Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Further observations on Sex and the City

Well this cold has lasted for three days, and all I've been doing is lying around blowing my nose in a state of utter exhaustion. I finally got off the sofa and did my laundry, which I guess means I'll have to go back to work soon.

It's pretty safe to say that except for this cold I would have gone my entire life without watching so much Sex and the City. At this point I'm up to the middle of season 4.

Carrie Bradshaw, the focus character of the show, is trying to quit smoking and finally got herself an email account - in 2001. On AOL. I got my first AOL email account in 1992. And it isn't like Carrie is computer illiterate, she's shown using a laptop to write her column from the beginning of the show. Then her computer crashes and she has to take it to a techie guy played by none other than Asif Mandvi of the Daily Show. And speaking of, at one point Miranda is shown watching the Daily Show - this would have been the early days before Jon Stewart became the voice of a generation.

Also making guest appearances, Alanis Morrisette as a lesbian friend of Carrie's bisexual boyfriend, and Margaret Cho as a fashionista. And Matthew McConaughy and Hugh Hefner (ugh) as themselves.

There was one especially good episode in season 4, when Miranda's mother dies and her friends come down to Philadelphia to be with her. It was quite touching. And the story arc with Samantha taking up with another woman was a welcome diversion from that character becoming extremely monotonous with the constant one-night stands. There was a moment in the episode with Miranda's mother when I thought it was possible that Samantha would have the orgasm that had eluded her for days, during Miranda's mother's funeral. That's how crass and ridiculous I thought the character and the show had become. Fortunately she didn't, and instead cried for Miranda's loss, which was a touching moment of welcome realism. As a general rule, story arcs that focus on Miranda tend to be realistic because Miranda herself is more like real women than the other characters. But did they really have to give her such an unflattering hairstyle?

What's really striking is how influential this show is even now. Women are still writing about it and the show ended in 2004. And one favorite theme is how much people hate Carrie Bradshaw. Most of these think pieces on hating Carrie Bradshaw are within the past couple of years.

It helps to have a sense of perspective though, as this writer wisely noted last October:
Since the show went off the air nearly 10 years ago, fans have been hating on Carrie Bradshaw to the point where, in a 2013 essay for the New Yorker, writer Emily Nussbaum referred to her as “the first female anti-hero on television,” on the same level as Tony Soprano or Al Swearengen or Walter White. 
It’s not difficult to find examples of this anti-Carrie sentiment on the web: Carrie is “the actual worst,” crows Total Sorority Move. She’s “the kind of impossibly self-absorbed, cutesy, un-self-aware woman whose view of the world—and her place in it—hasn't changed since she was maybe 15,” wrote Anna Breslaw in Cosmopolitan. And in an op-ed for the Gloss from 2010, Amanda Chatel argued that Carrie was “a horrible role model for women the world over” and that the character “sort of set women back.” 
To recap: Walter White sold meth. Tony Soprano strangled a man in cold blood. Carrie Bradshaw slept around, bought lots of shoes, and maybe used the first-person a little too much for people’s liking. Also, she wore really ill-advised du-rags occasionally. But I have yet to see anyone argue that Bryan Cranston or James Gandolfini “set men back.” Anyone still want to argue that culturally entrenched sexism is no longer a thing?

Yes, exactly.

However, I will admit to having my hate Carrie Bradshaw moment, and it begins with the going-to-the-country-house-of-boyfriend-Aiden story arc:
  • She's a bitch about going to the country
  • She wears high heels to the country
  • She whines about the country the whole time she's there
  • She invites her ex-boyfriend Big, the asshole man-baby to see her in the country
  • She invites her country-hating friend Samantha to the country in order to entertain her, Carrie Bradshaw
But what really pushed her into hate-able territory, from merely occasionally annoying, is when she saw a squirrel in the country and shrieked this high-pitched shriek like she was a 4-year-old child. That's when I really wanted to slap Carrie Bradshaw. But instead of slapping her, boyfriend Aiden soon after the shriek decides to have sex with her.

And how is that even a contest? Creepy older man Big played by Chris Noth versus hot young handy sweet Aiden played by John freaking Corbett? Ridiculous. 

Well I guess I'm going to have to see this whole series through to the end. Maybe Carrie will stop being such a dumbass.