|No, Virginia, You Aren't Like Carrie Bradshaw|
|and yes, you watch too much TV|
My disgust for my fellow audience of television viewers reached its zenith recently when Sex and the City went off the air. But my original nadir was back in the later 1980’s when a program that gave us Linda Hamilton (original Terminator babe), Beauty and the Beast, was cancelled. I was writing television reviews for a paper in an adjacent town (it was money)(although not much)(not enough, in any case) and I could not avoid reading the letter writing campaign coverage to keep the show on the air.
No. Wait, that was later. Hamilton first left the show and another ‘beauty’ was set in her place, but the obvious problem was that if the monster switched affections so quickly, then the whole thing was a sham, and the audience women (or, rather, the audience….) would have none of it. But, I had to review the new cast in the show, but a pageant emerged around me, both with the women at the newspaper and with local fans of the show itself. All women.
The first event featured
myself have been annoyed when shows vanished (MASH) and more often when shows remained on the air, but I can
safely and with no thought of contradiction say that I never have had the emotional
attachment to a program that affected my nerves to the extent that I cared one
way or another. Except MASH.
I admit, when the helicopter took off for the last time, I hurt. But I got over it. That was twenty-one years ago, and the TV war
I suppose the next brush with this pathos was when Seinfeld went off the air five years ago. For the year previous to this demise, the WEB was adrift with proposed final episodes, none of which bore the slightest resemblance to what happened but stood as testament to the deprived, rather pathetic lives in which a television program could exert emotional pull. Further, what happened was a slap in the face to the audience who’d watched it for nine years. Turns out the writer and star considered the characters just as worthless and despicable as initial impressions suggested, but were so well acted you grew tolerant and then affectionate despite the obvious fantasy of such characters being found in reality.
In the series, Seinfeld was a mature man, centered, considerate, and attractive to women. He was also supposed to be a comedian. This dissonance with possible reality may not have been appreciated to anyone who didn’t labor in the pit of show business for as many years as I, or with the ego-centric, desperate, rather scary, and psychotic personalities that compose the entire category of comics. To believe that premise, you’d need a world where Howard Stern was active in church and elected to his town council. Got it? There could be no such creature.
Elaine was a believable character, and I know several of her. A self-centered daddy’s girl.
Cosmo Kramer wouldn’t have been found alive past his twenty-first year.
George Castanza, Lord of the Idiots, would have been shot after one of his tantrums at an early age if he didn’t kill his parents and start a far more believable life as a serial murderer.
I started out hating the show because I hated the characters, but long after it went off the air, I became a fan in the reruns. And in that capacity, I saw the final, two part episode where, it turns out, the writers actually found the characters revolting people, and sentenced them to a year in a jail cell together. “Nobody learns” said writer and co-creator Larry David in anticipation of the final episode as public interest peaked, who has now composed the same basic show (Curb Your Enthusiasm) with himself as a revolting person surrounded by others no less, but distinctly, flawed.
The final episode was considered badly done by the public, but I thought it brilliant. David and Seinfeld essentially drop kicked their audience through the living room window. Turns out these weren’t mildly ‘eccentric’ people, slightly exaggerated for television - often Jewish stereotypes pillaged by comedy (and anti-Semites) for generations. They were actually bad, selfish, stupid, and certainly obnoxious in the eyes of the writers and creators and the joke was on the audience, which had been won over through the years. Like me. How many television shows had wanted to do that, stick it to the audience? They did in St. Elsewhere, but that might have just been an exhausted last minute change in a show not that popular anyway, and they pretended it was all in the mind of an autistic child. They made fun of that temptation in Newhart’s final show, where he wakes up in his previous show.
But Seinfeld actually gave its audience the finger. And got away with it because nobody wanted to admit it. Hard not to admire that.
And Sunday, February 22, Sex and the City went away. To me, it’s Seinfeld over again. These are four really despicable women, despite their witty repartee and affection for each other’s well being.
Samantha (Kim Cattrel) - the least attractive one who, unfortunately, went naked all the time - thinks of herself as an empowered woman and is allowed to be perceived as such in the writing. But she’s simply an easy lay to guys with money and/or beauty, a party girl with a high paying job (somehow) who, until recently, treated her younger lover like dirt, and then accepts him after, and maybe only, because she had breast cancer. That was a good plot twist, because it was pointed out that women who don’t have children have a higher rate of cancer. To the show’s credit, her transition into compassion for others is slow, uneven, unconvincing to her, but therefore highly believable. It is how someone like her would react. Selfishly and badly.
It is still one of the great gender divides, the greatest question since ‘does she or doesn’t she’ (dye her hair) made it into the nation’s cliché basket years ago. Men consider Samantha an easy lay, in script and audience. Women consider her liberated, living her life like a powerful man. There is nothing mutually exclusive about those perceptions, except nobody wanted to marry Samantha till recently. She made a big deal of terminating any relationship that was getting too close, but in the scripts as in reality……we were taking her word for it. Because the reality is, few men would commit themselves to a woman that wouldn’t be faithful to them. Men rarely pretend that they can believe they can ‘change’ a woman, win her heart so convincingly that she’ll be with them forever. Women, for whatever reason, do believe that about men.
Charlotte, the lovely Kristin Davis, is so desperate for a home and nest and children to emulate her parents in one form or another that she becomes a dog person to complete her home with her hubbie. She was another type well known to me.
Ironically, the two best looking of the four had the lesser roles. Attorney Miranda was played by Cynthia Nixon, who I loved in Tanner 88. Miranda, the best looking and the best actress, is a social climber, a snob, and displays few of the (other) characteristics of a high powered attorney, and marries a bartender. As a character, this did not work.
Carrie, played by the remarkable Sarah Jessica Parker – she of the incredible bod and smile who oozes sex through every revealing plunge of her wardrobe while having, if you’re honest and look at it, the face of a blue-eyed Secretariat – is stand-in for the capitalist’s idea of the ideal contemporary woman. We’re to believe her a tiger in the sack, a seductive queen. And Parker pulls it off, despite her character having no great talent and nothing much to say, even by the standards of lifestyle columnists.
And the one thing that unites all four of these characters is that they have no – zero – interest in men at all except for the sex and precedent. The men in their lives serve as to provide conversation between the women. If women cannot talk about their ‘relationship’ with other women, would they even be in the relationship? This is in conflict with all the talk of spiritual values and emotional needs. They need material to work with.
Still, apparently women and gays, who made up about half the men on the show, thought these were wonderful role models and people and have spent the weeks since the show ended soaking up anything auctioned from the set and the trousseaus of the cast. In fact, the show was a poor imitation of Absolutely Fabulous, the British series about only two women who covered all the bases it took four to do over here, absent any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Just as Seinfeld convinced people that the characters, stereotypes, were really okay people before dropping the bomb, Sex and the City convinced women that this is what real women did: make lots of money, sleep around, and talk about it endlessly. This is modern woman as slatternly fishwife, and for whatever reason, it works. Hordes of women really think they themselves live that sort of life, when in reality they live a life in front of the television. From the AP coverage of the last episode of Sex and the City....
Denise Garbinski, a natural foods marketer, concurred. "I'm totally distraught. I'm really bummed because I feel like, as a single woman in her 30s and a former New Yorker, they're like my girlfriends," she said. "I've almost dated every single guy (Bradshaw) has dated. At the end of the day, what do you have? You have your girlfriends."
Bad news, babe. Not even that, as it turns out.