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Splashy Bus, Cha Cha Cha

2004-02-23 - 7:57 a.m.

A few years ago, I thought up the perfect final episode for Sex and the City. The last scene would be Miranda and Steve's wedding. Charlotte would also be married, but not necessarily to Trey. Samantha would have had a baby, on her own. Carrie would still be single.

Last night was the final episode of Sex and the City, and even though Miranda was indeed married to Steve and Charlotte was married to somebody else, and there was a baby involved (nearly two), the final episode of one of the most influential TV shows of my life was nothing like what I wanted.

Okay, fine, I'll be fair. Charlotte's storyline ended exactly as it should have: with a baby on the way (from China) and with a man that she truly loves by her side. Well done, Charlotte, or at least the people primarily in charge of her story arc. However, Charlotte's ending does not excuse the fact that S&tC turned its back on so many of the things that made me love it.

Sex and the City premiered the summer before I headed off to college. I wasn't going to New York, but I was headed to a town only a couple of hours south. I had spent my teenage years being quiet about my sexuality and longing for love. I had every intention of finding The Boyfriend and walking down the city streets with his hand in mine. I knew the only reason I had never had a boyfriend was because I grew up in such conservative surroundings. As soon as I found myself at an Ivy-League campus in a big, cosmopolitan city, I would find the guy of my dreams.

Yeah, I barely wrote all that with a straight face. Or without crying, either one.

I caught up with reality quickly. Just because guys are smart enough to get into a good school doesn't make them kind, or deep, or interesting, or, not to put too fine a point on it, attracted to me. I didn't quite know what to do. Then I found myself at a party, very drunk, with a boy who had always wanted to sleep with a guy but who had never had the opportunity. I pointed out that opportunity was standing right in front of him, and was already a bottle of champagne to the wind.

So, I had my first one night stand. I felt kinda good the next morning. I felt sexy, and fun, and worldly. Kinda like Samantha. I continued to feel that way when I told everyone about my wild night the next day, at brunch in the dining hall. I didn't feel like a whore or like someone who was wasting his time. I was Samantha Jones, and I kept on being Samantha Jones for the next few years.

For the next few summers, my friends and I would gather around to watch Sex and the City. We always assigned each other characters. As I said, I was usually Samantha, except when around Shkbob, because even I must bow down. Some women (and gay men) claimed to be cynical, professionally driven Miranda, while the hopeless romantics (and, sometimes, the hopelessly status conscious) admitted that they were Charlottes. No one ever wanted to be Carrie, because Carrie was very annoying. However, I think if you pressed me, I admitted to being all these women, Carrie included.

I began life as a Charlotte, longing for the validation that would come from finding a life partner. I became a Samantha, enjoying my sexuality and refusing to settle. I've always been nearly-half Miranda, raging against the need to couple. And I comment on the action as Carrie, splitting the difference between the extremes.

I loved so much of what this show did. I loved the episode on gender, where Charlotte finds her inner drag king and Carrie kisses Alanis Morrisette, because it implied that gender is fluid and that people's hang-ups are their own, for better or worse. I loved the episode when Miranda dated an overweight guy, because Miranda had no problem with his weight and it was his own problems with it that ended the relationship, and because on that same episode Samantha reminded Carrie that she refuses to be judged for her sexuality, and that she will give blowjobs ot relative strangers as long as she "can breath and kneel." I loved when Samantha dated a woman and broke up with her because she just didn't want a relationship, and when Charlotte had her vagina painted. I loved loved loved Miranda and Steve.

But more than any of that, I loved the way the seasons had ended up until now. At the end of every season, the women had problems. Some of them were single. Some of them were in relationships that had difficulties. Some of them had just had their hearts broken. All of them, however, were together, laughing, often dancing, often drinking, enjoying New York. To reference Charlotte, they had chosen to make one another their soulmates, while men were just these great guys that they also spent time with. It didn't matter who was single and who wasn't, because none of them were alone. It was for this reason that this show was something special for me and my friends. It reminded us that we didn't have to worry about finding true love. We had it right there with us the whole time.

Which is why I really hated the last episode. For the first time, the friendships came second.

I'm not going to go after Charlotte, because, as I said, I felt her ending was appropriate. She had discovered over the past few seasons that what we need and what we think we ought to want are two very different things, and that a man's heart, mind and soul are more important than his jawline or his pedigree. She couldn't have the perfect WASP husband and the brood of WASP larvae, so she made herself a family out of a bald Jewish lawyer and a little girl from China. I really think that was beautiful.

I'm also not going to go after Carrie's ending, because, well, no one cares. I will say that I liked that she admitted to Aleksandr that she was looking for ridiculous, inconvenient love. It explains a lot. And, Hell, if she was going to wind up with anyone, it might as well have been Big. But, as I said, Carrie could have fallen into the Seine and drowned and I wouldn't have cared.

No, I'm going to attack the endings they gave to Miranda and Samantha, because I cared about them the most, and because they had been, for a very long time, the confirmed single ladies on the show.

Now, as I said at the beginning of this thesis, I wanted Miranda and Steve together. I wanted them together from their first date. I kept wanting to smack Miranda for being dumb enough to let a guy like that go time and time again. I did not like that a baby had to happen to get them back together, but, Hell, whatever works. I liked that she had to make a lot of difficult decisions this season regarding her life, including moving to Brooklyn.

What I didn't like was Magda, or, at least, what happened with Magda in the last episode. This might be the English/Performance Studies major in me, but I always saw Magda as representing the old idea of what a woman should be: a wife and mother. After Miranda hired her as a housekeeper, she scolded Miranda for not knowing how to cook, and for keeping condoms and vibrators in the house. She saw Miranda as flawed because she chose to remain single. Magda, of course, was happier than anyone when Miranda and Steve finally married. On the last episode, Miranda and Steve took in Steve's mother, who had suffered a stroke and apparently a lot more. Now, were this show to have gone on another season, then this would have resulted in the end of their marriage, you mark my words. However, what we saw was Miranda running after Steve's Ma, only to find her eating pizza out of the garbage. She took her home and gave her a bath, and afterwards Magda came to Miranda and told her that she was a loving person, and kissed her on the forehead.

Now, I do believe that this was a powerful way to portray both Miranda's devotion to Steve and her kindness in general, but couldn't this have happened a few seasons ago? Couldn't this have been Miranda's mom, before she died, or an aunt or uncle? Couldn't it have been a friend, with something other than dementia? Why did it take helping her mother-in-law for Miranda to finally have Magda's approval, and furthermore, why is Magda's approval the final summation of Miranda's arc? Seriously, the hell? Why couldn't Magda have discovered that Miranda is deeply loving back when the people Miranda loved most were her friends?

I don't like the idea of Miranda's story ending with her being married and having kids and therefore earning the approval of an old woman and her antiquated ideas about what a woman should be. I think it's a betrayal of Miranda's character and, for that matter, a betrayal to a lot of single women.

That, of course, has been the theme of the last few episodes: that eventually, being single DOES become pathetic, and that women DO have to pair off with men in order to find happiness and fulfillment. Enid (or, as I liked to call her, A Waste of Candice Bergin), Carrie's former boss, found herself alone in her fifties, angry that so many men around her only wanted younger bimbos (like, oh, that's right, Carrie), and wound up settling for a food critic played by Wallace Shawn, in what seemed like a relationship forged entirely out of desperation. At the party where she met Wallace Shawn, a crazy party girl played by Kristen Johnson fell out a window to her death, representing the death of being single and not caring about it. The writers were shamelessly going back on the idea that had fueled so much of what was great about the show: the notion that being single was a valid lifestyle choice for women and one they could find as rewarding as being married.

Nowhere was this betrayal more apparent than in my beloved Samantha. I remember a few seasons back when Samantha got the flu and couldn't get any of her men to come over and fix her shades so she could sleep. She lamented being single and alone, and questioned the validity of her choices. However, as soon as she recuperated, she realized it was just the sickness and the fear talking, and went on with her life.

This season, however, she did not have the flu. She had cancer. Now, Samantha battling cancer single would have been very interesting. I can't help but think of the "Oh my God I am going to die alone and I never got married does that even make me a woman" thoughts that are the theme of plays like W;t. I would have liked to have seen Samantha handle that with her usual defiance and self-reliance, but instead she handled it with Smith, her sexy, much younger boyfriend. Now, many may see Smith as the prefect compromise. On the one hand, Samantha is settling down, but it is with a boytoy sex machine who absolutely loves her. However, watching her settle down has been a very annoying process, one that has profoundly compromised her character. Before the cancer hit, Samantha had sex one last time with Richard. Bad, terrible, awful sex. Afterwards she went to Smith, cried and said, "I don't know what's wrong with me." Well, no one said they were going to be exclusive, did they? Also, since when did Richard lose the ability to fuck? Wouldn't it have been more interesting if they had great sex, but she still felt guilty? Or, God forbid, if she had great sex, and sat down and talked with Smith about an open relationship?

When cancer hit, he was there for her, and yeah, that was sweet and all, and it showed that such men should not be thrown aside casually, but, as I said, who said Samantha had to be monogamous? The worst was this last episode, when she at first told him to feel free to sleep with other women on location, and then called him and asked him not to. To reference Sam, did she catch monogamy from the girls? Why couldn't Smith and Samantha have been polyamorous? How daring would it have been to have them agree that, while they were one another's primary partner, Samantha would still be able to enjoy her usual sex life? Instead, we have Samantha learning that sex and love have become inextricable for her. How fucking dull.

All of this I could have forgiven, though--I mean, heck, isn't the point of having choices that you can choose to NOT be single as easily as you can choose to be single--if it hadn't been for the last scenes. Upon her return from Paris, Carrie meets her friends for brunch and, well, they don't talk. They were talking before, and you see them talking, but all you hear is Carrie's voice over. Then, you see them leave the restaurant, and the last shots are of each of them with their respective men: Charlotte and Harry walking their dogs, Miranda and Steve playing with Brady, Samantha and Smith fucking, and Carrie on the phone with John, the man we had always known as Big. It wasn't even as though you got to see all the women together with all their men, including the gay boys like Stanford and Marcus and even Anthony, a big urban family waiting, let's say, for Charlotte and Harry to bring their adopted daughter home for the first time. That was a final shot I could have lived with, maybe, but instead I get Carrie on her cell with the man who fucked her over again and again and again and again. When combined with single-and-proud women plunging to their deaths and successful, intelligent women over fifty lamenting their lives, the message is clear: at the end of the day, woe betide the woman who doesn't stop chatting with her single girlfriends and go home to a man. Not only did the show excise what made it interesting, it excised what made it endearing.

I hear there's supposed to be a movie of this series. I don't like the sound of it, but I hope that it might be able to rectify some of the greivous wrongs of this final episode. At the very least, I hope it ends with the women actually T-A-L-K-I-N-G about S-E-X, even if it's a conversation about their married sex lives. Give Harry or Steve a fetish and give Samantha a threeway, is it so much to ask?

Ultimately, I really hope that this last season doesn't cloud my love of the previous seasons. I owe a lot to this show. It introduced me and my girlfriends to such important accessories as the cosmopolitan and The Rabbit. It gave us a lot of good one liners to quote ("When I say, 'I do PR' what I'm really saying is 'I give good head.'"). I was able to show the straight people I know the episode where Charlotte tries to set Stanford up with Anthony as a reason why I never let them set me up with another guy, and they understood, finally. Watching Charlotte, I got to see how far I had come from high school, and what a mistake it would have been to stay on the "Must find love get married NOW" path, and how it's okay to still want those things as long as you wait for them to come the right way. With Miranda, I was able to rail at the voices that argued that women were defined by men, and figure out that men, similarly, should not be defined by their career goals. My greatest sensei, Samantha, taught me not only that I should not be judged, but that I should not judge, that no one can know what drives a person to or from love. From Carrie, I learned how NOT to handle a relationship and what NOT to wear. Perhaps I owe her the most.

One day I might wind up at a party coked up out of my mind and fall out a window after lamenting how everyone around me has paired off. One day I might settle for a boring food critic because I have waited too long to find The Man. Maybe I'll just go about my life, doing my job, never finding someone who fits, or maybe I might even find myself a Steve and settle down in Brooklyn with kids and dogs and cats and a maid who still fucking well disapproves of me because I'm fucking gay. But whatever happens, thanks to the first five seasons of this six season show, I'll go through all that is ahead of me with a cosmopolitan in my hand, a hot guy in the corner of my eye, and, more importantly than anything else, my best friends by my side.

And no fucking fabric flowers ANYWHERE in sight.

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The End - 2005-02-11
Let's Go on With the Show - 2005-01-30
The Curse, and This Bee's a Keeper - 2005-02-01
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Cowboys and Medievalists - 2005-01-30

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