Charms of the others..

The women on one of my whatsapp groups ( Schoolmates) are united in Crush-cum-lust for the hunky stars from South. Prabhas, Rana, Ram Charan, Suriya and the other muscular gents with beautiful eyes grace the group DP several times. It is perhaps the only thing I relate to with the members, but that is another post. This fandom is largely thanks to the fact that for some years now, Hindi movie channels are awash with dubbed movies from South. The realization for ‘Non-Madrasis’ that Bollywood is not synonymous with ‘ Indian cinema’, nor can claim any superiority when it comes to music, technical aspects, story-telling, acting- has never been more evident with so much primetime focus every day. In recent years, there has been a mass awakening of sorts to the killer looks and rustic charms of the South heroes. To me this appeal has been immortalised in popular imagination with the image of the drool worthy Prabhas of sweet smile and beautiful eyes, in wet dhoti carrying Shivlinga on his sculpted shoulders ( which is a erotically charged association, come to think of it.)

The women in my group always wonder why aren’t these sexy men coming in a mainstream Hindi movie. Would they ever make it big in the Bollywood. Which role would suit them. Instinctively and with my experience in media- the answer is no.

For decades, Bollywood has had female superstars who were not from the Hindi speaking areas. Bengali and Marathi stars from Sharmila to Nutan to Madhuri. In recent years, quite a few women from European/ American countries have entered the industry. Katrina Kaif being the most successful of this lot. ( She also reportedly couldn’t speak Hindi for years ).

But for the purpose of this article, lets stick to the women from hardcore ‘Non- Hindi’ areas, i.e. South. Vaijayantimala, Hema Malini, Rekha, Shridevi, Jaya Prada are some of the most successful ones of the lot. Some of them like Shridevi, was a superstar in Tamil/ Telugu before she arrived in Bollywood and couldn’t speak Hindi for a long time despite of ruling the roost. Deepika and Aishwarya have come from international modelling backgrounds and while they have South Indian background/ last names, they are perhaps closer to Hindi speaking urban metros than the women of 80s and 90s. Overall, we can safely say that the success of a female star has not been hindered by their linguistic background/ heritage ever in Bollywood.

On the contrast, I can’t think of a single male star who has made it big despite of not being from typical ‘Hindi’ background. It is usually, Punjabis and North Indian men who are mainstream successes. The Southern mega-stars like Kamal Hassan, Nagarjuna, Chirnjeevi, Rajnikanth have been, at the most, recognizable faces for Hindi moviegoers. That’s about it. ( Again, can you think of any male star from any other industry making it big here? Nope. Even Uttam Kumar couldn’t make a dent. International models like Milind Soman haven’t been able to make it like their female counterparts could) If you take all the mainstream stars, their last names/ linguistic heritage has been uniformly Hindi/ Punjabi.

And then in the last 2 decades, the Tamil/ Telugu industry have seen Non-south women making it big. Tamannah, Kajal Aggarwal, Tapsee, Nagma and a dozen more women have been on the top. But again, you don’t see any non-South men making it big there. ( Interestingly, several non-South men have made it big as Villains – which is another post )

So, to conclude- While women can transcend linguistic boundaries while onscreen, men can’t when it comes to mainstream film industries.

My theory is that this is because mainstream industries tell stories about the men and thus require authenticity from men portraying these main characters. Women are seen as transient. It is expected that they adapt to ( largely male) systems which they go into. So be it their marital home, or the movie industry whose language they can’t speak- they are forgiven, nay, welcomed, as long as they adapt to their new homes and stay happy in status quo.

It would be easy to reduce it to simplistic statement that since women are not expected to essay demanding roles in mainstream cinema, and that they function cosmetically within the movies- it doesn’t matter where they come from. ( As long as they more-or-less are racially acceptable. Because you don’t see a woman from Arunachal Pradesh or China in Hindi movies, but women from Europe/ South America are welcome). But then how to explain Shridevi who was called a female Amitabh Bachchan? Or Hema-Malini the superstar? Or Rekha? No-one can challenge that these women and their stardom was based on their proven capacity to carry their movies on their shoulders to box-office success. Or that several times they essayed roles which were breakthrough for the times – being more important than the male ones. While a Tamannah could be explained away as the Telugu industry’s obsession over fair skin tone – how can you explain Nagma or Kajal Aggarwal?

Individually each of them can be explained. Some for their beauty, some for their dancing skills, some for their fair skin, some for their acting. But this theory falls apart when compared to male counterparts. Kamal Hassan doesn’t lack acting prowess. Rana can give any Bollywood star a run for their money in looks/ Machoness territory. And so on.

Another practical explanation could be the heredity. Many if not all today’s male stars have had benefits of their filmy families. Their fathers or uncles provide them with launch pads, sustain their initial career, they are helped by their seniors and friends in the industry. Women generally don’t have this benefit and where they do- they reap the advantages. ( The Hassan sisters, Sonakshi Sinha, The Kapoor sisters and so on.)

But again, why can’t established stars with national appeal move in industries? While the directors/ music directors/ editors/ DOPs can- why haven’t we seen any example of a successful male star moving from one industry to another with success? In fact when they do, they have to do so in secondary roles. ( Nobody will believe that Akshay Kumar will be equal to Rajnikanth in their upcoming movie together, will they?)

So coming back to the ‘authenticity’ theory. Men are expected to be ‘authentically’ representing the ‘roots’. You can’t have a non-Telugu guy representing the angst of Telugus in a Telugu movie. A woman is always expected to ‘adjust’ to the space she moves in. She is expected to forget her ‘maternal’ home and ‘ fit in’ with her new home. She can move in, while the man has to be ‘born’ in and ‘represent’ it. Her role could be bigger and better than the man’s occasionally. But the fact that she is accepted in that role, as a ‘native’ despite of her ‘other’ness is due to our collective acceptance of her ‘non-centrality’ to the representativeness of the culture.

Thoughts? Anti-theses? Arguments?

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Out of Box

‘I quit my 9 to 5 job to travel.’

Given our vast young, urban population, it is reasonable that there would be few people who would be doing such things. I know one such person myself.

But the way these stories are told in media, is typical of our dishonest collective desire to appear urban cool. Nobody writes about how much money these people had saved, or whether they had family support. It is always people in cool professions- who have had enough of their corporate life and quit one fine day to travel. Or sometimes write. Or volunteer.

How, pray, they pay their Bangalore or Bombay rents? Or put petrol in their expensive bikes?

Writing about it is not cool enough for our papers. Yesterday an article I read, said that the young woman who quit her job to travel, is funding herself through blogging!! Now that is, knowing a bit about digital media, hard for me to believe.

I am not, mind you, criticising people who have quit their jobs to travel. It takes guts to do that and a readiness to throw your future in somewhat uncertainty – in a country where there are hundreds of candidates willing to take your job at one tenth of salary. Kudos to anyone who decides to take that jump.

But what the story writers always hide , is the fact that these activities are almost always done by people who have safety nets. Parental support 9 out of 10 times. A privileged position and network in powerful society which allows them a possibility to return to their jobs once they want to ( because just take it from me no-one can afford even a room in Bombay on their own with their writing in the biggest of travel journals alone).

Having this doesn’t make their choices any less awesome. Not at all.

But subtly, not writing about the privilege inherent in these choices, we are making ‘out of the box’ choices a classless thing. Since these choices are aspirational for vast majority who don’t have these choices- by not pointing out the very economic basis for ‘out of box’ choices- we make the majority ‘uncool in the box people’. It makes the very basic struggles of modern life as something ‘crass’ and ‘ conformist’ – when it appears that it is only your inner voice which can dictate your choices. If you continue with 9 to 5, you are not brave enough, cool enough, modern enough.

It is like how film people still talk about sleeping on the footpaths when they were strugglers and hide the fact that they in fact went to India’s top rated boarding schools and have at least five relations in the film industry. ( Let us not even talk about star kids who insist that they had to struggle just as much as any outsider- and that their success is down to their talent alone and not dear producer papa.)

Recently at a prestigious literary event, I disappointed a few Goodearth wearing, out-of-box people in expensive haircuts, by going in details about how I quit my job only once I had paid off my loans and got my ESOPS. They were longing for a story of a spontaneous inspiration and a writing bug. I could see from their reactions. I finally gave in to a kind man who kept on insisting about my inner voice and how it had NOTHING to do with money and all that. As I looked at his Timberland shoes, I couldn’t help but nod in conformity.

Homeland Season 5

So I actually managed to watch season 5. Hurrah for 2016!!

Homeland, my guilty pleasure is as Islamophobic, pro-American as ever, sigh.

And still the most thrilling series I have seen in a while.

So quick points full of spoilers:

1. It is still the intricate, beautifully written thriller which manages to hook you no matter what is the ideology ( fucked up I know). The twists, turns, the way it is edited, shot, the conflicting interests, the compulsive characters all make this into a heady cocktail which is impossible not to like. The way plot thickens is unexpected even for a homeland hardened cynic. The pace is very Homeland- shockingly fast only to be followed by mellowness. Works for me. Episode 11 when Carrie discovers the real plot, while the villain soothes CIA into thinking otherwise, Carrie doing Carrie thing by following her gut and half dozen terrorists nonetheless, the drama in the terrorist group, Villain escaping with mindblowingly clever trick.. and some 5 other massively tense things happening – chop chop edited, pace heightening, beautiful action choreography, characters whirling in intense showdown- aaaaaahhhhh… Homeland does this on the edge of the chair like nobody can.

2. Strong female characters of all shades ( arr… all white of course). From chest thumping human rights activists to shadowy vamps to smart spies. And of course Carrie Mathison, who in this season has sobered down- literally and metaphorically- without losing her mojo. Watching strong female characters moving the narrative plot is a rare pleasure in a show of this scale. When Carrie learns that she has achieved safe passage to Lebanon and looks around to see her daughter/ boyfriend sleeping peacefully- I was pleased with the re-gendering of a classic scene. 99% of the times it is the male characters wistfully looking at the peace and stability- symbolised by his family. Women hardly get to choose dark, unstable decisions over the mature, wise ones expected of them, because duh. But Carrie literally gets to make tough decisions, be imperfect even in the context of motherhood and family, be a supportive lover, save her kickass assassin friend Quinn ( Eye candy numero uno), negotiate with the Hizbullah about values of respect and what not. I am constantly amazed at how her character transcends the boundaries of gender which I haven’t seen in any other spy show. I did find Allison’s character problematic in its fame fatale hints. Although she is not someone who gets to be a villain because she is a woman exploiting her femininity as such- it is rather strange that from the director of CIA to an Iraqi mole to a Russian super spy – all these wickedly twisted spooks are somewhat in love with her. It takes away some of her evilness. There was no particular need for that and it shows a bit of lazy stereotyping. Astrid is another find- she is cooler than Carrie, empathetic, kickass bright and could shoulder more narrative on her shoulders. The token leftie bleeding heart character Laura is a great character utterly ruined by a smirking actress who makes me want to slap her every time she spouts something sarcastically.

3. Islamophobia without shame. All muslims are either angelically good – reminding you of token Muslim chachas of 1970s Bollywood, or mad about ruining west. Be it Imams, scientists, young techies, poor people, rich people, men, women, kids, Hizbullah, army generals, Isis wannabes- all are reduced to their religion. There are hardly any human complexities written for Muslim characters. If they are good- it is because they follow their religion like good people. If they are bad, it is because they are following the wrong version. Hello, don’t people have life other than religion? Like white people do in the show? White people get to have all cool psychological traumas, affairs, lusts, ambitions, grey zones..and Muslims are there only because they are Muslims. Considering the fact that the show spends so much time on conflict with Muslim world- couldn’t they come up with one memorable character with interesting shades? ( And no, Abu Nazir wasn’t that- he was just played by an excellent actor, that’s all). The death of token angelic Muslim character is given 30 secs in this season- 20 of which are spent worrying about his ( white) Human rights activist. Isn’t his death supposed to say something about the man himself? Nope. He has served his function of good Muslim and now his death can only serve as the next cliff-hanger. This is not just racist and morally wrong the way Homeland ploughs through its ideological errors. But it is absolutely lazy. And it just goes on to show that smart people who create brilliant characters and write some of the best thrilling narratives are just not bothered about the major elephant in the room because they don’t care.

4. There are no super charming Middle eastern villains in this season- the honour goes to a blonde American woman this time ( she is lured by Russians you see. So you can rest easy lest America is dishonoured). There are no massively overarching characters driving the central plot as well. Quin is lame here, although he manages to look good even after being in a Sarin gas chamber. Otto – played by the ever brilliant Koch is ineffectively positioned as ‘ could he be behind all this sinister plot?’ suspicion since he is cute and rich and eminently suitable to play the modern James Mason. Saul Berenson has slimmed down and other than that there is no change in his character.

Well there it is. My belated analysis of Homeland- a show I love with shame!

Homeland 4

I binge watched the season 4 of Homeland. After Season 3, I had almost given up on it, and this season continues its gross misrepresentation of Muslim world. However, like many addictions go, there is no clear answer to why I love this show to the point of compulsion.

After cringing at Carrie’s increasingly bizarre characterisation, the very problematic portrayal of Islam, the near ridiculous plot twists in Season 2 and 3, in this season, we are greeted by pretty much same level of Islamophobia made worse by horrendous Hindi and Africans playing Pakistanis. Talk of racial imperialism you know, Africans.. Asians… same thing.

However, Carrie is back to her being one of the best characters in recent times. Claire Danes is mind-blowing stunning. Her hyper, so-called Bi-Polarisms in season 3 are wiped out, thank god. And she is back to playing this intriguing character with nuance. I also loved the exploration of her motherhood. I was afraid that she would be this I-am-a-reformed-mother-of-my-dead marine/terrorist/ congressman/fugitive/patriot boyfriend. But she is not. There is a very tense scene in the first episode in fact where she almost drowns her baby. She is inept as a parent and is not exactly criticised for her choice of choosing spying over motherhood.

Of course she is selfish, takes self-destructive decisions and manipulates everyone. She seduces a teenage boy and ultimately becomes responsible for his death. She is also not a great boss. Her nonchalance over bombing of civilians nudges her towards the darker characterisation.

And that has prompted me to think again about my recent obsession – ideology of cool, grey female characters in recent times. Feminist critics have criticised Carrie for being a tool of patriarchy- choosing to be just one of boys. They have also criticised implications that a powerful woman can’t be a good person, a good mother, a good boss.

And there is merit in the critique.

But beyond this, I think there is an overriding ‘cool grey’ness to her character which should not be chastised just because she is a woman and ought to be a great feminist example. Virtually all popular cultural figures revel in borderline greyness in recent times. From Joker to Walter White TO House of Cards. Even Carrie’s own male colleagues are imperfect and walk on the thin line of morality. None of them have normal, family lives. Peter Quinn lives like a malfunctioning robot. Brody and Saul exploit their wives who reluctantly put their own lives secondary to their men’s obsessions and beliefs.

So I don’t really see why Carrie should be expected to bear the white flag of normalcy. Rather, it is her grey cool ness which makes her a true anti-hero of a popular show. I am not saying this grey coolness is something I champion, but lets admit it. A BiPolar, impulsive, self-destructive, driven, brilliant CIA Agent makes for a far more compelling character, no?

I for one love the fact that more and more women are portrayed in the grey zone.

On another note, the only person who overshadows Carrie is young medical student Ayan, played by our ver own Suraj Sharma. His performance is so nuanced and so heartbreakingly real, that I won’t be surprised if he walks away with several major awards this time.

Boss….

Oh I am sure you have already seen and ranted on this ad. It is actually so bad ( one who got what product is being advertised will get a gift of Manchurian Masala), that it is surprising for it to have hit so many nerves.

Perhaps its pseudo-realstic- pretentious progressivism-gone-horribly- wrong is the reason for the mass rants against it. And perhaps the fact that we are smarter in spotting sexism these days.

This is why I am going to link it and proceed to rant about it myself:):)

After years of ‘woman is the CEO/boss of the house’ useless-pat-on-the back trope, we get a ridiculously sexist ad that shows a female boss telling her subordinate-at-workplace husband to stay back to do extra work at office, and then proceeding to go home and cook him a delicious meal and seductively asking him to come back to enjoy the said food.

Lest you think this lady is somewhat cuckoo in her head- because didn’t she ask him to stay back herself? Short term memory a. la. Aamir Khan in Ghajini? Or someone with a split personality like Aparichit? ( Hey, these popular Indian movies are totally accurate in depiction of any mental disorder, OK? Don’t be so snooty).

Noo… you realise she is a good Indian wife, who makes it up to her subordinate-at -work husband by cooking for him. After all, aren’t we all Indian women supposed to do that? Get good grades, earn well, look pretty in short hair and go on to cook perfect meals for our husbands?

Note ladies, that she softly says ‘sorry guys, you will have to just do it’ when her team complains about the timelines. Those of you whose boss said sorry to you, before asking you to stay back after-hours, please stop reading the post now.

OK, now for the rest of the 99% of the mortals who have continued reading this post- note that she looks slightly abashed- especially when she sees the disappointment on her team’s face and even asks her teammate ‘how is it going’, with a kind and considerate tone( we don’t know he is her husband yet.) Because if you want people to like a woman, especially a woman in power, you have to show her ‘soft’ side,lest people call her a bitch.

She looks tranquil in the car. Soft. Pondering. Soft. Sensitive. Soft.

And then she launches into WIFE MODE by asking her husband ‘Rohit’ ( the 21st century default Indian male name that replaced the erstwhile ‘Rahul’ of the 1990s) about what would he like to eat tonight. Because the moment a woman gets a free moment after a gruelling day at work, she likes to think about her husband’s dinner. It is totally natural. All of you, who after a long workday DON’T sprawl on sofa watching your favourite TV show over food cooked by someone else, or at least fantasize about it, please stop reading this post now.

OK, I see 99% of my readers are still reading.

Voila, she twists her hair in a pony at home, ponders about the contents of the fridge philosophically and rustles up a decidedly Udupi looking Chinese meal.

Then Rohit – the same team mate forced to stay back for work gets a call from ‘Wife.’ He sardonically replies ‘ Aaj late hoga. Boss ne bahut jam diya hai.’ ( Biiiiitch!!!)

Wife, who turns out to the said boss( Creative minds!! fantastic idea!!! whatta genius conceptualisation), sends him the video of the meal she lovingly prepared for him.

NOW, NOW, NOW WE GET THE PRODUCT which paid for this ad.

Those who DIDN’T think that the ad was for electrical kitchen appliance or a new brand of Indo-Chinese sauce, please stop reading this post.

OK, now for the rest of the 99% mortals still reading this post. The wife whispers seductively on the phone, ‘Boss ko bolo wife ne ghar bulaya hai’.

Then, the airtel tune starts and you realise that this piece of shit was actually an ad for 3 G connection. You sit quietly contemplating thousands of years of human evolution and how you always hated that Airtel tune and how right you were to pick up Vodafone. (Because how can this brain-dead ‘modern couple’ even compete with a cute pug?)

For all of you who DIDN’T think this woman is quite scary with her short-term memory loss and split personality and Udupi meal, a round of applause. Maybe you haven’t been watching instructive movies like Ghajini and Aparichit.

And a moral of the story for the remaining 99% of mere mortals. Here goes. Quite unintentionally , the ad makers have hit on the exact disorder that our society suffers from. That women are expected to have two distinct personalities: Modern professional woman outside and traditional wife/ mother/ daughter at home. They need to have a short term memory. Wipe out the BOSS identity as soon as you leave office and slip into WIFE identity.

You can be a boss with a corner office, have short hair, wear Sonia Gandhiesque sarees, ride in a chauffeur driven car, earn more money than your husband. But you have to slip into the ideal Indian wife mode as soon as you are in private sphere.

Otherwise, the balance of power just might tilt and patriarchy will shake. SCARY THOUGHT!!!

The ad stupidly celebrates the schizophrenia of our patriarchal society and I won’t even link the garden variety dumb excuses of ‘ WOMEN LIKE TO COOK FOR THEIR HUSBANDS SO WHAT IS WRONG IN SHOWING THE REALITY WHAAAAAA WHAAAA’ thrown by the ad makers and supporters of this ad alike.

But the good news is, that the ad has ruffled many feathers. And people are debating the ad, which has opened up a dialogue about the double shift many Indian women are ‘forced to do’ ( unlike ‘choose to do’ according to defenders of this ad). This is good news that ads like these don’t get a free pass for being covertly sexist. A debate on this ad is especially welcome because,

Because it pretends to be realistic unlike hundreds of ads that show sparkling women talking about detergent or their kids schoolbag as if it was some life-or-death issue.

Because it pretends to be progressive by showing a lady boss and goes on to justify the prevalent sexism in the society by perpetuating the worst and most dangerous stereotypes about women.

Because showing short-haired-lady-boss doesn’t make you a progressive.

Because it refuses to show a powerful woman who doesn’t look guilty in front of her subordinates for doing her job.

Because it reflects the pseudo-equal modern Indian marriage that women are calling out for what it is- a pseudo equal relationship built on age old stereotypes.

Because it champions the ultimate status of modern Indian man as ‘ boss in marriage’ and brushes his insecurities about the rising power of women.

And ALSO because it comes across as advertising CHINGS UDUPI SCHEZWAN CHAUPATI SAUCE and not a 3G CONNECTION.

There.

The Killing (Forbydelsen) Season 3

I managed to finish the season 3 of Forbydelsen a.k.a The Killing.

The show blazed the trail for worldwide popularity of Danish thriller shows. Along with Borgen and Bridge, this show helped cement the Danes’ reputation as master thriller makers. It also introduced us the character Sarah Lund, who rewrote the rules for female detectives onscreen. Just like Lisbeth Salander did it for angels of vengeance .

In season 3, Sarah is ready to take on more desk jobs and is about to become a grandmother. But do we want Sarah Lund the administrator? Of course not. She gets caught in a web of murders, political cover-ups and revenge crime as she hunts for the kidnapper of a daughter of a financial tycoon. The kidnapping case uncovers an older crime- an orphan girl’s brutal murder and rape. An election is under way and various political personalities benefit from the murder being kept under the wraps. What will Sarah do to bring the victim to justice when her own life is at stake?

It is a typical Scandinavian formula, popularised by Girl With Dragon Tattoo and Wallander series, amongst others. Society and institutions fail innocent people. Moral obligations and accountability are put in conflict with personal gain. Can justice for an individual be sacrificed for larger goals? How can social institutions protect the vulnerable without compromising the stability of society at large? What is the role of an individual when she is called for action in this situation?

The story telling is complex and taut. The characters are compelling. The production values are excellent.

But even then this season fails to bring that sense of climax to Sarah’s epic story and answer the questions raised about society in general.

Her character is lacklustre compared to earlier seasons. The whole fun about Sarah was her headstrong and rebellious stoicism. In this season, she lacks the punch until the very last 15 minutes of the show- when we get our beloved reckless and stubborn Sarah in full form. It is great to see a grandmother kicking ass and shooting the villains and threatening prime-minsiters though . And Sofie Grabol does an excellent job as usual.

The romantic track between Sarah and Borsch is dull. So is her relationship with her family.

The clues to the mystery are clichéd and certain scenarios seem too far-fetched. The tendency to doubt every single character was good in Agatha Christie’s time, but in 2013 it just seems naive.

The appeal of the first season was also the story arc of the victim’s family. For the first time a thriller focused as much on those who lose someone as those who are hunting the killer. In this season, the family of both the kidnapped girl and the murdered girl don’t appeal to emotions. I am tired of hysterical martyr characters of mothers in stories where a child is a victim. Why can’t we have mothers who in control of the situation and express their grief in less melodramatic manner? It is a lazy shortcut to appeal to viewers’ sympathy.

We the fans looked forward to the grand finale to the grandmother of modern crime with high expectations. Maybe it is the too high expectations that disappointed me. As a stand-alone, it is still a great season, way above its English language counterparts.

The other women of Sex And The City

Women are for friendship and men are for fucking.
Samantha Jones

Enough has been said and written about the four women of SATC. And their friendship. And their men. And their clothes. And their Choos.

But what about the ‘other’ women? The women who come in the girls’ lives across six seasons are definitely not as important as men are to the story-arcs, but they provide a great sounding board to the theme of exploring our main characters’ life in Manhattan.

One of the outstanding things about SATC is total lack of bitchiness even when it comes to its minor female characters. She could be your big boyfriend’s ex-wife or your boss- the characters and the show doesn’t indulge in the tired cat-fighting , woman vs.woman cliche.

Miranda is a sarcastic wit, a cynic, an ambitious lawyer and is the least ‘feminine’ of the girls. She wears the pants, literally and metaphorically. She also has the series’ most obvious feminist one liners. And it is her who undergoes the most dramatic character change throughout the series. She becomes a single mother, she loves and marries a man who is financially/ socially her inferior, and she moves to Brooklyn with her a large family.

It is interesting that the women in Miranda’s life are maternal, and are traditional examples of femininity. They offset her type- A personality and make her ‘acceptably feminine.’ Because hey, motherhood trumps all the glittery clothes and loud orgasms and beautifully decorated homes when it comes to acceptable femininity.

The annoying Magda is the glaring example. A judgemental Ukranian housekeeper who reminds Miranda of her mother, Magda almost always gets the last say, usually with the pursed lipped smug look on her face that closes the scene. Magda disapproves of condoms and vibrators and coffee. She suggests tea and Mother Mary and making pies. She disapproves of any boyfriend who is not the baby’s father, especially when he is one hunk of an african-american ( So what he is a doctor for the Knicks? The most ideal man for a woman is the baby’s father!!). She cheers during Miranda’s wedding with annoying Steve. She ‘validate’s Miranda’s capacity to love when Miranda rescues her senile mother-in-law. As if 6 seasons of Miranda showing love and support to her friends was not enough!! She is one the characters I hate the most,because her so-called earthy-mama wisdom is used to validate Miranda as acceptably feminine in the most traditional way possible.

When Miranda’s baby is in the 24 hour crying phase, she is helped by her neighbour, a fellow mum, who gives her a vibrating chair to soothe the baby. And although she proclaims that ‘Miranda’s friends will never understand how to handle the baby since they haven’t had one themselves’, the resourceful Samantha does the trick by placing a large vibrator next to the baby, to the same results!! ( Go Sam!!) A frumpy sales-woman helps Miranda find the right bra-size and reminds her of her mother. Debbie-Steve’s girlfriend is young and decidedly down-market with her acrylic nails and shoes and job in a credit card call centre. She is also warm and unpretentious and a conventionally ‘ideal’ girlfriend, who is dumped by Steve eventually. Steve’s mother is an eccentric alcoholic who admires Miranda for her honesty. In the series finale, it is she who provides the finale to Miranda’s character when Miranda not only agrees to keep her in their house, but also runs out looking for her and bathes her tenderly.

From the cynical ambitious career-woman who is mistaken to be a lesbian early in the series, to the firmly established mother-superiour of her family ( in Brooklyn, nonetheless) in the series finale, Miranda’s character arc is the most apologetic of the series. It represents everything which I dislike about the later parts of the series. And it has nothing to do with her becoming a mother, but with the fact that the changes in her character smack of traditional stereotypes.

Samantha is the friend we all would love to have. The most entertaining, adventurous and honest character of the series is also the warmest of them all. That is why it is surprising that Samantha is not shown to have other female friends- she is the ultimate girls’ girl. The most significant other woman in her life is the hot Portuguese artist Maria, with whom Sam indulges in an affair. Maria admires Sam’s cockiness, her fabulous sense of humour, her loyalty for her friends and her lust for life. Although the ‘relationship’ aspect of it bores Sam and her libido, they remain friends.

Samantha locks horns with a chef who doesn’t want her brother to date a white woman. But characteristic to Sam, although she claws the chef, she realises that it is the brother who is to blame here, and not the over-possessive sister. Samantha helps the nun to get a doctor’s appointment by pimping her boyfriend. The most beautiful scene of Sam and other women is during a fund-raiser for breast cancer. Sam starts with a prepared speech, but decides that posing and pretentious are not for her, and takes out her wig. In a moving show of camaraderie and freedom, many woman in the fund raiser spontaneously take off their own wigs.

I adore and worship Sam- and wish had a friend like her. Because I am never going to have the guts and honesty to be like her in real life.

Charlotte is burdened with the most evil stereotype of all- a meddlesome, bossy mother-in-law. Bunny is every Park Avenue princess’s nightmare and a doppelgänger for Charlotte’s own prejudices and rules. Bunny provides a hilarious and nasty peek into the future for what Charlotte thought of as a paradise, but is actually a repressed and mean WASP hell hole. For a woman who upholds the most traditional value system of all, Charlotte touches our hearts when she soothes the girls with what is perhaps the one line synopsis of the show. She says,

“Don’t laugh at me, but maybe we could be each others soulmates? And then we could let men be just these great nice guys to have fun with?”

Carrie almost stalks Big’s first wife and ends up really liking her. Even Natasha, the ‘idiot-stick-figure-with-no-soul’ a.k.a Big’s second wife is shown in a warm light. She might misspel ‘there’ for ‘their’, but she is sincere and had a steely character that belies her designer look. It is Petrovsky’s wife who proves an insight into his self-centred character, that marks the change of Carrie’s attitude towards him. Carrie’s boss Edith starts out as an ice-queen, but Carrie chooses her over the ‘father-figure- editor’, contrary to expectations, going by Carrie’s penchant for picking up older, successful men. Many friends, foes and rivals cross Carrie’s path throughout the seasons, but in no episode does she behave in the psycho manner with them, that she does with each and every man she is with.

All in all, SATC is one of the unique shows that gives us a refreshing view of the world ( albeit the glitzy Manhattan world) where women are not out there to get each other throats only to be saved by the eternal love of a stable and secure man, a marriage and a baby. Having spent majority of my life surrounded by smart, warm and strong women- I totally relate to this world-view.