Monday, June 23, 2003


Last night I invited Sarah Jessica Parker and Audrey Tautou into my apartment but eventually only Ms. Tautou was asked to stay. Because Sarah, or "Carrie" as she was referred to last night, is not the company I like to keep. She's selfish, superficial, immoral, self-absorbed, shallow. And most of all, she knows nothing about music. Audrey, or also known as "Amelie," is the girl I dream about, the girl I look for in the streets of Manhattan, even though I know she doesn't really exist. She's shy, insecure, imaginative, creative, resourceful, generous, thoughtful and quirky. No, she doesn't know much about music, either, but her facial expressions are musical in their own right. They are the songs I will never forget.

Moreover, Amelie Poulain is cute, natural, and so disarming I am practically left without arms. She has taken both the left one and the right one. And she will not give them back.
Carrie Bradshaw is "too" sexy, a creation made of shoes, nice dresses, make-up and great hair stylists, and after a while, so annoying that I am forced to change the channel before I gnaw my own hand off. And what makes this character even sadder is that I actually know so many people like Carrie in real life. That there are so many people in New York City and beyond who wish more than anything to be just like Ms. Bradshaw. That truly freaks me out. In fact, it keeps me up at night.

And after living in the city for almost five years, it's become very clear that there is truly no shortage of Carrie Bradshaws and sex and the city. Sex is more or less everywhere. In the office. In the bars, in the streets. Every-freakin'-where. This city has a Polish cleaning ladylike reek of sex. It's that potent. But what this great metropolis doesn't have much of, is romance. Romance and the city is just not the show we're watching. Because romance is "oh so boring." Yawn. It doesn't have the tumultuous nature of destructive relationships, the high dramatic thrill of doomsville dating. Courting for the sake of getting your rocks off is important. It's not substance, Carrie tells us, substance is too intimidating.

After five seasons on HBO, I have found Carrie and SEX AND THE CITY morally repugnant. A strong Jerry Falwell-like statement, indeed. One that I don't make so often. Granted, I may be somewhat old-fashioned and traditional in my perspective on dating. And it's probably accurate that I am not the target market for the show (even though I do know some men who watch it) but nevertheless, it's affecting the women around me. For the worse. The masses are embracing this show under the guise of empowerment, a feminist victory in a male-dominated world. Here are four women living the social scene as men do. Viewing the world as meat in the all-you-can-eat-buffet of life.

The only problem is, that no one ever said men were right for being like that. In fact, for years upon years, the chauvinist behavior was condemned. What happened? Why is suddenly OK for women to whistle at male construction workers, just as long as they do it first? Do we now justify our behavior by rationalizing "well, they do it, too?" (To which my mother would ask, would you also jump off the Brooklyn Bridge if they did?)

AMELIE, on the other hand, is one of my favorite movies. It has a grace, an eloquence so vibrant, it's almost visual poetry. The colors defy standard Crayon desciptions. The television on which you watch AMELIE smiles at you, puts its arm around you. But what makes this movie so captivating and moving and inspirational is Audrey Tautou and her character, Amelie. While watching the movie last night (for the 20th time), I yearned to know her or someone like her (when was the last time you actually yearned?) while in contrast, I groaned, knowing that I had too many people like Carrie in my life and wished I hadn't.

And I will admit, not all is pretty roses; harsh reality dictates that AMELIE could never happen in real life while the "plots" in SEX AND THE CITY actually could and have taken place (in this case life doesn't just imitate art, sometimes it's a xerox copy). And every time I watch the French masterpiece I am left with a glowing warm feeling, a feeling of hope for the resurgence of romance, but I am also somewhat empty because I know how fictional this movie is. Because romance is not everywhere, like in Poulain's France, while superficiality and unfortunate relationships are in overstock. Some may argue, saying, well, don't watch AMELIE because you'll just be disappointed. At least when you watch SATC, you won't feel let down because your expectations are so low.
And I would say back, that's a sad, sad place to be. That's like Newark, New Jersey, dude.

See, I grew up watching musicals. I saw Gigi, The King And I, Hello Dolly, The Sound of Music, etc. I had a very positive outlook on relationships. I expected to fall in love one day with a great dame and then break into spontaneous song every few minutes. Well, I then eventually got dumped in the ninth grade and things were pretty much downhill from there. Now, the spontaneous song is more like spontaneous stomach pains.

AMELIE brings me back to that feeling I had in my youth. The sweetness, the naivete, the concept I internalized of going out for a fancy meal, dancing on balconies, and kissing one another good night. Nothing more. Not the one-night stands. Not the animal carnal-like romps. Nor the emptiness of waking next to someone you may not even know. None of this.

I can't help but recall a specific episode of SATC I once accidentally left on, where Carrie encourages her friend, Charlotte, to abandon her own wedding because the man Charlotte is marrying is not the most ideal sexual partner. I don't remember the specific shortcoming, but I know it was fixable. What shocked me was that Carrie was sucking any remote romantic element of the ceremony and shaping it into that of a purely sexual nature. As if there was nothing more to marriage besides the ole' in 'n' out. As if Charlotte should run at the first sign of imperfection because a life of promiscuity made so much more sense.

This episode hurt me. It hurt me like trying to ride a bike for the first time and then falling off. In front of all your friends. Because here was a union that was allegedly so pure, so wonderful but also something that could be simplified to a matter of "yes" or "no." And both options were sadly of equal weight.

The world that Amelie Poulain inhabits would never have let this happen. And even though, as I've mentioned already, the movie gives me a somewhat false sense of security and romance, at least, we're talking about security and romance. At least, they're actual topics of conversation as opposed to nostalgia we scoff at.

At the end of AMELIE, we see our titular character happy and overjoyed in a relationship that looks fulfilling, playful and meaningful. She seems at peace with herself. We are happy for her.
In contrast, at the end of just about every SATC episode, (so I'm told) Carrie is left conflicted, pensive, and somewhat miserable, debating with herself about "love." She is unhappy and confused, looking for love in all the wrong places.

And I can't help but wonder; wait, how is this empowering?


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