Tag Archives: women

Odds and Ends

Life goes on, and this week has been blessedly mundane. Here are five completely unrelated things.

1. THANK YOU to everyone who has donated so far to my run next week! If you haven’t donated yet, you have until Monday at 5:00 PM.

2. While I still don’t like Twitter, I have to say that one of the best feeds out there is Modern Seinfeld. I love Seinfeld and reference it way too much, and Modern Seinfeld cracks me up. The hypothetical plots they come up with are things I can completely see the Seinfeld characters doing. It is kind of strange to think about how much exists now that didn’t in the 90s- the Internet was barely a thing and cell phones were still new when the show ended.

But anyway, the other day they had their best tweet yet:

AMAZING. Even more amazing considering that my post on that subject was titled “Call Me Elaine,” in reference to the episode where Elaine hates The English Patient. I can tell you from experience that people really do act like you killed someone if you say you hate Arrested Development!

3. Line from Seinfeld I keep wanting to quote but can never find the right opportunity for: “You know, we’re living in a SOCIETY!

Line from Friends I keep wanting to quote but can never find the right opportunity for: “That is brand new information!”

4. On Sundays, I am now DVR-ing two shows, which are at polar opposites of the current spectrum of modern TV: Mad Men and What Would Ryan Lochte Do?.

Mad Men is still, in my humble opinion, the best show on TV. Even now, in Season 6, I’m marveling at how literary it is. I always tell people it’s a show for English majors- there is just so much to analyze and examine, both in individual episodes and across seasons and the whole show.

And then there’s What Would Ryan Lochte Do?.

Ryan Lochte cracks me up. He’s so pretty, and such a talented swimmer, but apparently there’s some chlorine water stuck in his brain because man, is he dumb. Male swimmers are usually huge dorks with great bodies, but most of them are somewhat smart. Not Ryan.

There’s only been one episode, but so far, while he’s definitely quite dim, he also comes off as very sweet, kind of like if Joey Tribbiani was a swimmer. Reality TV is often scripted (shocker!) but I did believe him when he said he just wants a girl to settle down with, and there was a really nice moment where he got teary talking about how his family always supports him.

I have to say, too, that the show is making me think of other shows featuring people who presented themselves as dumb. In 2006, Pink had that song “Stupid Girls” that called out celebrities like Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton for dumbing themselves down. More recently, we had Snooki on Jersey Shore playing up the dumb factor, and one reason among many I was glad when Sarah Palin did not ascend to higher office was because I dreaded how her lack of intelligence, and seeming indifference to her ignorance, would reflect on women everywhere.

It would be awesome if we could live in a world where women didn’t feel like the best way to attract attention is by being pretty and dumb. That would be ideal, but instead we now have this show, where a guy is building his image around being pretty and dumb.

Uh, yea equality?

5. There’s a shortage of platelets available for donation now due to the bombing last week, so consider making an appointment to donate platelets!

That’s a Chick’s Movie

“A movie! That’s your problem! You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.”

Today is Valentine’s Day, and I’m not going to write about love. I’m going to write about love in the movies.

This is a genre that doesn’t get a lot of respect, but I adore romantic comedies. Or, rather, I adore good romantic comedies. Sadly, there haven’t been a lot of good ones since the 90s, and most of them were written, directed, or both by the incomparable Nora Ephron, whose death last summer saddened me immensely.

So what makes a good romantic comedy? Well, the “comedy” part is important- if you’re not laughing, it won’t work. But the humor, in most romantic comedies, needs to be more character-driven than situation-driven and more verbal than visual. Obviously, the two leads need to be likeable, and you need to believe that they will work as a couple. And while the ending is a forgone conclusion (or it better be- I’ve already blogged about what I think about movies that end in breakups), there need to be enough plot twists and suspense to keep things interesting. Sadly, most romantic comedies fall short of these standards.

Also, just to be clear on what we’re talking about here, a romantic comedy must be primarily about a romantic relationship and the prospect of two people getting together. This disqualifies movies like Juno or Bridesmaids, where the romance is more like a large subplot, and movies like Love Actually, Crazy, Stupid, Love., He’s Just Not That Into You, and even 10 Things I Hate About You, which are ensemble movies about multiple romances.

Without further ado, here are my favorite romantic comedies. Would you be surprised to hear that the majority of them are from the 90s and late 80s? And that two of them have ellipses in the title?

Sleepless in Seattle

This is the movie the quote at the beginning of this post is from. Nora Ephron herself described this movie as being not about love, but about love in the movies.

More concretely, it’s about Sam (Tom Hanks), a man in Seattle raising his eight-year-old son Jonah (Ross Malinger) alone after his wife’s death. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Annie (Meg Ryan) has just gotten engaged to a nice but somewhat awkward man named Walter (Bill Pullman). On Christmas Eve, Jonah calls a psychologist on a national radio show and says that his dad needs a new wife. Sam gets on the phone and, after overcoming his initial resistance, opens up and talks about how much he loved his wife. Annie hears the radio show and is deeply moved by it. She becomes obsessed with the idea that falling in love with Sam might be her destiny. Unfortunately, she’s not alone- women across the country write to Sam after hearing the show, and Sam is adamantly opposed to meeting any of them.

I don’t know what it is about this movie- there are just so many things I love about it. It’s funny, but in a very gentle, subtle way. The characters are written well enough that it’s never really bothered me that Annie is borderline-stalking Sam- if she’d had more resources than the extremely basic 1993 Internet we see her using, she would have found out all that information faster. And Sam is such a great character that I don’t doubt for a minute that all these women would fall in love with him. He’s sad, but has a sarcastic sense of humor that keeps him from being too depressing and is also a great dad— I love all his scenes with Jonah.

One self-aware motif in this movie is how men and women watch movies differently, and one of the most famous scenes is this one. Sam is talking with his married friends Greg and Suzy (played by Victor Garber and Tom Hanks’ wife Rita Wilson), and when Suzy gets teary-eyed describing the plot of An Affair to Remember, Sam says dismissively, “That’s a chick’s movie,” and proceeds to get emotional over The Dirty Dozen with Greg. (In college, for a class on screenwriting, I wrote a paper on this movie based on what I’d read in the shooting script, and most of this scene wasn’t originally in it!)

You’ve Got Mail

“Don’t cry, Shopgirl.”

Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and Nora Ephron reunite, and this time, the two leads meet before the end of the movie! Ryan plays Kathleen, the cheerful owner of a small children’s bookstore she inherited from her mother, while Hanks plays Joe, who’s about to open up a large chain bookstore that threatens to put Kathleen out of business. In real life, they can’t stand each other, but unbeknownst to them, they’re carrying on an online romance the way people did in 1998— with lots of dial-up Internet and AOL. It’s maybe a little less sweet than Sleepless In Seattlebut a lot funnier. Watching it now is kind of weird because of how much is dated- aside from the old-school Interwebs, it makes me long for the days when big bookstore chains were the bad guys rather than e-readers.

While You Were Sleeping

“I’d say that she gets under your skin as soon as you meet her. She drives you so nuts you don’t know whether to hug her or, or just really arm wrestle her. She would go all the way to Europe just to get a stamp in her passport. I don’t know if that amounts to insanity, or just being really, really…likable.”

This is a movie that always makes me smile. Sandra Bullock plays a nice woman named Lucy who works in the Chicago subway system. With her parents dead and no siblings or significant others, she’s lonely and has no one to spend holidays with. On Christmas, a subway rider named Peter (Peter Gallagher) whom she has a crush on but has never spoken to, is mugged and falls onto the train tracks, hitting his head, and Lucy drags him away from an oncoming train. She saves his life, but he’s still in a coma, and when a nurse at the hospital overhears her saying out loud that she was going to marry him in a moment of wishful thinking, Peter’s entire kooky family ends up believing that she’s his fiancee. Fearing disappointing them and possibly giving his grandmother a heart attack, as well as longing for a family of her own, she’s unable to give up the charade. But while Peter is still in the coma (which his loving family seems weirdly unconcerned about), Lucy starts falling for his brother Jack (Bill Pullman). It’s all a bit implausible, but it’s so sweet that it’s hard not to love. And speaking of love, unlike most romantic comedies, this one is as much about familial as romantic love.

When Harry Met Sally…

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

No list of romantic comedies would be complete without this one. Meg Ryan (yep, she did a lot of rom-coms at the height of her career) and Billy Crystal play the titular characters, who share a ride home from college after they graduate and can’t stand each other. Years later, after Harry is divorced and Sally’s long-term relationship has ended, they meet again and become friends. But, as Harry says, men and women can never really be friends, because sex always gets in the way. And the end of the movie doesn’t disprove that idea. (Although my dad, who also loves this movie, disagrees with me on that. He was like, “But they were friends! They were friends for a long time!”)

If you’re going to make a guy watch a chick flick with you, I’d pick this one. (Like I said, my dad loves it.) That’s mainly because it’s really funny- more so than the average romantic comedy, and the humor is all character-driven and verbal. Billy Crystal is so natural that it’s hard to believe he didn’t make up some of his lines himself.

Say Anything…

“I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen.”

Oh, Lloyd Dobler, how I love you. John Cusack’s boombox-holding romantic has become a bit of a pop-culture icon, with good reason. Despite being an underachieving recent high school graduate with no plans for college or a career beyond kickboxing and knowing that he doesn’t want to sell, buy, or process anything, when he decides to ask out the valedictorian, Diane Court (Ione Skye), he follows through. His friends see her as out of his league, but Diane, who’s pretty but a bit of a loner, says yes for a simple reason: he makes her laugh. Their relationship is threatened by Diane’s fellowship to study in England at the end of the summer and Diane’s father’s indictment for a white-collar crime, but of course love conquers all in the end.

Lloyd really stands out as a character for a number of reasons. Unlike a lot of male characters in movies, like this one, he doesn’t see the hard-to-get girl as an object, and it’s clear that Diane’s intelligence is one big reason he likes her. Once they’re together, he’s kind and thoughtful without being paternalistic, like when he makes sure she doesn’t step on broken glass in a parking lot and comforts her on an airplane, knowing that she’s afraid to fly. His two best friends are girls for whom he doesn’t have romantic feelings (yes, When Harry Met Sally…, sometimes that does happen, although it’s really rare in the movies), and he’s very sweet to them as well, at one point telling off a guy who treated his friend Corey (Lili Taylor) badly. And finally, lacking ambition of his own, he’s content to stand by as Diane chases her own dreams, like women in movies too often do for men.

Actually, you know what? If you have to watch a romantic comedy with a guy, watch this one instead of When Harry Met Sally…. All men could take some lessons from Lloyd Dobler.

Pretty Woman

“In case I forget to tell you later, I had a really good time tonight.”

I know I just went on about the feminism in Say Anything…, but here’s where I destroy the feminist goodwill I’ve just built up. I do love Pretty Woman, but only if I don’t think about it too much. This movie, about a businessman and a prostitute who fall in love after he pays her to accompany him to meetings for a week and pays for a new wardrobe for her, doesn’t exactly portray an egalitarian relationship. But if you don’t dive too deep into its messages, this is a really enjoyable movie.

Okay, that was a lot of negativity. So what’s to like? Well, Richard Gere’s character, for one thing. The first time I saw this movie was at a sleepover in high school, and I thought he was so kind and loving. Julia Roberts, in one of her earliest movie roles, is as entertaining as she’s ever been- there are a lot of small comic moments with her, like singing off-key in the Jacuzzi and defending her use of dental floss with, “Well, you shouldn’t neglect your gums!” And despite the oddness of this pairing, the relationship never seems unbelievable- the moment where she whispers, “I love you,” to him as he sleeps is simple but touching.

Notting Hill

“Happiness isn’t happiness without a violin-playing goat.”

Another romantic comedy with Julia Roberts, but in this one, she’s the one with all the power. She plays Anna Scott, a movie star as famous as, well, Julia Roberts, whom British bookstore owner William (Hugh Grant) meets when she comes into his shop. Her being an internationally famous star constantly followed by paparazzi (it’s hard to imagine anyone but Roberts playing this part) and his being a nice, regular guy with a business, quirky friends and family, and a weird roommate present a lot of obstacles. But we progress to the inevitable happy ending with a lot of heart and quintessentially British humor. Incidentally, one of William’s friends is played by Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey!

As Good as It Gets

“You make me want to be a better man.”

Okay, this one barely qualifies as a romantic comedy, since it’s as much about Melvin (Jack Nicholson) overcoming his misanthropic ways and becoming a kinder person as it is about his relationship with Carol (Helen Hunt), the waitress who puts up with him every day. But although taking care of his neighbor’s dog is initially what starts his change, Carol is the one who makes him want to be a better man, and their relationship is too big to be a subplot. I remember the Boston Globereview, when the movie first came out (yes, I remember weird things), described the movie as being like a great, character-driven sitcom, and that’s pretty accurate. Aside from the loveliness of watching Melvin soften as he realizes that his dependence on Carol might actually be love, we see him getting attached to the dog and overcoming his prejudices to treat the gay neighbor he used to antagonize with more kindness. Impressive acting all around is what takes this movie to the next level.

What are your favorite romantic comedies?

Katie Recommends: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

I didn’t think much of this movie when I first heard of it, but it got very good reviews and word-of-mouth, so I made a mental note to check it out. By the time I finally did, it had been in the theaters for awhile, and I’d kind of forgotten why I wanted to see it. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable comedies I’d seen in awhile.

Here’s the thing: I absolutely love good romantic comedies. “Good” is the key word. They have to be both genuinely romantic and genuinely funny to be good, but sadly, Hollywood has long since forgotten how to make good rom-coms. But Crazy, Stupid, Love. (what’s with the weird punctuation, by the way?) is not only genuinely romantic and genuinely funny, but unpredictable. An unpredictable romantic comedy is rarer than an imperfection on Ryan Gosling’s body (which, by the way, is on display in its full glory in this movie), but this movie actually is. Part of the reason why is that it’s an ensemble movie—there are several storylines going on simultaneously. In the opening scene, Emily (Julianne Moore) drops a bomb on Cal (Steve Carell) in a restaurant: she’s been cheating on him with a colleague and wants a divorce. Depressed, Cal takes to moping about his life in a bar that Jacob (Gosling), a smooth young womanizer, frequents. Jacob decides to become Cal’s wingman and takes it upon himself to mold Cal into his own image. We had previously seen Jacob trying to pick up Hannah (Emma Stone), a pragmatic recent law school graduate, in the same bar, but she resisted his advances. That’s not the last we see of the two of them together, though. Meanwhile, Cal and Emily’s seventeen-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) has a crush on Cal, while their thirteen-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) pines for Jessica.

Unpredictable? Suprisingly so. A friend had mentioned to me that there was a big twist she didn’t see coming—for me, there were two. Combine that with believable characters, lots of laugh-out-loud moments, and some moments that are genuinely touching, and you’ve got yourself one very good movie. It won’t win any Oscars or anything, but it definitely gives me hope that Hollywood might have some more good rom-coms up its sleeves.

Other movies I’ve seen lately:


There’s an interesting story behind this movie. Director Kenneth Lonergan, whose previous movie was 2000’s You Can Count on Me, shot this movie, which stars Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, and Matt Damon, among others, back in 2005. Then he and the studio spent years fighting over the movie’s final cut. There were lawsuits involved and it was a whole big mess. While they were waiting for the movie to come out, Anna Paquin went on to star on True Blood and win a Golden Globe, Mark Ruffalo went on to get an Oscar nomination for The Kids Are All Right, and Matt Damon kind of shrugged and said, “Eh, I’m still Matt Damon. Hey, why don’t I go get revenge on Jimmy Kimmel?” Unfortunately, when the movie finally did premiere, it got very little notice despite good reviews. In Boston, it was in the theater for about a week, and I only got to see it because the Brattle Theater showed it last weekend.

Anyway, Paquin plays Lisa, a high school student in New York wracked with guilt over her involvement in a fatal bus accident. As Lisa is running alongside a bus trying to get the driver’s (Ruffalo) attention, the bus runs a red light and kills a woman (Allison Janney) in the crosswalk. In a state of shock and grief, Lisa lies when the police ask her if the light was red or green, but as the enormity of the situation hits her, she does everything she can think of to try to make amends.

The title comes from this poem, which Lisa is studying in school. It’s definitely a downer, so don’t watch this movie if you’re in the mood for something light, and I can definitely see the signs of a fight over the final cut. There are some scenes the movie could definitely do without and others that seem to be missing an additional scene. But overall, it’s a great movie, and the acting, especially by Paquin, is excellent.

The Help

I had recently read the book, and the movie did not disappoint. It was very well-cast: Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen, Octavia Spencer as Minny, Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly, Allison Janney as Skeeter’s mother. Some of those were surprising choices, but I think they all worked out well. And Jessica Chastain was a hilarious Celia Foote—she’s an actress I hope to see more of.

I’ve described my feelings on the book already, and the movie didn’t change much other than changing the sequence of some events. The one pretty big changed involved the reasons around Constantine’s firing—they cut the Lulubelle story, I’m guessing, because Lulubelle would have been hard to cast. One thing I loved about this movie, though, is how it’s completely about women and their friendships with each other. Ever since I learned about the Bechdel Test, I can’t help but put every movie I see through it (although there are plenty of good movies that don’t pass it—and some, like Crazy, Stupid, Love., don’t involve women talking about anything but a man but also don’t involve men talking about anything but women), but this one aces the test. There’s one very small romantic subplot, but it’s almost beside the point. People have focused on the role of racism in this movie, but I think it’s just as much about sexism.


What, you haven’t seen it yet? What the hell are you waiting for? Go rent it now! Seriously, though, this is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Kristen Wiig needs to be a leading lady more often. I LOVE that this was such a breakout movie for Melissa McCarthy, whom I have loved since her days as Sookie on Gilmore Girls. I love that it didn’t go for any of the wedding clichés—there’s no Hangover-esque bachelorette party and no obnoxious Bridezilla (in fact, the bride, played by Maya Rudolph, is the normal one). And I love that, despite being about an impending wedding, it’s not about romance as much as it is about women’s friendships. Like I said about The Help, it’s a topic that doesn’t get enough attention in the movies, and I hope the success of this movie means that we’ll see more movies focused on women.

Why Cinderella Rules

You might have noticed in my previous post that my bib says “Cinderella” right above “Princess Katherine.” That’s because when we registered, we had to choose which of seven princesses was our favorite: Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora (from Sleeping Beauty), Ariel (from The Little Mermaid), Belle (from Beauty and the Beast), Jasmine (from Aladdin), or Tiana (from The Princess and the Frog).

The Disney princesses have gotten a lot of bad press, which has been amplified recently with the publication of Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Although I would argue that the Princess Half-Marathon itself is an entirely positive thing (it aims to empower women, promote a healthy lifestyle, and encourage women to run in teams together), there have been critiques of the princess marketing campaign that I understand and largely agree with. It prioritizes beauty, it puts too much emphasis on finding a prince, it gives the impression that you have to be a beautiful princess to find love. After re-watching all of the Disney princess movies, I realize as an adult that there are some problematic messages that I didn’t pick up on as a kid.



After watching all the movies, I have to confirm my choice of Cinderella, who is clearly the best of the Disney princesses. And here’s why.

I have to say, first of all, that I’ve always loved Cinderella. It was one of the first movies I owned on VHS as a kid, if not the first. It’s got Jaq and Gus-Gus (“Lucifee not funny! Lucifee mean!”), who are just as cute all these years later. When I was in sixth grade, I played Cinderella in a class play where I wore high-heeled, clear jelly sandals for glass slippers. My senior year of high school, I was in the chorus for a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. And I think there’s something about the overcoming adversity aspect of the Cinderella story that just resonates with people more than any other fairy tale. No one calls an underdog who wins a “Snow White” story, after all.

I also have to say that when I re-watched these movies, I was taking with me some of the things I’d learned in the class I took in college on Disney literature. In that class, we read the literature that a Disney movie was based on, then watched the movie and talked about both differences between the literature and the film and issues in the movie itself. It was a fun class, although I do think sometimes the professor went a bit too far—i.e., she thought that Sebastian having a Caribbean accent in The Little Mermaid was racist and thought that The Lion King being about a lion monarchy in Africa was somehow a comment on African nations establishing independence (because, you know, The Lion President has such a nice ring to it). But I definitely could see some issues in The Little Mermaid, like the significance of Eric falling in love with Ariel when she had no voice. And in Beauty and the Beast, I can see how the Beast has a lot of the qualities of an abusive lover.

But let’s just talk about my own observations. First, Snow White, the oldest of the Disney princesses, has the world’s most annoying voice. She also has very little personality—it’s like once they gave the dwarves their name-reflected personalities, there was none left for her. And while I cringe at her offering to cook and clean for the dwarves if they just let her stay with them, I can’t criticize that too much—it was 1937, after all.

Then came Cinderella, whom I’ll get back to, but after her was Aurora, and Disney decided to go the personality-less, woodland-animals-love-me route again with her. But Aurora is just really boring. She’s barely even in the movie, for one thing—she’s asleep for most of it, but even when she’s awake, the focus is more on the three fairies who take care of her. Her parents love her, too, and she was born into royalty. Bor-ing! Although everything ends up happily-ever-after, she has no agency in her own fate at all.

We all have fond memories of The Little Mermaid (even my sister, who as a three-year-old cried in the theater and indignantly told my mom that her favorite part was “when the witch died!”). We’ve all sung “Part of Your World” and shivered inside our Little Mermaid beach towels. Ariel can sing and swim, has cool friends, and ends up with hottie Prince Eric. (What? He’s a good-looking cartoon!) And I have to say that Belle is a close second to Cinderella. She’s the smart, bookworm princess and is outspoken and stubborn as well as kind. But the issues I mentioned keep both of them from being my favorite.

The less said about Jasmine, the better—Aladdin‘s not even about her, and her brains and personality take a backseat to her sexuality throughout the movie.

I had never seen The Princess and the Frog until last month. It was disappointing—kind of dull with unmemorable music. Tiana, a poor waitress in New Orleans, is determined to open her own restaurant. At first I thought that was pretty awesome—a princess who wants to do things on her own and not just wait for a prince! Unfortunately, Tiana extols the virtues of hard work so many times throughout the movie that she just ends up sounding self-righteous and annoying. She ends up marrying a spoiled prince from some made-up country—after she’s beaten him over the head with how important hard work is—but she does get her restaurant, too.

Which brings me to Cindy. Unlike her contemporaries Snow White and Aurora, Cinderella does have a personality—she’s friendly and motherly to the animals, positive and hopeful, and doesn’t just robotically accept her stepmother treating her like dirt. She mutters to herself about having to wait on them and complains to the animals. I guess theoretically, she could say, “Fuck you,” and turn and leave them, but this is, after all, Long Ago and Far Away, and I’m guessing young women’s career options were a bit limited then.

Now, in the original fairy tale, Cinderella just kind of sighs and mopes about not being able to go to the ball, but the Disney version is somewhat different. She does everything she can to try to go to the ball and has every intention of making her own dress. When her stepfamily prevents her from doing it on time, it’s her mice friends who come through for her by making her a dress themselves, and it’s only after the stepsister literally tear the dress off her that the fairy godmother shows up and saves the day. Similarly, when the stepmother locks her in the tower to keep her from trying on the slipper, her mice friends help her out, and Cinderella is the one who has the idea to get the dog to scare the cat away. So the lessons here are: try to do things on your own instead of waiting for someone to show up, and make friends and help those who need you—they’ll help you back when you need them.

Yes, the prince falls in love with her based on her looks, not her personality. And yes, the prince himself is quite dull (although his father is batshit crazy, so his gene pool is a bit tainted on top of that). But hey, the movie was made in 1950. And unlike Snow White and Aurora, Cinderella seems like a real enough person that we don’t just want the generic happy ending; we want her, personally, to be happy.

So bash the other princesses, and the whole idea of princess culture in general, all you want. But wanting to be Cinderella is not a bad thing at all. Among princesses, Cinderella is a queen. She rules.

Let Us Now Praise Betty Draper

WARNING: Herein lie massive spoilers for pretty much every episode of Mad Men that has ever aired.

An awesome season of Mad Men has just ended, and I’m sad that I have to wait until next summer to see more of Don Draper & company. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? While the whole season was leading up to at least some characters leaving, that was completely not how I thought it would happen.

However, there’s one thing I keep hearing from all over the place that’s been bugging me, and I want to address it here. People on the Internet, people I know in real life, and professional columnists have all been bashing Betty Draper. Sometimes their dislike of the character extends to January Jones, the actress who plays her.

I think Betty deserves a post in her favor, and that’s what I’m going to offer here.

I could point out the worse things that other characters on the show have done, but I think that would be pointless. If you watch the show, you know that no one is completely likable. Virtually every main character has had an affair or said or done something offensive at some point.

But Betty seems to get on people’s nerves like none other. I actually think one of the main functions of her character is to make the viewer uncomfortable, and the writers accomplish this by making her more than a stereotypical 1960s housewife. The stifled-in-the-suburbs thing has been done to death, both in mid-20th-century settings (see: Revolutionary Road, the “Mrs. Brown” parts of The Hours) and modern times (Little Children, American Beauty, even Desperate Housewives, to some extent). The idea that a 1960s woman could feel unfulfilled as a mother and housewife is hardly new. So the writers didn’t make her someone obsessed with making the perfect dinner, feeling pressure to always have a spotless house, wishing for an occupation in which she’d get to use her brains, etc.

Instead, Betty’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s not that she sits around pining for a life other than that of a suburban housewife—it’s that she’s unhappy but doesn’t quite know what to wish for.

Betty did go to college and had a career before she met Don. The significance is in what her career was—a model. This past season, Betty’s father mentioned that she was a fat child, but I’d forgotten that Betty herself mentioned that in the first season while recounting how she didn’t realize how much weight she’d lost until her high school home ec teacher pointed out that the pajamas she was making were too big. Betty’s mother, who died shortly before the start of the show, was apparently very concerned with appearances, and I think Betty’s career as a model was a reaction to that—validation that she was beautiful to other people. Betty talks to her shrink in the first season about her mother , saying, “She wanted me to be beautiful so I could find a man- there’s nothing wrong with that.” She’d been taught that beauty was all she needed to get by, and when she landed a gorgeous, successful, smooth-talking husband, she likely thought that was her happy ending. But that, of course, wouldn’t have led to the backlash against her that inspired this post.

It amazes me that some people think Betty is a dumb bimbo. Is it just because she’s blonde and pretty? She can be childish and naïve, but we’ve seen plenty of evidence of her intelligence. She reads books like Mary McCarthy’s The Group, she majored in anthropology at Bryn Mawr, and she speaks fluent Italian. She said herself in one episode, “We all have skills we don’t use.” The thing is, though, I don’t think Betty consciously wishes for a life that’s more intellectually fulfilling, and that’s because she can’t fathom a life without a man. We saw something similar with Joan in the first season—Joan was genuinely surprised when she realized that Peggy wanted to become a copywriter for her career’s sake rather than to spend more time with Paul. It had just never occurred to Joan that she could find fulfillment in a career rather than marriage, and I don’t think it’s occurred to Betty yet, either. Subconsciously, I think she might want more out of life than being a housewife—after all, the happiest we’ve seen her all season was when she and the Junior League were successful at stopping the water tank, small as that accomplishment was. But that’s not really the point.

Shortly after her victory with the Junior League, she and Don travel to Rome, where she impresses everyone with both her looks and her charming command of Italian. Upon their return home, though, it’s back to her regular, boring routine. Don tells her flat-out, although he means it as a compliment, that he wants to “show her off” at an awards ceremony. This is just before Don reveals the truth about his identity, which in some ways adds insult to injury. Don has come from nothing to achieve this life that he’s carefully constructed for himself—successful Madison Avenue career, house in the suburbs, gorgeous wife, cute kids—and she’s merely a prop in it.

The problem is that she’s not quite sure how to be anything else. In the first season, while divorcee Helen Bishop intrigued her, Betty didn’t envy her. In fact, she and her friends seemed disdainful of everything about Helen. While she kicked Don out in Season 2, I don’t think she would have divorced him even if she hadn’t gotten pregnant because I don’t think she knows how she’d function as an unmarried woman. It’s not until she meets Henry Francis, someone who she feels could rescue her—symbolized by the fainting couch he convinces her to put in her living room—that she seriously considers leaving Don. Henry is actually a pretty boring character, especially compared to Don, and I don’t think Betty is in love with him as much as the idea of him as her knight in shining armor.

The interesting thing is that I think that people’s disdain toward Betty increased as the show went on. In the first season, she was childish and anxious and sad, and I think people were more sympathetic toward her then. She had a lot of emotions that she didn’t know how to express, which manifested themselves through her lack of control over her hands or her sobbing to a child that she had no one to talk to. She couldn’t even trust her psychiatrist, who was sharing everything she said with Don. Who wouldn’t sympathize with her?

But between the first and second season, a little over a year passed, and in Season 2, Betty gradually starts asserting herself more. Through most of the first season, she was in denial about Don’s affairs, and when she finally acknowledged them, she was more sad than angry, but in the second season she confronts Don directly when she gets wind of his affair with Bobbie. We also see a lot more open resentment towards Don and her children in general, and she becomes more and more unpleasant.

This is the wrong time to be writing this, seeing as how she just bombed as a host on Saturday Night Live, but personally, I think January Jones does a great job portraying Betty. That she’s made people dislike her character is, I think, almost an indication that she’s doing her job successfully. Sexism is big theme on Mad Men, and most of the time it’s much more overt—we get Pete telling Peggy to wear shorter skirts on her first day and Joan, lacking a term like “spousal rape” to label her experience, quietly going on with her life after her fiancé sexually assaults her. The sexism in Betty’s situation is subtler. We’re not hit with “OMG life as a suburban housewife is so oppressive!” because Betty hasn’t quite formulated that thought herself, so it’s easy to dismiss Betty’s unpleasantness as a character trait instead of a manifestation of the sexist world she lives in.

The great thing about this show is that you keep thinking about the episodes for a long time after they air. I actually wasn’t crazy about the Rome episode when I first watched it, but when it was over, I began to realize its significance. The episode gave us a glimpse of the intelligent, sophisticated woman Betty could be in another life. Ironically, most of the women Don has cheated on her with have, in fact, been intelligent, sophisticated women. If that’s what Don really wants, he could have had it if he hadn’t forced Betty into suburban conformity.

Off to watch the special features on the Season 1 DVDs now. Is it summer yet?

Thoughts on Two Movies

This isn’t a Katie Recommends or even a review, really—just thoughts on two movies I’ve seen recently: 500 Days of Summer and Julie and Julia. These thoughts don’t really have anything to do with each other…they’re just two movies I wanted to write about because they made me think about things beyond what I saw on the screen. So here we go. WARNING: This entry contains spoilers for both movies, plus The Way We Were.

500 Days of Summer
I didn’t want to see this movie at first, largely because of the moment they show on all the previews, where the guy decides he likes the girl after they discover they both like The Smiths. That just bugs me because I think music is a really shallow thing to base a relationship on—it’s like dating someone because you both like chocolate pudding—and yet, people do it. But it turns out that the moment where they bond over The Smiths isn’t really about the music—it’s more like the guy (Tom) realizing that, based on a short conversation, the girl (Summer) is someone he might be able to date instead of just admire from afar.

But, as we discover, he probably would have been better off doing just that. The book and movie He’s Just Not That Into You detail how women tend to ignore signs that guys aren’t interested, or at least aren’t as interested as the women want them to be. This movie proves that men can have that same tendency—it could easily have been called She’s Just Not That Into You. Summer tells Tom upfront that she doesn’t want a boyfriend and doesn’t believe in love, but Tom keeps pursuing her, and soon they’re quasi-dating. On day 290, Summer tells Tom she doesn’t want to see him anymore, and he plunges into a massive depression, vowing that he’s going to “get her back.” But instead, just as he thinks things might be ready to start up again with them, he learns that Summer is engaged to another man (whom we never meet and learn next to nothing about). He’s Just Not That Into You tells us that if he says he doesn’t want a girlfriend, he really just doesn’t want you to be his girlfriend. If he says he doesn’t want to get married, he really just doesn’t want to marry you. If he’s breaking up with you, he doesn’t want to be with you and you should leave it at that. If you replace the pronouns, that’s the lesson of this movie.

I don’t want to make it sound like this is a bad movie, because it’s really not. It’s entertaining and funny with some great lines, and the narrative is non-linear, which is an interesting, if a bit gimmicky, format. But I had two big problems with it. The first is that it’s a movie about a failed relationship. I know a lot of people will probably disagree with me on this, but I think that movies about relationships that don’t work out are usually pointless and rarely interesting. Breakups, to me, are like babies—if you have a baby, other people will be interested to a certain extent but don’t want to hear you go on and on about it, and the same is true for breakups. They’re just not that interesting to anyone except the people going through them. You wouldn’t make a whole movie about how cute a baby is, and you shouldn’t make a whole movie about how awful a breakup is.

In the Sex and the City quote at the top of my blog, “Katie” is Katie Morosky, Barbra Streisand’s character in The Way We Were, another movie about a relationship that didn’t work out. When I saw that movie, I’d recently seen The Breakup with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn ( a movie that’s not only pointless but pretty depressing—if you haven’t seen it, don’t), and so The Way We Were kind of felt like The Breakup with Communism. It was a movie about two people who just weren’t right for each other, and so is 500 Days of Summer. Personally, I don’t find anything interesting about two people who aren’t right for each other. Most combinations of two people aren’t. It’s the relationships that defy the odds and work out, and the hard work as well as the romance that goes into them, that are really interesting to me.

The other problem that I had with is related to the She’s Just Not That Into You thing—that Tom keeps pursuing Summer despite the clear signs that she’s not interested. Granted, Summer does lead him on quite a bit, which is never cool, and Tom is guilty of misreading signals above all else. But since Summer did tell him outright that she didn’t want a boyfriend, then that she didn’t want to be with him, I found his line of thinking disturbing. It’s the same reasoning that date rapists use—she said no, but she meant yes. And I realize that it’s a big leap to go from misguided, hopeless romantic young man to date rapist, but the thinking is similar. Tom thinks he can “get Summer back,” as if it’s just a matter of him doing the right combination of things and not a decision of hers as well. He isn’t willing to let her make her choice and be done with it—he has to have things his way. Many women are guilty of thinking this way, too, that if they just say or do the right thing, the guy will change his mind, but somehow, it does seem a bit more disturbing from a guy, as if he thinks that dating her is his right.

In the case of this particular movie, it’s also more disturbing because of the card at the beginning: “Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely accidental … Especially Jenny Beckman … Bitch.” I laughed when I read it, thinking it was some kind of inside joke, but then I read this article. There’s no way of proving if “Jenny Beckman” is real or just a fabrication meant to draw more attention to the film, but if she is real, that brings another level to this movie, one that kind of scares me.

Julie and Julia

My thoughts on this movie are much more positive, and aside from the spoilers, I need to make another disclaimer: when I refer to Julie and Julia in this post, I’m referring to them as characters portrayed on screen, not the real Julia Child and Julie Powell. I know from reading that there is a lot about their lives that the movie left out—for instance, that Julia Child was a spy and some not-so-pleasant things I learned about Julie Powell as a person—but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

If you don’t know the plot, in a nutshell, it follows Julia Child (Meryl Streep) as she learns French cooking while living in Paris with her diplomat husband and eventually seeks publication for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Meanwhile, it also follows Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who in 2002 started a blog in which she spent a year cooking all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

The movie was directed by Nora Ephron, who has written and/or directed several of my favorite movies, and the tone of the movie is familiar to anyone who’s watched one of her movies. Amy Adams is adorable and reminds me of a young Meg Ryan, and there’s a scene where Julie and her three friends are in a restaurant and all order Cobb salad minus one ingredient (a different ingredient for each of them) that’s reminiscent of Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally taking too long to order in a restaurant. And as for Meryl Streep…well, your opinion of her will not change after seeing this movie. She’s as awesome as ever.

There turned out to be a lot more to this movie than I expected. First of all, it’s about two women who found success at unexpected times in unexpected places. Julia Child is in her late thirties when the events of this movie take place, and it wasn’t until then, after she’d spent a lot of time not quite knowing what to do with herself in France, that she began the work for which she’s known. Also, she didn’t meet her husband, whom she was married to until he died at age ninety-two, until her mid-thirties.

I’ve read a lot of reviews of this movies that say that the Julie parts aren’t as interesting as the Julia parts, but I strongly disagree. I actually think the Julie scenes might be a bit more interesting, partly because I found them easier to relate to. In 2002, Julie was twenty-nine, working in a dead-end job for Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (after 9/11, which had to be the worst job in the world), and living in a tiny apartment above a pizza shop in Queens. She’d written a novel that couldn’t find a publisher, and in the Cobb salad scene I mentioned, she’s out to lunch with a group of obnoxious friends who flaunt their success in her face, dramatically breaking out the Blackberries in the restaurant. One of them even makes her the focus of a pitying article in New York magazine (I don’t think that actually happened in real life, but it’s still a mortifying scene). But when she reads over the copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking she jacked from her parents’ house, she decides to take her life in a new direction by attempting to cook all 524 recipes in the book in a year and blogging about it. She not only meets her goal (not without a few challenges), but becomes the ultimate blogger success story: her blog became a book, the book became a movie. Essentially, while the Julia parts were enjoyable, the Julie parts were what really resonated with me. Julia Child is an icon, and while the movie humanizes her, it doesn’t take her off her pedestal. Julie, however, is one of us—a neurotic, angsty, struggling twenty-something (married, though) who will never be up on the pedestal herself, but reaches her own version of greatness by accomplishing what a great woman did before.

The other thing I enjoyed about this movie is how both women achieve success while their husbands wait supportively in the background. This is something that has always bugged me—it seems like in any movie about a woman accomplishing something, her significant other either leaves her or doesn’t exist. On the other hand, in any movie about a man accomplishing something, there’s always a supportive wife, and it seems like in any given year, half the Best Supporting Actress nominees are “wife-of” characters. In most movies, it seems like men can have it all but women can either have a loving partner or personal success. Not in this one.

I’ve written before about how lately I’ve found myself fearing things staying the same, a fear that’s probably shared by a lot of people my age. I’ve felt this way even more lately because this summer, I spent a good deal of time and energy applying for a job that I really wanted but ultimately didn’t get, and I’m not sure what the next step will be for me. So it’s gratifying to watch a movie about two women who found success in unexpected places at times when they weren’t sure what their next step was, either.

Katie Recommends: Damages and Veronica Mars

This is the first time I’ve done a double recommendation. These are two shows that not enough people have seen, and if you’ve watched one and liked it, I think you might like the other. While their settings are nothing alike—Damages takes place in a New York law firm, Veronica Mars takes place in a California high school—they have several things in common. They both feature season-long storylines. They’re both full of twists and surprises. And they both have powerful women as central characters. So, without further ado…

I started watching this after hearing a couple of people sing its praises. The first thing to know about Damages is that the less you know about it before you see it, the better. I’m glad I didn’t know too much about it beforehand, so I’m only telling you enough to (hopefully) entice you to watch. Prepare for some very vague paragraphs where I allude to events I won’t explain.

So here’s what you should know: Glenn Close plays Patty Hewes, a high-stake litigator in New York. While she’s brilliant at her job, we learn early on that she’s willing to do unethical or illegal things to win her cases. She’s ruthless and sometimes evil (and no one does evil like Glenn Close), but oddly charismatic. As despicable as some of her actions are, she’s a great character, and Close absolutely deserved the Emmy she got last year.

Rose Byrne plays her young associate, Ellen Parsons, who, in the first season, is fresh out of law school. As the show progresses, Ellen and Patty’s working relationship becomes increasingly complicated. If you’re having problems with your boss, watch this show—I think it might make you feel better.

Ted Danson plays Arthur Frobisher, the antagonist of the first season. He’s the CEO of a company reminiscent of Enron and is involved in a class-action suit by his former employees. The case plays out over the course of the first season, as Patty and her employees try to prove that he participated in insider trading and deprived his employees of their life savings.

The whole first season is like a 13-hour movie, and the narrative is non-linear. We begin with a flash-forward to six months after the story begins, and as the season continues, we get glimpses of what’s coming as the show jumps back and forth in time. And what’s coming? Well…let’s just say there’s murder, attempted murder, betrayal, and characters who aren’t what they seem to be.

Also, if you like surprises, you’ll be in for quite a few of them with this show. Towards the end of the first season especially, there’s one shock after another, and the best part is that none of them feel cheap. They’re all surprises that have been cleverly set up and make complete sense.

The first season is on DVD, and you should rent it as soon as possible. As for the second season…well, to give you fair warning, while it’s worth a watch, it’s nowhere near as good as the first season. There’s another season-long case, but the plot is unfocused and, sadly, the shock value is gone. But I’d still recommend it. It’s not on DVD yet, but I downloaded it from Amazon.

In the first season, the writing is nearly flawless, and the acting is fantastic all around. Aside from the people I mentioned, the cast also includes Zeljko Ivanek (who won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor) and Tate Donovan, and Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Timothy Olyphant join the cast in the second season.

One other thing I appreciate about this show is how it features a powerful woman as its central character. While she’s not exactly someone you want to emulate, Patty is a commanding, high-profile woman who’s clearly in charge of anyone she fixes her narrowed eyes on—and no one ever questions it. Her being a woman in control is never the point; it’s just accepted.

Veronica Mars
I feel kind of stupid recommending a show that’s been off the air for two years, especially since I didn’t watch it while it was still on and was therefore part of the problem that led to it being canceled. But this is absolutely worth watching on DVD.

Veronica (Kristen Bell) is a high school student in Neptune, California who helps her father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) run a detective agency. (Yes, her last name is Mars, she lives in Neptune, and she drives a Saturn. But that’s thankfully as far as they go with the cutesy “planet” jokes.) Every week, there’s a mystery to be solved—anything from cheating spouses to kidnapping to high tech rumor-spreading.

But like Damages, there are season-long plotlines that are addressed every episode as well. In the first season, Veronica is trying to solve the murder of her best friend, Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried). Prior to the start of the show, Keith was the county sheriff, and when Lilly died, he accused Lilly’s rich father of the murder. The outraged community ousted Keith in a recall election, Veronica’s alcoholic mother left town, and Veronica, who had once been popular, was shunned by her old friends. She stuck by her father and uses the resources she has available at the detective agency to investigate Lilly’s murder. Also in Season One, Veronica is trying to determine who roofied and raped her at a party and why Lilly’s brother Duncan, her ex-boyfriend, suddenly dumped her not long before Lilly’s death.

In the second season, the season-long mystery involves a bus crash that kills several of Veronica’s classmates and may or may not have been an accident. While the first season as a whole is better, the second season has an absolutely shocking ending that I didn’t see coming for a second.

The third season takes place at a fictional local college, and rather than one season-long mystery, there are two smaller mysteries, one involving a series of rapes and one involving a murder.

For those who weren’t part of the problem, this was something of a cult show—which is a weird term to use about a show that doesn’t involve anything supernatural, but one quick Google will show you how passionate the fans are. But somehow, it never managed to find a wide audience. I blame it on the show being hidden on UPN while the network still existed, because I think this show would appeal to fans of a lot of other shows. If you like high school shows like The O.C., you’ll like it for the romance and teenage gossip that are never the point of the show but are always lurking in the background. If you like any of the dozens of crime dramas on TV right now, you’ll like it for the mystery. If you like shows like Buffy and Alias that feature a woman kicking ass, you’ll like it for the smart, tough, prickly title character. If you liked Kristen Bell on Heroes, you’ll love her here. If you liked Enrico Colantoni on Just Shoot Me or Flashpoint, you’ll love him as Keith, a very well-written character—you can see how Veronica picked up aspects of his personality. If you like attractive women, you’ll love it for the gorgeous Ms. Bell. If you like attractive men, you’ll love it for the gorgeous Jason Dohring, who plays rich boy Logan Echolls. And if you like Damages, you’ll like it for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned.

One warning—Veronica Mars has the worst series finale I have ever seen. It ends on a cliffhanger, but even if it didn’t, it would still not be a very good episode. So feel free to skip that ending, but all three seasons are on DVD, so you can rent those as soon as possible. And rumor has it that a movie is in the works, so give yourself a crash course now before it comes out.

It’s Been Awhile Since I Did a TV Post

And this time it’s about Mad Men.

The pilot began with a title card:

“MAD MEN: A term coined in the late 1950’s to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue.They coined it.”

I don’t know what it is about this show. Most of the characters aren’t very likeable and the pacing is maddeningly (no pun intended) slow. But there’s something about it that sucks you in.

I actually hesitate to write too much about it because I don’t want to give a lot away. I caught the first season on On Demand, and I accidentally found out about one of the major plot twists of the first season before I saw it. But here are the basics: it’s set in New York in the 1960s and is about the lives and careers of advertising executives. If it’s accurate, advertising execs of that era were always drunk. And smoking. And, quite often, very sexist. And adhering to the sleeping-with-the-secretary cliché.

But while details like that are often heavy-handed, there are a lot of more subtle things going on. The first season ended at Thanksgiving of 1960, and the second season picked up on Valentine’s Day of 1962. At first, it seemed like not much had changed in a little over a year. But then, without giving too much away, I started picking up on little differences in the ways the characters interacted with each other—ways that symbolize the changes of the country as a whole during the 60s. The times, they are a-changin.

The protagonist, Don Draper, is a handsome thirty-something played extraordinarily well by Jon Hamm, and it’s a credit to both him and the writers that I find the character so interesting. To put it bluntly, he’s kind of an ass—he cheats on his wife, lies without batting an eye, and protects his own interests to the point of occasional cruelty. But somehow, I’m still rooting for him and waiting to learn more about him as his mysterious backstory unfolds. (I can hear how vague I sound, but seriously, I don’t want to give anything away.)

The most interesting characters, though, are the women. Betty, Don’s wife, is a beautiful former model who’s become a lonely housewife, unable to show warmth to her children and resentful of her unfaithful, inattentive husband. But while in Season 1 she was at times timid, in the second season she’s developed a steely glare and a firm tone of voice, and I’m interested to see what will happen with her character in Season 3. Joan Holloway, the office manager, uses wisely the power she has over the secretarial pool—and the different kind of power she has over the office men. In a different life and time, she could be one of the men she works for. But although she did well at one opportunity to fill in for a male colleague, her work went unnoticed, and sadly, her future is probably bound to her degrading relationship with her fiancé. On the other hand, Peggy Olson, the earnest secretary-turned-copywriter, is a woman who’s finding success in a man’s job. It’s been fascinating to watch her try to figure out how to succeed. Should she try to be one of the guys, or embrace her femininity? Should she treat the men as her superiors or as equals? Should she stay true to her kind nature or look out her own interests at the expense of her colleagues? The influence that Don, her boss, has over her is intriguing—particularly when he urges her to hide a secret she’s keeping, much like Don hides his own past. As the show continues, I wonder if she’ll continue to become more like Don.

There was a great article in the Globe recently that brought up some good points about the relevance these characters have in today’s world. Really, there could be a million more articles like that on all kinds of topics. I feel like I could write a paper, or several, on Mad Men. There’s nothing else like it on TV right now—and it’s also becoming clearer that the writers have a vision for this show, and that it could be headed for some very interesting storylines in the next season (which, sadly, won’t start until next summer).

Atalantas- aka, Most of Us

Last week I stumbled across this article. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, I’ll mention some highlights:

“JWT, the largest advertising agency in the U.S. and the fourth largest in the world, has named the top 25 women it defines as Atalantas.

Atalantas, a consumer group newly identified by JWT, are young women who embrace their independence: They are confident, passionate, adventuresome and unwilling to settle for anything less than the best. They neither conform to negative stereotypes of single women (cold, lonely or sad) nor do they pursue the excesses of less discriminating peers like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

These women represent a growing segment of the young female demographic, notes Marian Salzman, executive vice president, chief marketing officer of JWT Worldwide.”

Um … “newly identified?” “Growing segment?” So advertising agencies are just beginning to notice at least 75% of all women?

Now, the whole concept of an “Atalanta” is kind of cool. Atalanta was a mythological figure who was abandoned in the forest because her father wanted a son and was raised by hunters and a bear. She was also a very fast runner, and would only marry a man who could outrun her. When she finally did meet a man she wanted to marry, he beat her in a race with some help from Aphrodite, which she was totally okay with. But not after all the other suitors were executed for failing to beat her.

So basically, Atlanta was strong and independent and wouldn’t settle—qualities any girl would want. And qualities that most of the girls I know have.

Now, I am by no means a hard-core feminist, but really. It just floors me that ad agencies are just realizing that, gasp! Not all women are Bridget Jones or Paris Hilton! Some of us don’t just sit around pining over guys—we go out and have lives. And “having a life” doesn’t mean partying all the time. It means having a career, friends, and interests. It means wanting a man in your life but not obsessing over it. It means having fun without being a drunk slut.

Women have made a huge amount of progress in a very short amount of time. Fifty years ago, many women only went to college to get their MRS degree. Now there are more women in college than men. Domestic violence is generally recognized as unforgivable and unacceptable. And the majority of high school valedictorians are girls.

And yet women continue to be stereotyped in the media. If they’re not flighty Bridget Jones-types, they’re ice queen career women or manipulative vixens.

And moreover, they can never have it all. Men can have a great career and a loving family and friends and hobbies, but women always have to give something up. Recently, I was complaining to my friends about the movie Freedom Writers. I did like the movie, but just once, I would like to see a movie where a woman accomplishes something huge with her significant male standing by her and supporting her all the way. Now, granted, Freedom Writers is based on a true story, so there was probably no way of getting around it, but I know that if it was a story about a man, he’d have a loving wife supporting him all the way. I feel like half the nominations for Best Supporting Actress in any given year are “wife of” characters.

It’s kind of funny that they felt the need to name 25 celebrities to define “Atalanta.” While people like Julia Stiles, Alexis Bledel, and Rachel Bilson are all very cool, you don’t need to come up with a list of celebrities to define this term. “Atalanta” could describe almost every woman I know. And even though it’s stupid that advertisers haven’t noticed this segment of the population before now, being an Atalanta is something to be proud of.

My (Belated) Love Affair With Sex and the City

For the longest time, I couldn’t stand Sex and the City, the show from which I took the quote at the top of my blog. I didn’t think it was that funny, and I though Carrie was annoying. But last summer, all of a sudden I got into it. I think I just reached a certain point in my life where I’d heard enough hookup and relationship stories that I could see people I knew in the show, and I could find it funny.

And I could see why so many other girls are into it. It’s kind of like the show for women of my generation. And why not? I know that for years, women have had to struggle against the idea of existing only to find a man, which is what this show was all about. But the truth is, women really do sit around discussing their love lives. We have careers, we have dreams, we have independence—but we still love to talk about guys. We analyze guys’ behavior, we discuss the pros and cons of different men, we debate what constitutes a deal-breaker. Some women might see it as sexist or stereotypical, but honestly, I think it’s just accurate.

It’s interesting, though, that this is the show that spawned He’s Just Not That Into You (aka my relationship BIBLE), because although that philosophy found its way into one episode, if the girls had followed the advice of Greg Behrendt, there’d be no show. Mr. Big would have been history after the first episode.

Mr. Big is also one reason why Carrie is my least favorite character. I’ve seen every episode now, and I absolutely cannot stand Big. I think he’s an arrogant, inconsiderate jackass—not to mention completely unattractive. I loved Aidan, though—he was a sweetheart who put up with way too much shit from Carrie, whom I completely lost respect for when she cheated on Aidan with Big.

But the thing is—that is realistic. There are, unfortunately, too many Carrie Bradshaws in the world, women who have an idea of what they want but don’t like it when they finally get it. Women who chase after what they can’t have when they have something great right in front of them. Women who aren’t happy in a relationship unless there’s drama, and worry when there isn’t drama. I know people like that. So do you. And I’d like to think that I would never act like that…but in reality, I can’t say for sure.

The interesting thing about Sex and the City is that we see it as both a reality and a fantasy. Over 94 episodes, four women engaged in about every relationship, dating, and sexual situation that exists. There’s no way you couldn’t see yourself or one of your friends in at least one of those situations. Plus, girls who watch the show tend to compare themselves to the four main women. I used to think I was a Charlotte, but now I think Miranda. And I definitely have friends who remind me of Carrie, Samantha, and Charlotte.

But how many of us have luxury apartments in Manhattan and clothes right off the runway? How many of us have jobs like Carrie’s that only require one column a week, leaving us free to walk around the city all day? How many of us manage to go out with our friends every weekend? How many of us have the chance to meet the sheer number of guys on the show, let alone date them? Every time I watch this show, I want to be a rich New Yorker, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

But it’s a fantasy in other ways, too. Take, for instance, Samantha, who, according to Carrie, “had the kind of deluded self-confidence that caused men like Ross Perot to run for president, and it usually got her what she wanted.” In nearly every episode, Samantha sees a man she’s never met, decides she wants him, and goes after him, almost always successfully. We’ve all wanted to be in that situation, but how many of us actually have the self-confidence to do it?

We see ourselves in the Sex and the City characters, but we also see what we wish we could be. We see the lifestyle we dream about having but probably never will. And even though in reality, he’s probably just not that into us, we still hold onto that hope that in the end, we’ll ask him to come up, and he’ll smile, and his answer will ring in our ears forever: “Abso-fuckin’-lutely.”