Monday, June 14, 2010

Miranda and the City (5.30.08)

On Memorial Day, some friends and I were talking about the Sex and The City movie and the original series. "I like the stories," I confessed.

Orrin laughed, "Yeah, and I just read the articles."

In anticipation of tonight's Sex and the City opening, I've been poring over the Entertainment Weekly issue that reviews every episode of the HBO show. I wouldn't have called myself a huge fan, but I guess I am; as I read the show synopses, I recognized nearly every one.

In my memory the individual episodes all kind of all blend together like the bleary recollection of a night of bar-hopping - there were new guys, old guys, amazing clothes (remember Carrie's purse with the four foot fringe?), embarrassing situations, hashing it out over cocktails or coffee with the girls...and repeat.

But one story arc kept my full attention - Miranda's transformation into a mother.

For me, that was the heart of the series. Deciding to keep an unplanned child; confessing her love for Steve, her child's father; having a low key but lovely wedding -- Miranda quietly became an adult while the other women still seemed, well, girlish.

Yes, Charlotte was also starting a family as the series ended, but her starry-eyed character never had to battle a personal demon like Miranda's - a tendency to look at the world with cynicism.

At the opening of season five, when Charlotte called out to New York from the Staten Island ferry that she was getting married that year (before she even found a suitable partner), I couldn't relate. But now I consider that the actress Cynthia Nixon who plays Miranda is prevented by federal law and the laws of nearly every state from making the claim Charlotte yelled so freely. This inequity of rights, rights that I had always taken for granted, adds another level of poignancy to her character's plans and hopes:

"If you're so anti-romance, why are you having a wedding at all? Why not just go down to city hall and get it over with?" asks Carrie.

Miranda replies, "You know I thought about that. But then I realized I actually do want to say those vows out loud to Steve in front of the people I care about."

If Miranda came across as occasionally brusque and jaded and if she suffered some grotesque sexcapades, (episodes 70 and 75, yikes!), her dignity and humanity were kept intact by the two mother episodes that act like bookends in her relationship with Steve.

In season four, the death of Miranda's mother (a character we had never seen nor even heard discussed) might have been little more than a plot device, but there was genuine grief depicted in the writing and the acting.

Miranda: "My sister and her husband want me to third-wheel with them down the aisle--God forbid I should walk it alone. Because that would be the real tragedy, right? Ignore the coffin! There's a single 35-year-old woman walking behind it."

When Miranda spots Steve, her ex-boyfriend, at the funeral and when Carrie joins her in the processional, you sense her protective shell cracking.

By the series finale, Miranda and Steve, their one year old son Brady and the dog have all moved to Brooklyn. In a final act of opening her heart, Miranda agrees to allow Steve's alcoholic and Alzheimer's afflicted mother move in with them.

I never had a six figure law job, Cosmos give me a headache, I wear a hand-freeing backpack instead of a fab bag and I prefer shoes with a wider toe to Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks. But I feel an affinity with Miranda, despite all the superficial differences. The fashion and the serial dating catches all the attention but I would argue that at the center of the series and at the center of its appeal is not the trappings of the New York lifestyle, whatever that is, but the themes of finding genuine emotion in a culture of artifice and connecting with those we find ourselves surprised to love.

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