Wednesday, May 2, 2012

There totally was destiny involved in the purchase of my scandalously expensive raincoat two weeks ago.

There is part of me that thinks that I should never write another post taking issue with a social conservative's take on the sexual revolution, because I have said the same thing too many times before, and there is no sense in getting my blood boiling one more time. But I do feel compelled to respond to Ross Douthat's latest,  especially because it reminds me of an acquaintance's Facebook post that Sunday night's Mad Men was a nice, neat summary of what the sexual revolution has done for women.

First, this just seems like a... strange... reading of the episode. It didn't seem like Peggy had even considered the possibility that Abe might propose to her until Joan brought it up. Certainly Peggy hasn't mentioned hoping or wanting this to anyone in the series before this episode. Indeed, Peggy seemed mostly worried that Abe was on the verge of breaking up with her until Joan floated the proposal possibility. If Joan hadn't said anything, it's likely that Peggy wouldn't have even considered it. And Joan is also a dubious source of relationship advice given her recently shattered marriage. Yes, I suppose it is possible that the viewer is supposed to embrace Peggy's mother's characterization of Abe as just "using her for practice." But might it be possible that Peggy herself doesn't want much more than practice, especially given that Peggy seems so devoted to SCDP? Mrs. Olsen's anti-Semitism also makes her an especially unsympathetic mouthpiece for traditional views, which makes me doubt that the writers intended us to sympathize with her. The show has also famously cast a cold eye on more traditional sexual mores. The deeper message may be that we are all doomed to unhappiness, whatever the norms of the society we live in.

So, to our own day and Girls. I'm not especially eager to read too much into the relatively small n of sexual vignettes the show has shown us so far. Joss Whedon once observed that his most famous show worked best when Buffy was unhappy. So, too, Dunham doesn't want to pair off all four of her characters happily too quickly. That wouldn't leave us with much interesting to see.  That aside, I don't necessarily agree with Douthat's characterization of Shoshana as suffering from a kind of false consciousness.  Is it really implausible that she isn't curious about sex for its own sake, rather than that she's been manipulated into it by a depraved culture?

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