Sunday, April 19, 2009

Silliness repeats itself

- The Obama-Beet Scandal of 2009:

Maureen Dowd on Alice Waters:

Her most ambitious vision involves President Obama, who didn’t want beets in his garden. “I would just like to serve him some golden beets sometime that were roasted in the oven, that were not overcooked, that were dressed with a lovely little vinaigrette, maybe even diced in a salad,” she says in her seductive way. “Squeeze ‘em with a little lime. It’s fantastically nutritious.”

Are beets a healthy food? No doubt. Is a person who never has a beet in his life, but who eats well otherwise, on the brink of malnutrition? Doubtful. Again, it's time we allow the President to dislike one vegetable, to refuse it even in its Alice Watersian incarnation.

- Cinematic narcissism and breakfast-in-bed:

Since Netflix means seeing everything eventually, Jo and I recently watched Elegy, a movie based on Philip Roth's worst-ever book (of those I've read, at any rate), The Dying Animal. After breaking up with Penelope Cruz's character, a sensuous Latin lover 30 years his junior, David Kepesh, the Roth alter ego, is served breakfast in bed, on a special tray, by his best friend. Why might this scene have looked familiar? It was like being back in Mexico with Carrie and the gang. So, to repeat: a friend, even a close friend, does not, when the other friend breaks up with the latest in a string of lovers, sit by the friend's bedside as though this were a death-bed situation, spoon-feeding bland food products into the mouth of the recently dumped.


PG said...

I thought the SATC movie in isolation was OK on that breakfast-in-bed point because:

a) It wasn't a regular dumping; she got stood up at the altar. Having had relationships that didn't result in marriage, and having gotten engaged and made all preparations for a wedding, I'm going to say that having a relationship with no wedding expectation break off is MUCH easier than it would have been for my fiance to fail to show up for the wedding.

b) It was particularly bad for Carrie because she'd had such a hard time getting Big to commit in the first place. All of her insecurities about whether he really loved her steamrolled her when he stood her up.

I say the movie "in isolation" because what I found insane was that her friends continued to listen to her about her ups and downs with Big over several seasons of TV. I would have ordered her to a therapist after the second breakup. I am happy to listen to people's problems, but I can't listen to the same problem over and over from the same person. But then I was pissed off that she ended up with Big at the end of the TV show. A guy who doesn't hit you? That's all we should aspire towards?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Is left at the altar worse than dumped? Sure. But not bad enough to excuse the level of Carrie-centrism, or the particular act of feeding one's friend at the bedside. Crap happened to the other characters as well, but no one was spoon-feeding, say, Miranda.

Also, in the Carrie-Big, Carrie-a-bunch-of-different-guys-each-of-whom-might-be-'the-one', context with which we're all familiar if we're seeing the movie, as you point out, her having been left at the altar is even less of a big deal. The only people seeing the movie "in isolation" were dragged-along friends/beaus, who probably found the whole thing ridiculous, spoon-feeding and all.

Dana said...

I actually didn't mind the spoonfeeding. Of all the things in the movie/series, it seemed the _least_ implausible. The Carrie-centrism of the series/movie was annoying, to be sure, but that act was kind, nurturing, and what a real friend would do. I've dropped everything to just be by the side of a best friend after a breakup before. My friends also signed up to call me every day when I was broken up, to make sure I had eaten, showered, and left the house to do something. Everything about that movie was implausible, but a breakup that makes you fall apart (and being left at the altar surely might for either gender) and friends swooping in to rescue you despite their own busy lives and spoonfeeding you when you refuse to eat--well, that seemed like it could happen to anyone with a broken heart and good friends. An amazing pre-War apartment and magical Black woman assistant, not so much.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I suppose a real friend might spoon-feed, but I've never been on either side of this type of response to a breakup, and do have close female friends. Different people respond to their own breakups differently, some caring more, some less, and even of those who care plenty, some showing their friends the extent to which they're shaken up, some not. The 'snap out of it' approach to breakups in which no custody issues or honest-to-goodness nervous breakdowns are involved has something to be said for it, although it, too, has its flaws. So, who knows. I'll take your word that it happens.

The main thing, then, I guess, is the asymmetry. If friendship as defined by SATC means spoon-feeding and bedside hand-holding, where was the equivalent treatment for Miranda? Is being cheated on by one's husband as bad as being stood up at the altar? Arguably yes, but the Carrie-centrism wouldn't acknowledge it.

Meanwhile, people with mysteriously nice apartments, and women who've made it big doing something ridiculous (say, writing about dating) and choose to hire fawning assistants, these things might be annoying (and the racial weirdness verging on racism in the film? plenty annoying), but they do happen.

Which, then, makes the entire film plausible but annoying.

PG said...

But Miranda always has refused to show she's upset and needy. Her major emotional response to her husband's infidelity is anger, not vulnerability. It's not really fair to say that she should be treated the same as Carrie when they're clearly very different personalities.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I can't believe this point has caused such debate! Let's leave it as, my own response to the film, representative of nothing larger, was that a) it was too Carrie-centric (and we're not even meant to think of Carrie as needy or an egotist, just as the 'natural' center of her group), and b) that the representation of how a woman would respond to her friend being left at the altar by an on-again off-again beau was, at the very least, on the extreme end of the spectrum of how a friend might react. To me, based on my own experience, anything involving spoonfeeding and bedside well-wishing was, in the situation shown, quite strange, and only made sense in the context of, if X happened to Carrie, X must be the most important thing that ever happened, ever.