I was paging through my sex swing catalog the other day, thinking about all the good times I wanted to have, and I stumbled on an old diary entry I wrote about the show “Desperate Housewives.” I thought I would share it. Don’t take anything I say here too seriously. Again, these are just one person’s ramblings. But I thought it would be entertaining. The opposite of Desperate Housewives is probably “Get Carter.” That’s as far to other end of that spectrum as you can get. It’s one of the more inspirational films for men who love women and who live there lives with adventure.
Get Carter is a beautifully filmed and moody revenge piece that, while not perfect, is great for creating the kind of atmosphere to which a solitary man — one alone with his thoughts and the consequences of his actions — can respond, mentally and emotionally. This is due in no small part to Roy Budd’s incredibly evocative theme music.
The Stallone version of the film is all style, with Stallone marching stolidly through the movie with a Beretta in his belt (shown in one scene as having pearl grips, which mysteriously disappear from the gun thereafter) and a chip on his shoulder. He has a catchphrase or two. “My name is Carter,” he intones, “and you don’t want to know me.”
The film is perhaps ultimately unsatisfying as a revenge piece for what it does not show us: Two of the four men either directly or indirectly responsible for the death of Carter’s brother and the rape of Carter’s niece are never really dealt justice. Stallone let’s one of them go because the man is a simpering weakling, telling him that he is granting something Carter himself never received — a second chance. Villain Cyrus Pace (gamely played in full-on I’m-a-boxer mode by Mickey Rourke) is thoroughly beaten by Carter, who then kneels over the man and painfully cocks back the hammer of his Beretta with his off hand, shoving the gun into Pace’s face. We never find out, however, if Carter kills the man.
There’s a neat feature of both films, and that is Michael Caine, who played Carter in the original version. I watched the original and was startled by just how… sleazy… it is, as I saw the Stallone remake first. Both Carters, new and old, are ostensibly villains, criminals with whom we identify because they seek justice for the death of Carter’s brother. Caine’s Carter is much more a scumbag, however. He’s also a randy pervert, who, among other things, molests the woman from whom he’s renting a room in a sexual act that, while it may not be forced, certainly feels somehow wrong and dirty as Caine plays it.
Caine’s Carter gets his revenge, too, but (spoiler warning) meets with a bad end. When you’ve seen both versions of the movie you’ll be able to appreciate the irony involved in Caine’s role in Stallone’s film. Because Caine is so damned creepy in the first movie, I never really found him as engaging, likable, or worthy of emulation as I did Stallone’s version of the character.
There’s one interesting facet to Stallone’s performance: He pretends to smoke cigarettes. To his credit, he does a decent job of it, but if you watch closely when the character is puffing away, you can see he’s faking it. He takes a drag, pauses as a man smoking generally does, and then… pretends to exhale, but no smoke comes out. Powers Boothe and I can forgive him that much.
But I was going to talk about Desperate Housewives, wasn’t I? I started watching Desperate Housewives when I was married. I never stopped; I guess this stupid prime-time soap opera outlived my marriage. For as long as it’s been on the air, my least favorite plots have involved Tom and Lynette — you know, the emasculated loser and the one actress of the primary cast who has the beauty and the personality of a February pothole.
The writers are incredibly shrewd when it comes to Tom. He’s forever whining, trying to escape his life, and coping with depression — not to mention shattered dreams. I think the writers’ secret is that Tom is the most “real” character on the show.
Through it all, Tom’s wife undercuts him, humiliates him, belittles him, and emasculates him… while managing to play the victim the entire time. Just when Tom (and we, the viewers) think Tom has finally managed to come out on top, finally managed to score a point just once in the endless back-and-forth battle that is his wife shitting on him every time he tries to enjoy his life… he loses. Even when he’s right, he’s wrong. She’s always the one who deserves the most sympathy, and Tom’s always the asshole who ruined her life by working his entire adulthood to support her and their large family.
In a recent plot arc, Tom’s wife finds out he slept with Vanessa Williams’ character twenty years ago when Tom and Lynette had broken up (or, in her words, were “on a break”). She tells him how heartbroken she is that he did this while she was grappling with what to do about their relationship — after she spends a few days trying to poison him with laxatives, kill him with falls down peanut-butter-greased steps, and humiliate him with clothing she’s rigged to split at the wrong moment. If this were a storyline about a man doing this to his wife, the network would be deluged with letters about how inhuman such abusive behavior truly is. Because Tom’s the husband however, well, ha-ha-ha, the cheating bastard deserved what he got. Poor Lynette has suffered so at his hands.
The reality of the show’s fiction — the truth in the story — is that Tom behaves like a child because his life is miserable. His life is miserable because HE is miserable. He is miserable because his wife is an emasculating, belittling, controlling bitch who can’t bear the thought of Tom experiencing even a moment’s happiness.
How many comedians’ routines about marriage and the commonality of the man-woman-dating relationship is based on emotions like these? Rare is the married man who cannot relate to the idea that he is punished any time his wife suspects he just might have been having fun doing something that did not directly include her. Rarer still is the married man who will admit to you that his wife has a way of sucking the joy out of everything the two of them try to do together, turning every interaction into a stress-filled voyage into why-isn’t-she-happy-I’m-doing-my-best-to-make-her-happy-and-it-isn’t-working.