Get ready, Canoneers: It’s our first post penned by three – yes, THREE! – feminists. Veteran Canonball contributors Annie Rebekah Gardner and Audrey Mardavich join Mia to talk about which “Sex and the City” character they are. And other important issues.

Mia:
Ladies, I’ve called you all here today to discuss the Very Important Matter of Trend Pieces Based on Popular Books or Movies or TV Shows. And how they insult women. Case in point: The New York Times recently published this piece about how successful women should hide their fancy sports cars in order to nab husbands, and, in doing so, the author referenced that apparently always-relevant cultural touchstone, “Sex and the City.” Which, as NPR later pointed out, isn’t really relevant because it’s about ten years old. And also a work of fiction.

Annie: First, I’d like to chime in with an embarrassingly relevant anecdote that involves Audrey and two other girlfriends. We were having afternoon cocktails and generally pigging out at Russell House (which by the way has schmancy pâté and also a delicious Moscow Mule! Also, Russell House, you should pay us.) Anyway, we were all a little loopy and I was like, “Girls. I hate to say this, but whenever you’re in a group with three other girls and, like, ordering drinks, do you ever think this is like SO Sex and the City?” Then we all admitted that, yes, we did think that, and then we argued about who was who for like half-an-hour. I just want to maintain that I am SO the Miranda of any group. Even though I am not a successful lawyer.

Audrey:
That was a great afternoon. Nothing like eating five kinds of small animals on one plate. I will say, however, that I probably have only seen one episode of “Sex and the City” in full, if that. And I’m not bragging, I’m just noting how disturbing it is that I still know the intricacies of these fictional women without having ever seen the show. I would also like to add that I have these kinds of moments in other parts of my life, ie. when I’m walking in the woods I immediately think, “WOW, I feel like I am in Lord of the Rings!” Also, I’ve never seen ANY of the Lord of the Rings movies in full, which is also messed up. But, I guess that’s popular culture for you. It seeps into your life without you even noticing it.

Annie: This is also reminiscent of that more recent pop culture trope, and I think you all know that I’m talking about Liz Lemon, which Sady Doyle does a great deconstruction of over at Tiger Beatdown. Even with this critique, though, there’s so many times that I’m like, “Derp! I’m a Liz Lemon! I had a Snickers bar for breakfast again!”

Mia: Or half a pizza. There was also this great article by Lucy Mangan in The Guardian earlier this year about all that Bridget Jones has wrought for pathetic single female types. She recognizes that Bridget Jones was supposed to be a funny book, and I think we can all appreciate that and enjoy it, but it’s astounding how much people have tried to extrapolate about single women from that book and from the movies. And, as with Liz Lemon, it’s nice to see a female character who isn’t perfectly coiffed all the time, but as a quirky single woman with a penchant for record-keeping, I really resent the assumption that I can’t do ANYTHING right. Like, Bridget was really cringe-worthy.

Annie: I mean, can we all agree that rom coms have been pretty damaging for how single women are perceived? Also, can we all agree that Colin Firth is number one, forever and ever? Holy Crap! Did you see him in that Tom Ford movie?

Audrey:
Yeah. Rom coms are made for women. They are marketed and targeted for women and that means they are playing on the fears, insecurities, and also falsehoods of regular women. Like, for example, the fear that I Will Never Find a Man To Marry Me and I Will Be Single Forever. And it’s because I Spend Too Much Time on My Career (how quirky).

Annie: Or! They prey on the I-am-Cute-and-Quirky-Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl (MPDG), and therefore I must fall in love with this stoic asshole so that I can Liven Up His Life a little! I am here to testify that that plotline doesn’t always work IRL. (Shocking, I know!) And yet! I’m always all, aw, Barefoot in the Park and “Dharma and Greg”! We’ll have two cats and he’ll hate them and he’ll read The New Yorker and I’ll burn popcorn. OMG, TMI.

Mia: The question is, would you aspire to these cute scenarios if you hadn’t read about them or seen them? I feel like, a lot of the time, life imitates art because we force it to imitate art because we’ve internalized these stereotypes and aren’t sure how our lives are supposed to play out if they go off-script.

Annie: Guys, I just remembered that awful movie, Along Came Polly, which convinced me for a time that I had to find the perfect nebbish dude, until I remembered the part where Ben Stiller got diarrhea from Indian food which, like, Dealbreaker (ACK. Thanks, Liz Lemon)! Hey, do you think if Woody Allen hadn’t started with Annie Hall, et. al. that plotline would exist? Do you think if he had never been born I WOULDN’T LIKE JEWISH DUDES SO MUCH?

Audrey:
Annie Hall is the preeminant MPDG. Annie shared an article on Google Reader from 1979 by Joan Didion and it’s a critique of the charaters in Woody Allen’s films. I think one of the points she is trying to drive home is the unsettling and unrealistic way that the adults in his films act simply like adolescents. She points out that the major problem in these people’s lives are their relationships. I think that this suffocating rhetoric in the media (movies, TV shows, newspapers, etc.) revolving around relationships, is definitely a case of life imitating art.

Mia: No woman, no cry.

Audrey: It just bums me out that women are constantly being portrayed as people who can not think of anything else besides their relationships (or lack thereof). Sure, they might be interesting or funny characters à la Liz Lemon, but the show’s sub-plot (you could argue it is the main plot) is Liz Lemon’s forays in dating and singledom. And those ideas must be transfering to real life because they are making people like Tina Fey very, very wealthy.

Mia: True. Everyone loves a wacky klutz. But, more than that, everyone loves talkin’ bout love, you know? And I’ve certainly been guilty of having too many lengthy conversations about adorable boys and if they laughed at my jokes at a certain party or whatever. BUT I’ve also learned how invaluable it is to define yourself as an individual and to create worth and meaning for yourself outside of love interests.

And sometimes I have these internal conflicts where I worry that it’s not healthy for me to see another film adaptation of a Jane Austen book, because I worry that I’m developing unsustainable ideas about love and relationships and how somewhere out there is my brooding other half, or at least maybe Colin Firth will be single at some point or has a younger brother or something.

Annie: The great irony in all that is that Jane Austen was a spinster.

Mia: She should have hid her figurative fancy sports car. You’ll never get a husband with all that success!

Annie: Real Talk, though. Have any of your relationships Actually been Out of a Movie? I’ma go ahead and guess, “NOPE.”

Mia: Yeah, definitely not. Though, I’m always surprised by those perfect movie moments that sometimes happen within a non-movie-inspired relationship. Because I think that I actively tell myself not to expect a movie. What about you, Audrey?

Audrey: Oh heck no, although some of my ex-boyfriends do remind me of MPDGs.

Annie: Actually. Some stuff involving cute notes and tandem bicycles. But also everytime I’ve tried to MPDG in real life it’s ended disastrously. LIKE THIS TIME I ASKED A DUDE OUT WITH A NOTE, AND ALL OF AMERICAN UNIVERSITY’S STUDENT BODY KNEW.

Mia: Yep!

Audrey: I also had a pretty ridiculous “movie moment” with my current boyfriend, in which, when I told the story, everyone I talked to was like “THAT IS OUT OF A MOVIE!” and I was like “I KNOW.” And it basically involved a summer of letter writing, a month of traveling and soul searching.

Mia: Did you eat, pray, love?

Audrey: He was the one eating, praying and loving.  I was the one eating snacks at my Mom’s house.

Annie: All my girlfriends hoped I would eat, pray, love when I was in Turkey. But Audrey’s boo will attest that all I did in Turkey was eat.

Audrey: Women Love Food.

Annie: Not untrue. At least for this woman. Girls, I wish one of us was a filmmaker with a budget from a major studio, because I think a merger between the bro-mance and the rom com is in order, i.e. movies about girls who drink beers and order pizzas and make fart jokes. Thoughts?

Mia: I might argue that the Judd Apatow slacker dude persona is just as harmful to dudes as clumsy/uptight/cold/single/whatever lady personas are to real women. BUT I feel like audiences on a whole find slacker dudes endearing. Whereas nearly all female rom com characters are like fingers on a chalkboard, according to popular opinion. So, while I’m certainly not one to suggest that women need to become more dudely to be fit for public consumption, I am one to suggest that pizza is the solution to most of our problems. In conclusion: stereotypes for none, pizza for all! Deal?

Audrey: The bottom line, for me at least, and the problem I see with trend pieces is that they are never going to reflect real life. A trend is a generalization of data. Of the way something moves. It is inherently linked to large, overarching patterns. And what better way to investigate these patterns than to look into popular culture? That being said, popular culture does not fairly portray reality. Trends can also be manufactured by people with lots of money and marketing tactics.

Mia: It’s like how women’s magazines have been telling me that cargo pants are in again. Where’s your proof, guys? But anyway, along with pizza, research is one of my favorite things (seriously), so I’ll say this: let’s stop being sloppy journalists and sloppy chroniclers of history and popular culture, and let’s start doing our research.

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