Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sex And The City significant male characters: Harry Goldenblatt

Harry Goldenblatt was not Charlotte's type. In fact, very few men were.

Charlotte's ideal man, the one she wanted to marry and have a family with, was a handsome, upper class, Park Avenue WASP. Easily the fussiest of the four S&TC babes, Charlotte often didn't make it past the first date, even with men who fit into her narrow category.

One day, she bumped into Dr Trey McDougall. He fit her specifications to an almost excessive degree. He was handsome, charming, and a heart surgeon. Charlotte decided he was impeccable husband material, and went about ensuring the courtship followed all the necessary 'husband-snaring' rules - including not sleeping with him until after the wedding.
For a while, everything went smoothly. During their short engagement, the only thing Trey seemed to have against him was an overbearing mother, whom Charlotte thought she would learn to 'manage'. However, everything changed on the eve of the wedding. After a few drinks with the girls, Charlotte decided to waive her vow of celibacy, and in the process uncovered an alarming problem. Trey 'couldn't get it up'. The next morning, she asked Carrie's advice about this 'little' problem as they were standing in the foyer of the church, seconds before the wedding march began to play. Carrie mumbled something reassuring and Charlotte went ahead with the wedding all the same, seeing as (in the words of that episode's commentary) she was standing in the church and wearing a $20,000 wedding dress: No matter what the problem, she was getting married.

In the months that followed, living a life that appeared as charmed as the pages of a Martha Stewart lifestyle magazine, Charlotte and Trey's marriage was fast falling apart. Fast forward... separation and divorce. Divorce settlement: Trey's Park Avenue apartment.

While settling her divorce, Charlotte met Harry Goldenblatt. He was the 'ugly' lawyer she requested because she didn't want the handsome lawyer she was initially assigned to see her going in for the kill with Trey. Harry was bald, sweaty, clumsy, uncouth, and - probably his greatest sin - Jewish.

After a few dates and some very hot sex, Charlotte realised she was in love with him. He was the very antithesis of her perfect man, yet she had to concede she'd already met and married the perfect man, and got a far from perfect life in return. However, there were hurdles to overcome in this unlikely love-affair. Harry was set on marrying a Jewish girl, and Charlotte had a lot of work to do first in convincing him to marry her and secondly in converting to Judaism.

In the end, Harry was worth all the trouble. He was everything Trey wasn't, providing Charlotte with an understanding, passionate partner who fought as hard as she did to fulfil her dream of having a family through adoption. When the series ended, some fans were disappointed with the happily-ever-after finale. The pairing of all four protagonists into monogamous, heterosexual relationships was seen to be too neat and predictable by some. It was inconsistent with the feminist themes embodied in the series, and frightfully conservative.
I disagree. What I love about the series is how the characters develop and change. In one sense, the series follows a 'Hero's Journey' type template. In the end, the women have gone full circle. They have found a place that is home, but in the process of discovering 'home', they have become very different people. Ultimately, they do find happiness, and this is intensely satisfying, not because they've each finally found a man, but because of their considerable personal growth. In the first series, Charlotte would certainly have overlooked Harry. It's now obvious that it would have been to her detriment, and it is a credit to the writers that they've illustrated the change in Charlotte's character so beautifully.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sex And The City significant male characters: Mr Big

The other day, I bought tickets for myself and a group of friends to see 'Sex And The City - The Movie' on the opening night here in Australia, Thursday 6th June.

Afterwards, I reflected on just how significant this is for me. I am not a person who hangs out to see movies when they open. In fact, time usually gets away, and a movie is on DVD before I think about it again. To illustrate this point: a friend bought me a double movie voucher (VIP tickets with champagne etc) as a birthday gift in 2006. They're still in a drawer somewhere, waiting for the right movie to come along so I can redeem them. And I can't even use them for S&TC, since that is a group booking and we're going to do the champagne in a bar somewhere before the show.

So what is it about this movie that has me in such a tizz? Well, there are many, many reasons, of course. Too many to go into in this little post, which in turn, answers the question.

One of these special reasons is Mr Big.

Mr Big (played by Chris Noth), is the quintessential alpha male heartbreaker. He is the man every woman has loved and not succeeded in pinning down to a commitment. Mr Big is a 'catch'. Rich, powerful, charming, handsome but not too pretty, witty... the list goes on and on. What most appeals, for me, at least, is that when he's with a woman, he makes her feel like she's the centre of the universe. In the series, it's precisely this magnetism that causes Carrie fall into an affair with Big while dating another - exceedingly attractive - man. Either that, or the fact that she's never gotten over him, that he is 'the one'.

Chris Noth has done a remarkable job of fleshing out the larger-than-life character of Mr Big. To me, and to every other friend who's watched and loved S&TC, he is perfect in the role. Imagining another actor in his place is simply unthinkable. From a writing point of view, Mr Big is probably a textbook example of 'The Lovable Hero'.
As the series progressed, the character of Mr Big evolved, and there were many instances where he was infinitely unlikeable. Carrie suffered through many on-again, off-again episodes until even she - no matter how much she loved him - had to call it a day. The scene where she rejected him finally and completely, is incredibly powerful, providing the turning point for Big. He'd had Carrie on a string for so long that he thought she'd always be there for him - whenever he felt like picking up the phone or popping into town. Faced with the finality of never seeing her again made him realise how much he wanted her. How much he loved her. Chris Noth plays this scene to perfection, clinching the moment when the penny drops with absolute mastery. And it helps that Sarah Jessica Parker's portrayal of the stricken Carrie is convincingly gut-wrenching. I know I'm totally indulging myself, but do take a peek at this scene. It's electrifying.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

And while we're on the subject... Sex And The City significant male characters: Smith Jerrod

Writing the last post made me think about those wonderful Sex And The City men. You never see them on posters, nobody ever mentions them, except for Big. But they are sensational, and without them, there would have been no show.

The first I'm going to look at (and look is a good word here), is Smith Jerrod - played by Jason Lewis. His real on-screen name was something rather less striking, along the lines of Jerry Jerrod. The name change was instigated by Samantha Jones, PR consultant - Kim Cattrall - who at that time was no more than his casual sex partner.

When Samantha picked up Smith, he was an out-of-work actor waiting tables at a restaurant. True to her life-goal of 'having sex like a man', she wanted him for his body, not his mind. And since he was much younger than her, it seemed a plausible basis for a relationship. What surprised Samantha was that Smith wasn't happy to be a toy-boy. He liked Samantha, and he wanted her to be his girlfriend. He made demands on her time, insisted on holding her hand as they walked down the street. He set the terms at monogamy and didn't shirk when Samantha blatantly cheated on him with an old flame at a party. That moment was one of the series' most powerful.

Caught leaving the party with Richard, an ex-boyfriend who had repeatedly cheated on her, Samantha alleviated her conscience by breaking up with Smith. It was quickly and callously done, while Richard waited in the lift for her. Afterwards, Samantha rode the lift down, thoroughly humiliated and guilt-ridden. The sex had been demeaning and she was disgusted at her behaviour. When the doors opened, she saw Smith sitting in an armchair, waiting for her. Her apology was instant and heartfelt, and all he did was to put his arm around her and say something like, 'I just wanted to make sure you got home safe.'

That was the moment Samantha's life changed. From that point, the gains were small, but sure. Smith showed Samantha the commitment she'd never known. He was kind and tender, dependable and strong. He was his own man, feisty and independent to the last.

When Samantha was diagnosed with breast cancer, Smith was her rock. It was during this time that he spoke those elusive three words. Samantha listened and replied with the best she had to offer: 'You have meant more to me than any other man.'


Friday, May 16, 2008

Can't Wait!!!

The long awaited movie sequel to the 'Sex And The City' series is almost on our screens. I have quite a large(ish) cohort of friends who are keen to catch the showing on premiere night, Thursday 5th June. Sure, it's not a 'real' premiere, not before the movie opens to the public, no red carpet and all that, but I'm afraid that's as close to a debut as I'm going to get. On the other hand, there will be champagne involved, and probably dressing up in something foofy with spiky high heels, so what's not to get excited about?

I'm dying to find out what happened to Carrie and Big. Apparently the story is picked up four years down the track, and Charlotte's adopted baby is no longer toddling. But there will obviously be more to the story than just checking in with the characters after a few years have gone by. The mere act of reprising the story means introducing conflict to the central characters' lives. That will inevitably mean trouble in their love-lives, and I guess that's what will bring audiences flocking. At the end of the series, Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha were in secure, loving relationships with their respective partners. These men weren't just 'added' in to give a satisfactory ending to the series. They were wonderful, supportive, sometimes heroic, loving partners and passionate lovers. Above all, the writers (and actors) had succeeded magnificently in portraying these men as intensely lovable. Introducing a new chapter, or epilogue, is risky business. Delivering a successful movie sequel to the series would have meant fiddling with - and potentially upsetting - the delicate balance of the status quo. A writer's minefield. For a series that was near flawless (okay, flawless in my opinion, at least), a bad sequel would be like taking a paint roller to a Van Gogh. A positive is that some of the writing team have come on board for the movie, and are headed by the show's leading writer/producer, Michael Patrick King, who is also directing.

So it's with more than a little trepidation that I approach the movie's opening. The series ended so well, all loose ends tied, everyone happy and in love. Most importantly, central character Carrie and Mr Big were at last united. Though it was a wrench seeing the series end, there was some satisfaction to the final credits rolling up for it gave us S&TC fans the finality we needed. There wouldn't be another episode in which Carrie and Big could break up. With the movie looming, the possibility of that is now almost a certainty. Only one questions remains: How will they patch it up? or worse... will there be an operatic ending with unavoidable tragedy and tears? Samantha had a health crisis at the end of the series. Her lover, Smith, was instrumental in her recovery, but will there be a relapse? Will the NY gals still be a foursome by the end of the movie? As a romance writer, I am obliged to subscribe to the old cliche, 'Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'. Sex And The City gals, I'm with you all the way, sink or swim.

Time Squeeze

It's been crazy lately. Lots on my plate in a particularly hectic cycle of my work. So there hasn't been much time to write, and with that, the fire begins to smoulder rather than rage. Sometimes I wonder why I'm putting myself through all this pressure. Trying to juggle family, work and writing, when it just seems to make everything so crazy, almost spinning out of control... to the point that sometimes it actually does.

This post should be about so much, but it's going to be about little or nothing. In the days since my last post, so much has happened that I could easily have posted every single day - and at length. But like a giant wave to an inexperienced surfer, my schedule has literally dumped me, leaving me overwhelmed, disoriented and exhausted.

Writing sessions have been meagre, usually on the tail end of 'Treasure Of The Deep' marathons. Not good. Crawling towards the end of chapter ten, currently. Looking forward to some decent writing time when my eyes aren't hanging out of my head... Maybe next week.