On first glance that might appear to be a fairly random assortment of television shows. It’s not. I have a point. Whether I get to it or not is another question, but there is one…
Also, spoilers ahead.
Back in the day, Sex and the City was one of my favorite television shows. I can remember, in high school, watching it with my mom, and sometimes one or two of her friends, curled up in our living room. They would have a glass of wine or a cocktail, and sometimes I would too, and we would watch four of our favorite television characters live their adventuresome lives in the big city.
I realize that for some people that might have been awkward, that is, watching a show with “Sex” in the title with one of their parents. It wasn’t. I mean, sometimes it kind of was, especially when one of her friends volunteered details I wasn’t quite ready to digest, but for the most part, it was not. Probably because for us, and definitely for me, the show wasn’t really about sex. It was about women living their lives, finding their way, looking for love, building friendships.
Anyway, in later years, in college, I watched these same episodes with friends, often with a bottle of champagne. I actually have some really great memories of those sleepovers.
Recently the New Yorker published a piece about what went wrong with Sex and the City, and I have to admit I only had time to quickly scan the pages, but the idea seemed to be that the ending was really to blame. The article, or at least what I read, the way I read it, defended the series, right up until the end, and pointed to the ending as the reason it’s so easily dismissed. I agree, at least in part. I think those who felt a deep sense of betrayal about the ending take it too far – it was, after all, a television show. I can say that because for about thirty seconds (or days) I was one of those people.
Here’s why. Carrie was back and forth, trying to decide between holding on and loving a man who had treated her carelessly for years, someone she could not trust, for justifiable reasons, but for whom she had deep feelings, and a new man, a fairly cold, distant type, who didn’t seem to be interested in the same kind of intimacy she craved. First of all, I think that is a pattern that is too often repeated in the real world. Second of all, it is not a healthy pattern, or one that should be presented as some sort of fairy-tale ending, or as somehow “normal.”
People grow up, learn, mature, whatever, but they don’t change. Not fundamentally. And there is no way, no way in Hell, Mr. Big turned out to be Mr. Right.
Interestingly enough, a similar issue comes up with The Good Wife, and once again, Chris Noth, the actor who played Mr. Big, is involved, as Governor Peter Florrick, the (not so) good wife’s husband. I don’t know how this series ends. I honestly thought last night might have been the last episode, but there is at least one more. Things are up in the air with the investigator guy (Jason? I’m pretty sure it’s Jason) and the future of her firm, farewells to several cast members were said, Alicia sat down on her bed and talked with Peter about their journey and coming full circle. It would have made some sense to leave it there.
If Sex and the City was bold because it presented real and imperfect female characters, The Good Wife takes it one full step further. She is imperfect to the point that sometimes she is grating and almost, for many, unsympathetic. She had some redeeming qualities in the earlier seasons, I think, but I can’t recall what they were, and now she seems more calculating than anything else.
This is especially interesting when I stop to think about series like Mad Men, where somehow, after season after season (I had to stop watching after season three), Don Draper behaves despicably, and people watch. And it would be difficult to argue it’s a quality thing, that Mad Men was just so well made, because The Good Wife is too (even if they don’t always get the legal details quite right). Why is our tolerance for bad behavior in men, even on television, so much higher?*
Did Peter tank a murder investigation to protect one of his campaign donor’s sons? Who knows? Who cares? Is what they have a real marriage? I don’t know. I don’t know what a real marriage looks like to anyone other than myself. Different people desire different levels of intimacy and different things from relationships. Maybe their marriage is exactly what they want it to be. I have no idea. Maybe they were both using each other to get where they wanted to in their careers and personal lives? Maybe things would have been different if Alicia had married Will or heard his voicemail, or maybe they would be different with Jason. Maybe. And maybe not.
For one thing, Will was no saint. He was good to Alicia in a lot of different ways, many times, but there was a reason they broke up the first time, and a reason it didn’t work the second. And Jason? Even I can see those red flags, and they were there before she saw him making out with an “old friend” from New York right in front of her face.
Is she lonely? Does she need someone in her life? It’s hard to tell. Maybe. Maybe that’s why she turned to alcohol before her sleepovers with Jason. Or maybe she has built exactly the life she wanted to build. I honestly don’t know. The more I live and meet people and learn about what motivates them, the more I learn I don’t know or understand them. Maybe her life is exactly what she wants it to be. And maybe she wants to make a change. Change can be good, although typically it’s not great to center it around a man who is untrustworthy. Again.
Maybe that’s too harsh. What if I wake up one day and find out HW has been cheating. Inevitably some people would say things like, “that’s what she gets for centering her life around a man who was untrustworthy. Again.” Probably. Whatever.
And now Kimmy. I don’t even know what to say about the Dong situation, other than it was completely ridiculous. What I really want to talk about is the total fucking crap ending. Jon Hamm gives me nightmares. I’m not going to go into why, but Mad Men did not help, and his role as the kidnapper of young girls on KS didn’t help either. And of course his face was one of the last things we see as Season Two ends. Because he called, from prison, to tell Kimmy he needs a divorce, from a marriage she (presumably) knew nothing about. Come on!
Still, it’s hard to imagine, when the time comes, that the show will end with some horrible choice for Kimmy, or pretending all is well with the world.
Am I being too sensitive? Taking television too seriously? Probably. I’m not actually going to lose (anymore) sleep about any of this, but I really do think the themes are troubling. The choice, for real, imperfect women at least, is between a very bad guy, a worse guy, and being alone? Is that the modern day version of a fairy tale? Is that supposed to be an improvement over the Cinderella crap we grew up with?
Man, we’ve got a long way to go, ladies.
*I’m not going to discuss or prove that this is also the case in real life right now, but it absolutely is, especially regarding parenting.