Friday, June 15

Season Six, Episode Two: Great Sexpectations

The Summary:

Welcome to this, our second episode of Season Six! If, like me, you are at all fond of the character of Jack Berger, and are at all charmed by his and Carrie's romance--sorreeeee, but this is the episode where we start to see Serious Signs of Trouble on that front.  (You couldn't give me at least one solid episode where Carrie and Berger are just charmingly happy together, writers? No?  I thought not.) 

So before we delve into Carrie and Berger trouble, let's break with BOCS tradition and get the other ladies' plot lines out of the way first.  Very doable, since... none of their stories are terribly interesting in this episode.  (Alas.  But they cannot always be, I suppose?) Miranda: addicted to Tivo (a reminder that yes, these episodes did come out in 2003--those misty, far-off days of yore and yesteryear!) Tivo: gets broken.  Steve: fixes it for her.  Miranda: happy about said fixing, sad that she is not with Steve.  Sooo... yeah.  This is like trench warfare, we have advanced nary an inch on the Miranda-Steve Front.  Just mired in the mud. 

Charlotte: has decided to convert to Judaism for her true love, Harry.  Mazel tov, Ms. York! She discovers that said conversion will not be super-easy, however, as apparently synagogues turn you down three times before allowing you to begin the conversion process? (Something which my shiksa self did not know, and is too lazy to look up, to see if is actually true/widely practiced?) Charlotte persists, however, and her path to being a chosen person has officially begun.  (Which is fun not only because this means we get some nice interior shots of pretty old synagogues, but also because the actor who plays Charlotte's rabbi-to-be is totally charming.  And the actor's name is Pierre Epstein, which I would totally want to be my name, if I was the hero of a bleak existentialist novel set in World War II Paris or some such--rather than the WASP academic which I actually am.)

ANYWAY.  Samantha: takes a shine to a handsome waiter at an unappetizing raw food restaurant.  She wishes to sleep with him.  So, it seems, does every other woman in the restaurant.  (Aw-kward.  Doesn't anyone besides me go to a restaurant to just eat anymore?) So Samantha waits all these other ladies out, in a "last one in the restaurant gets the guy" type standoff.  (Do people ever really do such things in real life, by the way? If I am lingering around waiting for a restaurant to close, it is because I hope they will send me home with any and all remaining baked goods.)

Said standoff is successful, and Sam goes home with the lad (who is, indeed, a lad--dewy youth, he is still bespackled with it), has a verrrry pleasant time with him, and then we, The Viewing Public, think we have seen the last of him (as he is but the latest of many Pretty Young Things to pass through Samantha's, um, orbit.) However... we have not.  See you soon, Blond Boy I Find Essentially Uninteresting! I am essentially uninterested to note that I will see you again soon!

Okay, so, onto Carrie and Berger.  The good: they are officially dating, and it is officially (for the most part) delightful! Hooray! The bad: they sleep together for the first time, and it... is not good at all.  (Drat.) Then they sleep together AGAIN, and it is still not good at all.  (Double drat.) Carrie: is disappointed.  She talks to Miranda about it, who sensibly suggests that the notion of sex being ideally and rosily perfect right away is a somewhat unrealistic one, and that Carrie and Berger might have to work on it a bit.  (Carrie: "I've never had to work at it with someone I really like." Miranda: "You might want to keep that to yourself." Thank you, Mistress Hobbes!)

 She then talks to Sam, who says that Carrie's natural impulse to talk to Berger about their issues is unwise, and that instead Carrie should just get them both really, really drunk and buy herself some really, really overpriced lingerie, instead.  (Sensible!) Carrie follows Samantha's advice, though it (shockingly) turns out that getting totally trashed and maxing out your credit card on fancy undergarments is NOT necessarily the best way to address this particular issue.

In the end, Carrie and Berger DO eventually talk about it, and DO eventually have good sex.  So the episode ends on a happy note, thank you Divine Powers of the Universe.  (Happy notes--I will cling to them for the last, precious few episodes I have them for!)

The Analysis:

Uninteresting and Unimportant Detail About The Episode and My Connection to It Which Has Nooooo Relationship to Feminism Whatsoever Watch: That being that I have totally eaten at the pizza place where Carrie and Miranda have their Berger debrief in this episode.  And it is, indeed, a tiny little place in which you have to eat standing up (as Carrie and Miranda do in their, what, five-inch heels?) and it is SPLENDID.  Uninteresting and unimportant, I know, but it brings back happy food-related memories... my favorite kind of memories of all.

"We Should Be Able To Talk About These Things": Actually Introducing The Notion of Imperfect Sex with a Likable Romantic Lead, Miracle! Watch: So there is plenty of bad sex in SATC--in fact, there are waaaaaay more embarrassing, cringe-worthy sex scenes than there are ones designed to appeal to the imagination/flesh.  Usually, sex on the show is played for comic effect, so (usually Miranda and Charlotte's--poor Miranda and Charlotte!) numerous sexual misadventures get a substantial amount of screen time. 

 But when it came to Men We Are Supposed to Take Seriously and Like--usually we hear nothing about, and see nothing of, the sex our protagonists have with them apart from brief mentions or glimpses in the "everything is splendid" vein.  Even in this episode itself, we are immersed in said vein--Harry is the love of Charlotte's life, future husband, and also "the most exciting sex I've ever had," as she tells the ladies.  Miranda: sex is great with (love-of-life-and-future-husband) Steve from Day One.  Carrie: sex is similarly great with (love-of-life-and-future-husband) Big from Day One.  (In one episode, Carrie even proclaims that she can know with absolute certainty that sex with Big could never be bad.  Reeeeaalllly? Nevvvver? Are you suuuuure?)

So in general, the show very tidily plays into conventional narratives about love and sex.  Wretched men you are clearly not supposed to be with? Sex will be comedically terrible. Your soulmate whom you are meant to wed and be with forever? Sex will be effortlessly wonderful.  I seeeeee.

 That being the case, it's a pleasure to see the writers muddying the waters at least a little bit here--Carrie and Berger have a great verbal connection, they really like each other, he's definitely someone we are meant to take seriously as a legitimate, long-term romantic prospect for her--and yet their first couple of times having sex... are awkward and flawed! You don't say! Nice to see the show at least tip its hat (if shows can have hats...?) to the idea that sex might not be romantic-comedy ideal right out of the gate, even with someone who is otherwise fantastic.

Of course, it then undoes a lot of its good work when we learn that Berger very definitely isn't really a good long-term prospect for Carrie, and that the uncomfortable early sex is actually something akin to a flashing warning sign of Troubles to Come...which, come to think of it, is exactly what happened in Charlotte's disastrous marriage--the fact that she and her ex Trey had sexual problems from the beginning (even if these problems were later resolved) was a sign that things were doooomed between the two of them.  Dooooomed, I say, dooooomed!

So maybe I shouldn't be giving the writers any credit at all here, because they don't really disrupt the "effortless good sex = soulmate"/ "imperfect early sex = indicator of pending disaster" binary.  Hmmmm.  But I want to give them credit, anyway! I am not sure what it is provoking this uncharacteristic benevolence on my part... but let's go with it! Credit let there be!

Notable Quotables: Carrie, on the thirtysomething dating life: "Maybe by the time you're in your mid-30s, it shouldn't be called dating.  It should be called 'waiting for the other shoe to drop.' " (Encouraging!)

Next Up...?: "The Perfect Present," Carrie deals with Big (palm connecting with forehead in three... two... one...), Miranda deals with Steve's new girlfriend, Samantha deals with the pretty young waiter she is, it seems, still sleeping with, and Charlotte deals with Judaism.  Much dealing to be done!

Saturday, May 19

Season Six, Part One: Episode One, To Market, To Market

The Summary:Dear Readers (if indeed, you are still there, after these long months of extensive silence from me--and why should you be, really? Your patience, is it infinite? Your capacity to wait, is it boundless? Why should it be?): But if you are there, welcome back! So very delighted to be with you once again.  My very first year as a professor is now over (how...?), and I have officially Come Up for Air.  In sum: being a full time academic--splendid, but also--MAD.  I feel as though the past months have passed in a sleep-deprived, but delightful whirl, in which I frequently had to ask my students what day it was, because I honestly didn't know.  I love being a professor.  I love teaching.  I love my school.  And yet, I also LOVE that it is summer.  Bring on the... sleep!  

And also, bring on the end of BOCS! Much as I love this here blog, I think the summer should see it finally reach its natural conclusion and, well, conclude.  It will be a poignant day, indeed.  But happily, we still have a good bit to go--allll of Season Six (which I quite like), and both the wretched movies (neither of which I like at all.) 

And so welcome, mes amies, to this, the sixth and final season of SATC! I will note, in an uninteresting aside, that this is one of the first episodes I ever saw of the series, and I remember that it thoroughly charmed me/encouraged me to seek out more of the show. Is this because of the insane, awesome shoes which Carrie wears in the opening scene? Is it because of the presence of an adorably scruffy Jack Berger? Is it because there is nothing here to offend my sensitive feminist heart/nerves? Or... all of the above? It seems likely.

So, we begin with Carrie gadding off to ring the opening bell on Wall Street. Said bell-ringing is all presented as madcap fun which, in light of the raw financial hell which said Street plunged us into a few years ago, rather causes the bile to rise in the throat. Wall Street--shame on you, I find you charming not one small bit. Carrie--I disapprove of your mindless celebration of unfettered capitalism, while simultaneously admiring your clothes. Contradictory.

ANYWAY, the Wall Street thing only really matters because it inspires Carrie's central question of the episode, that being: when investing (in either the financial market or in the dating market) is so inherently volatile and unstable... why the heck do we bother to do it? Well... why do we?!? (Ummm... because we are greedy and keep forgetting that the Great Depression ever happened, and gents like Berger seem to promise that Dating Hell can sometimes be more entertaining than it is painful? I dunno... enlighten me, episode!)

So Carrie is considering investing herself in a new relationship, with my own personal SATC crush of the moment, Jack Berger. They are soon to have their first date, and she is super, super excited--and also super, super nervous. She obsesses. She buys multiple new outfits. At her friend's insistence, she goes on a "simudate" with a nice bloke she's not remotely interested in "to take the edge off Berger" which, predictably, is an unmitigated disaster. (And, I will note, not terribly fair to the poor, nice bloke. Messing with the feelings of a gent you care not a jot for... not cool, Bradshaw, not cool at all.)

Carrie only calms down about her pending date with Berger after she bumps into ex-boyfriend Aidan (of "disastrously dated and painfully broken up with not once, but twice" fame.) Turns out, Aidan is happily married and has a fetching new baby, and (happily for him, Carrie, and us, not necessarily in that order) as such is clearly demonstrably fine, even after having endured not one, but two, hellaciously awful breakups with our own Miss Bradshaw. And Carrie realizes that she, too, is clearly demonstrably fine, even after surviving the very same breakups (as well as assorted other romantic disasters, over the years.)

So, weirdly (but happily for Berger, Carrie, and us, not necessarily in that order) remembering all her past heartache, and realizing that she was strong enough to survive it, inspires Carrie to let go of all her anxiety about her date with Berger and just... go on her date with Berger. (Carrie, reflecting that if she and Aidan both made it through their nutty relationship unscathed: "there was nothing I could do on a first date that I couldn't bounce back from.") So she calls him, and they meet up to go to a movie. And they are charming and adorable together and IT IS MY HAPPY TIME NOW, SO DON'T REMIND ME HOW QUICKLY THINGS GO SOUR.

Okay, so, onto the other ladies! Miranda's plotline, as it so often does, gives me a ripsnortin' headache. Miranda realizes one night, having a lovely evening with Steve and young Master Brady, that she is, in fact, in love with Steve. (In related news, the world is round, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. You heard it here first!)

Terrified by all these lovey-dovey feelings, Miranda nonetheless eventually decides that she needs to, you know, tell Steve that said feelings are ones she possesses. (Thank you, Jesus and any other adjacent deities.) So she invites him to dinner at a romantic restaurant, gets all prettily gussied up for said dinner, gears up to tell him... but before she can, he tells her that he's just started dating someone new, really likes her (that is to say, the new girlfriend), and is no longer in love with her (that is to say, Miranda.) Head, desk, I think by now you know what to do? Good, carry on without me, I need to go find myself a wee little drinkie.

Happily things are somewhat better in Charlotte Land--well, from my perspective, anyway, if not from Charlotte's. I am happy as the writers seem to have ramped down the "Oh, Jews! What strange and alien people they are!" malarkey they pulled so often in Season Five. Charlotte is rather less happy, as her Jewish boyfriend can't marry her, because she is non-Jewish. Alas. Or, oy veh, or whatever.

Beginning to contemplate converting to Judaism, and trying to understand why this whole "Jewish thing" is so important to her beloved in the first place, Charlotte finally learns that Harry primarily wants to marry a Jewish lass so that he can raise his future youngsters Jewish. Oh dear. This revelation means, of course, that Charlotte has to make a revelation of her own, and disclose her own fertility problems/potential inability to have children to Harry. Tears, they flow. Sad memories, they are brought back.

Happily, however, Harry tells Charlotte that he loves her no matter what, and that they can always adopt if they can't have their own biological youngsters. Excellent!

And as for Samantha... boooooring. She sleeps with some beautiful young bloke who has just moved into her building and whom we progressively learn is 1) a trader on Wall Street, 2) is a somewhat shady trader on Wall Street, who gives insider tips to his lady friends, and finally 3) a very shady trader on Wall Street, who gets hauled off by the cops at the end of the episode. Wall Street guys who are morally suspect? Sam sleeping with a generic pretty gent we never see again? Shocking!

The Analysis:I... really have very little to say about this episode, apart from the fact that I enjoy it.  I am totally charmed by Carrie and Berger (they have such a relaxed, witty dynamic together--so much more fun than the bland pleasantness of Aidan Shaw, or the laconic creepiness of Mr. Big--well done, Bradshaw!), I am somewhat annoyed that the writers keep jerking me around re: Miranda and Steve (as they have done for the past four bloody seasons), I am quite glad that Charlotte and Harry are happy together (and that the writers are back-pedaling a leetle bit on the 'Oh, those amusing Jews! How peculiar they are!' style humor), and I am completely uninterested in the boring pretty-boy Samantha sleeps with.  Nothing to really inspire my feminist love, or to rouse my feminist ire--just a pleasant episode, with some fun shoes.  As the Jews would say--meh.  I'll take it!

Notable Quotables:
Carrie, on investing: "I like my money right where I can see it... hanging in my closet."

Carrie, bubbling over about the utopian future she and Berger are going to have together, and how happy she anticipates they are going to be together: "I love this time before the first date when you can make statements like that, and almost believe them."

Carrie, on dating: "Caring too much is like a disaster magnet." (Good, excellent, I will try to convert myself into an inanimate, unfeeling block of wood, then!)

Next Up...?:
"Great Sexpectations"--see what they did there? It's a terrible pun! Nice to see the writers back on form when it comes to Creating Puns That Make You Want to Slash Your Wrists.  So, as one might expect in our next episode we contemplate what happens when you expect sex to be great, and are disappointed to find it terrible. (And yes, I would be talking about Carrie and Berger here, and yes, that makes me wish to weep silent, bitter tears off in a corner somewhere.  Waaaaaahhhh!)

Friday, January 6

Introducing... Season Six, Part One

Welcome back and Happy New Year, dear friends! What a pleasure it is to see all of your smiling faces once again! (Not that I can actually see you, so much--but I know that you are there, which is a true delight and pleasure to me.)

Okay, so, believe it or not... we have officially made it to Season Six, the very last season of SATC! Amazing! Though, to be totally accurate, we've really only made it to the first part of this mythical last season. Yes, our friends over in HBO/SATC verse decided that it was a vitally necessary creative decision (translation: that they could extract yet more of SATC fans' shining cash from their eager/gullible pockets) if they divided Season Six into two separate parts. Two separate DVD sets equals twice the moolah, after all! Oh, HBO executives. Your shameless money-grubbing never ceases to charm and beguile me.

Anyway-- what awaits us in this mythical Season Six, Part One, you ask? Oh, dear readers. So, so very much!

When it comes to Carrie: several awkward conversations/encounters with Big (a thing which I'm sure Chris Noth was eternally grateful for--man needs an extra boat/house/expensive watch or two, after all), a relationship with Berger which gets pretty darned tricky pretty darned fast (why must you always so thoroughly and ruthlessly strip my world of all sunshine and pleasure, writers? Why???), several noteworthy developments in her writing career (remember that Carrie has a career? Turns out, so do the writers!), and a handful of New Men for her to contemplate (Carrie can muse over the various merits of said New Men as much as she likes--me, I'll still be in the corner with my tissues, mourning the Disappearance of Jack Berger. Why, writers, why???)

When it comes to Miranda: yet more drama with Steve (wait, did I hit my head and wake up back in Season Two? Or Season Three? Or Season Four? Or Season Five...? I think you see my point, even if, alas, the writers did not...), yet more adjusting to mummyhood, and yet another beautiful new fella for her to contemplate. Headache-making as the writers' torturing of us re: Miranda and Steve is, this still does not involve Miranda being abjectly humiliated (much)... so I'll take it!

When it comes to Charlotte: major drama in her relationship with Harry (though since the jokes at the expense of Les Jews are easing off a little in Season Six, I guess this is improvement over Season Five...?), and... that's really about it! Hearts are broken, hearts are mended, weddings are involved. Charlotte's previous discontent with her lack of employment... not involved at all! But I mean, really, a lady can only focus on a career OR a man at any given moment, am I right? (Hint: I am not right.)

When it comes to Samantha: an actual relationship, with someone less slimy and vile than her ex Richard, if less interesting and complicated than her ex Maria. I... guess this is progress...? Oh, and there is also a plotline which revolves around her dying of her pubic hair. Of course there is! It cannot be an SATC season without at least one plot hinging on public hair! I expect no less!

Next Up...?: "To Market, To Market," in which the dating market and the stock market are repeatedly and heavily-handedly compared. As this was filmed in the pre-downturn, pre-Occupy era, its cheery celebration of Wall Street causes your blogger some distinct unease/distaste. Happily, she still has Jack Berger to counteract said unease/distaste. Hooray! Counteractment!