Season 1, Episode 11: The Drought

“He’s just perfect perfect perfect perfect
… and I’m the girl who farts” – Carrie

droughtMR Big isn’t perfect at all. He has an entirely average physique, a floppy fringe he doesn’t really carry off, and at least one pair of old-man pyjamas. But he proves himself to have an excellent sense of humour in this episode when he puts a whoopee cushion on Carrie’s chair shortly after what the episode guide coyly describes as her “accidental emission” in bed.

Unfortunately our new favourite prankster somewhat insensitively follows this up by declining sex for three nights in a row, sending Carrie into yet another crisis of confidence that culminates in more pretty specific foreshadowing of things to come – “What if he never calls, and three weeks from now I pick up the New York Times and read that he’s married some perfect little woman?”

Meanwhile, Miranda’s going through a dry spell, Samantha’s driven to distraction by her flirtatious yoga teacher’s tantric celibacy, and Charlotte discovers that her boyfriend of several weeks has zero libido due to being on antidepressants.

Logically, the last of these problems deserves the most sympathy when the women get together – Charlotte having invested a fair bit in the relationship in the mistaken belief her beau was super keen – but its comedic potential is limited and Carrie’s self-absorption wins out, as always. In the end, Charlotte isn’t so very heartbroken. She articulates – and not for the last time – that while she might not be as liberal as the others, she could never be happy in a sexless relationship. In light of this, you might expect her to adopt a try-before-you-buy attitude to marriage…

Several features of this episode locate it very firmly in the late 1990s. One, Miranda’s frequent visits to Blockbuster video (an even more retro viewing experience than her later Tivo obsession); two, Carrie’s anxious wait for a landline answerphone message from Big; and three, sad to say, Samantha’s utterly incredulous assertion, in a diatribe about beauty standards: “A guy once broke up with me because I missed a bikini wax!”

Lastly, Mr Big has something approaching a Mr Darcy moment after making a surprise visit to Carrie’s (admittedly fairly grungy) apartment. After she reels off a list of its imperfections he stops her in his tracks with “I like it – I like it the way it is”.

Carrie’s column: “How often is normal?”

Fashion: Blunders continue to outweigh the triumphs. Carrie’s fail-safe seduction outfit is spoiled by her naff blue eyeshadow, Samantha’s yoga outfits assault the eyeballs, and Miranda wears the ugliest pair of denim dungarees ever manufactured. However, Charlotte wears a lovely bra in her scene of sexual rejection (I’m pretty sure it’s bridal lingerie – more foreshadowing!).

Puns: Carrie spends too much time worrying in this series. She tells Miranda she’s been putting on an act the whole time with Big, and hiding her imperfections. But surely that’s no excuse for keeping a lid on her terrible punning habit when among friends?

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Season 1, Episode 2: Models and Mortals

We should just admit that we live in a culture that promotes impossible standards of beauty” – Miranda

episode2FROM a feminist perspective this is an episode of two halves – one of which is terrible.

The topic of men who only date models is pretty NY-centric, but the notion of men pursuing attractive-but-vacuous women less so.

Miranda’s characterisation is pretty one-note for the first two episodes – twice in a row she takes offence at the idea that she’s a guy’s intelligent as opposed to attractive choice of date. But she eventually softens when one of them calls her luminous.

A friend of Carrie’s shows her videotapes of him having sex with models. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says in her narration. But it’s not the horrible violation of the women’s privacy that’s worthy of comment, or even the discovery that her seemingly wholesome friend is a huge creep – it’s that fact the he’s slept with “half the perfume ads in September’s Vogue”. She titters when asking if they consented, and his answer suggests not. PROBLEMATIC.

The lack of regard for the models as people is reflected as much in the way the women discuss them as the way the men treat them. While there’s some right-on sounding talk about beauty standards, there’s no real critique of the media or fashion industry. Instead, the models themselves are the targets of abuse.

Mr Big pops up a couple of times in this episode, first dating a model (one of two black characters in this episode – interesting given the show’s poor reputation for diversity) and then seeking out Carrie to assure her that for him, sense of humour is more important than model looks. Spoiler alert: he’s lying.

Carrie’s column: “If models could cause otherwise rational individuals to crumble in their presence, exactly how powerful was beauty?”

Fashion: Carrie has a hilariously huge mobile phone at this point in the show. And an underwear model has a hairy chest, suggesting some standards of beauty were actually a good bit more naturally achievable in 1998 than they are today. Also retro: sweet potato puffs with smoked salmon and sour cream are served at a fashionable party.

Puns: Still no puns. Was this pitched as comedy drama or what?