneak preview of... the beginning of the end! Jeepers, how did we get here already? However we did, getting to the end we most certainly are--when we are together next, we will officially begin thinking about the very last season of SATC, the mythical Season Six. And what awaits us in Season Six, you ask? Carrie starts dating Jack Berger (yay!), Charlotte and Harry are still together, and figuring out how to manage the whole "we want to get married, but Charlotte is not a Jew, so we can't get married, drat" thing (challenging!), Miranda is continuing to navigate her way through mommyhood (tricky!) and through her weird, ambiguous relationship with Steve (even trickier!), Sam starts dating a pretty young lad a couple decades younger, and several shades blonder, than she is (whatever!) Lively times ahead!