Stephen W. Browne | Rants and Raves

Sep/08

27

"Sex in the City" and Auntie Mame

We watched the movie “Sex in the City” last night, from Netflix.

My wife has followed the series throughout, and I’ve watched it from time to time with her to fill me in on the backstory.

I’m not outraged by it, as some conservatives are. But by and large, I just don’t feel any connection to these people and their problems, trials and tribulations. They just don’t seem like my kind of people, living the kind of life me and my friends live.

Of course, that’s precisely the attraction the series must have had for some folks. Those of us who don’t have the finances covered to the point they don’t have to worry about paying for those up-scale New York apartments and lunches in tony restaurants, can concentrate on relationship issues to the exclusion of all else, and drop everything to get together with their buds whenever.

Would be nice if we could all be secure enough to concentrate on the art of living.

So at the end, Carrie marries Mr. Big. She’s 40, and you don’t get the idea they’ll have children, and that’s probably a good thing. Carrie is a perfectly sweet honorary aunt to Charlotte’s lovely adopted Chinese daughter, which is a part-time job. “Parent” is not something you can switch on and off, and frankly, Carrie and Big stike me as being a bit too self-absorbed to make room in their life for kids.

Charlotte is happily married and finally gets pregnant after being an adoptive mother for five years.

I have got to mention that adoption as a “priming the pump” phenomenon is well-known, though little understood, but many adoption agencies specifically screen childless couples who they think are motivated by this.

Miranda and Steve have a bad patch when Steve, frustrated by lack of noogie, confesses to a one-night stand.

Even Dear Abbie used to say, if you slip, don’t make that mistake again, bury it quietly and don’t burden your partner with your guilt.

Miranda puts him through hell for six months before she takes him back. Serves him right perhaps – but there’s a kid involved who has to go through this too, and there is zero time in the movie devoted to his perspective.

Smoking Samantha finds that monogamy is not for her, and dumps the much younger hunk who stuck with her through her chemo.

“You just compared him to chemo!” Charlotte observes.

Samantha frankly confesses that she’s much more into “me”, than “us.”

Good for Samantha, at least she didn’t pretend. Some women should not try to settle down, and men should not try to domesticate such.

Of course, she’s 50, and though fabulous still, how long is that going to last? Samantha is going to grow old very lonely, one suspects. Though perhaps as another honorary aunt to Charlotte’s (now) two girls, she’ll be a super and much-adored source of worldly wisdom for them as they grow into young women.

How Charlotte is going to feel about this when they start to bloom…

At any rate, I rather enjoyed the movie as light entertainment. Something was nagging at my memory though, and I only realized what this morning.

It was Auntie Mame.

Auntie Mame was a 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis. It was fiction, though strongly based on his freewheeling aunt Marion Tanner.

It was made into a movie with Rosalind Russel in 1958, then into a Broadway musical with a fabulous score, and filmed with Lucille Ball in 1974.

Camille Paglia said of it, “Auntie Mame is the American Alice in Wonderland. It is also, incidentally, one of the most important books in my life. Its witty Wildean phrases ring in my mind, and its flamboyant characters still enamor me. Like Tennessee Williams, Patrick Dennis caught the boldness, vitality, and iridescent theatricality of modern American personality. In Mame’s mercurial metamorphoses we see American optimism and self-invention writ large.”

That indeed we do. Some years back I got the chance to read it, and it’s what she said alright. There is real affection in it for the unconventional auntie who eats life like there was no tomorrow.

What Camille doesn’t seem to see however, is there’s a real pissed-off kid in the story too.

Auntie Mame didn’t choose to have kids, but got two dumped on her by the death of her brother. And while she’s often a fun aunt, she’s also an irresponsible flibertygibbet who just can’t seem to freakin’ grow up when that awsome responsibility gets dumped in her lap.

And incidentally, I’ve read that the real Marion Tanner did not like her fictional counterpart one bit.

I wonder, is this America? Bold, optimistic, self-inventing – and not really very responsible about our children’s future?

I mean hey, what did future generations ever do for us?

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4 comments

  • Sunni · September 28, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    What an interesting coincidence: I recently re-watched the Rosalind Russell film Auntie Mame … didn't know a book was behind the story, nor that there was a grain of truth in it either. Now I've a quest—to find a copy of the book!

    And to answer the questions in your penultimate paragraph, I think that was America, back in its better days—but it included passing those strong traits along to successive generations. I consider that a pretty responsible way to raise a child; adaptability is a key to success, in my opinion … and clearly, somewhere along the line America largely went off those rails.

  • Steve Browne · September 29, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Look up Auntie Mame on the indespensible Wikipedia and you’ll find some sketchy but interesting stuff about the author Patrick Dennis. Look him up on Amazon and you’ll find he also wrote “Around the World with Auntie Mame” and some other stuff that sounds interesting as well.

    There is also a biography of Dennis that really sounds interesting.

    He was a closeted gay man, married with two kids – until he left to live with a man he fell in love with, perhaps after he had “drop dead money” from his books.

    Aunt Marion used to hit him up for money and he could be alternately warm and indifferent to her.

    I loved Auntie Mame, but I’ve never seen the filmed musical with Lucille Ball.

    Yeah Netflicks!

  • Allegra · December 24, 2008 at 12:21 am

    I grew up across the street from Marion Tanner’s house and was in and out of there daily until she was evicted for taxes in ’64

    She loved kids and grownups. She fed and sheltered them in her home until it became a falling down dump. There must have been 20-30 people living in there at any given time. Folks sang, played music, danced, declaimed, or just stayed stinking drunk or high all day. Marion practiced yoga in the corner and smiled through it all

    She ran all over the Village to buy cheap foods to feed her guests. She encouraged everyone to find their inner soul purpose and live a fulfilled life.

    Her nephew (gay straight or in between he was a good man, nephew and father btw)paid her bills and tried to get her to regulate her life. It was useless and he ran out of cash and good health himself.

    If she is America she is Obama’s America. With some Mother Terisa and Phyllis Diller thrown in. I’ve never met anyone like her ever again

  • Steve Browne · December 24, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Allegra, thank you for sharing that with us!

    Any other anecdotes would be much appreciated.

    Your observation on Obama’s America may be prophetic.

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