Sex and the City, Dir: Michael Patrick King, Now Playing
There’s been a lot of hype.
A lot of dress-up, a lot of live-blogging, a lot of build up. People have had the Sex and the City: The Movie boner for like, three months now. And suffice it to say, in the end, the spunk was funky. It may well have been the worst sex of our lives.
Sex and the City is not a good movie. But even if it were, so what? We like the wardrobe, we like the real estate, and we like the product placement. It’s good to see those girls again. They dress well, they have good sex, and get away with everything. For six seasons on HBO we laughed, we cried, we came, we conquered right alongside them, cosmos in our hands. All from the sublimated privacy of our own home however, after 4 a.m. eating cereal in bed, on demand, on dvd, or from a plush pink box set. That was where Sex was: in our bedrooms and living rooms, comforting us with the hope—after long days of work wearing flats and dowdy twin sets—that glamour was possible. But packed into a sticky movie theatre with throngs of annoying fans, it felt like a secret no more. And the girls have aged. They’re fifty. They’re gaining weight and jowls. It’s your thirty-year high school reunion on the big screen, only with screwing, for two and half hours.
Spoiler alert: Charlotte York Goldenblatt shits her pants after pilates class. Who knew Judd Apatow was a co-producer? Shitting one’s pants (apparently what women over forty do when visiting Mexico on their friend’s faux honeymoon right after her I-banker leaves her in Vivienne Westwood at the altar) was a badly scripted attempt at humanity, presented to bring these women down from their pedestals and into a relatable realm. And all the rest was fluff. Great outfits—GREAT outfits—cheesy one-liners, weddings, and fluffity fluff fluff fluff. In fact, five hundred years from now, when the earth is flat again, an anthropologist is going to dig up a DVD of Sex and the City: The Movie and say, holding it at arms’ length: “What the fuck?”
As a consumer of culture in its many forms, I should admit: I looooove SATC. Oh baby, do I. I like nice dinners and white people and couture. I like sex, I like talking about sex, I like forcing my boyfriends to talk about sex, I like writing about sex, I like eating while talking about sex, etc. I also like women’s rights. Women’s rights to choose, women’s rights to shoes, women’s right to booze, and the fact a woman is running for president in 2008. Me likey. I do not like thinking that a movie in and of itself can change the course of a sexual culture…I’m pretty sure it’s not that simple. Or, perhaps, if it is, then let’s talk about internet porn and the fetishization of prisoners at Abu Ghraib alongside it. Sex and the City cannot be a shifting force of animal and evolutionary drive in and of itself. If someone thinks that, then Entourage viewers will date-rape their crushes, and Sopranos fans will grow up and become hitmen. If this is the world in which we live, I vote all of media off the island.
Many writers and bloggers say writer/director Michael Patrick King is trying to bust all up into the feminist movement. Some think the gays are the perps responsible for the female character’s downfall in 21st century TV and film. Others say it’s the self-proclaimed sex columnists in the spirit of Carrie Bradshaw who paste their brooding flirtations and fucking all over the blogosphere; the half-naked babes on the cover of the NY Times Magazine, and the seedy slut storytellers on college web boards. Then there are the people quoted saying Carrie Bradshaw equals Joyce Maynard equals Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Steinem, Oates, Sontag, and Simone de Beauvoir. The big debate for years since the show’s inception has been: What’s so feminist or anti- about Sex and the City?
Just because the characters squat when they pee and suck a lot of dick does not mean they’re launching a generation of whores. Carrie Bradshaw and her posse are likely a space for voyeurism and fantasy, and what’s so bad about that? This is a movie, not a movement, right? There are fans, but no one’s expecting women to be like the characters from Sex and the City. And just because a book of fluff morphed into a TV show of muff-talk and thence into a movie full of fluffy designer wear and shameless advertising doesn’t mean this country’s pure daughters are going to fuck out of wedlock. Perhaps the real social worry is thinking our daughters would give blow jobs anyway, and we feel the need to hold somebody accountable. Sex, sex, sex. Women have been having sex and masturbating for centuries after all, since Mary Magdalene whispered the word of God into Jesus’ ear (and before, much before). The fact that people feel the need to talk about Hillary Clinton and Carrie Bradshaw and Feminism’s Downfall in the same sentence just proves this country is not as far along sexually as it thinks it is, and by sexually I mean politically. These are separate issues, people. Separate, but equal.
Too bad there were no shockers in the movie. Instead, there were only tied-up loose ends and gladiator sandals. In fact, girl gets boy gets girl gets boy breaks up no development, etc. It watches like a press kit with shiny, shiny hair. This movie does not aspire to the same universe as George Cukor’s The Women (1939), or even the late Sydney Pollack’s The Way We Were (1973), movies with messages, however small. This was a little snack for fans who thought there would never be a new episode ever again, and to us something (anything!) is better than nothing at all. I had missed my girls. Miranda is still cunty and I love her for that. But for the rest: check out the website and you’ve seen it all, I’m sorry to say. The under-developed plotlines and false play-acting put the series to shame. What’s most troublesome is the plight of Samantha (played by Kim Cattrall), who famously used to love sex and now has given it up for pudding, bonbons and a gut. “I eat so I don’t cheat,” she says, in a way reverting back to a puritanical idea of what it means to be a true and good woman who sacrifices her bangin’ body so as not to humiliate her boyfriend. Gag me.
So, what’s the moral in Sex and the City? Is the glass half empty, or half full? Everyone’s happily married with babies and diamonds and big apartments…what more can women strive for if they have it “all?” Maybe female protagonists will never again grace the face of billboards quite like the gals from Sex, unless of course, they’re younger, nakeder, more dysfunctional and less interesting, in which case—if culture continues on its current trajectory—it’s a fair assumption they will be. Aspiring writers will diet to look good in their author photographs and in terms of increased sales interest, they probably should. It’s fair to imagine newer and realer housewives of places like Orange County will sustain the voyeuristic fantastical needs that keep so many lonely women hopeful, and so many credit card debts a’growin’. And so, in the world Post-War (the war of Carrie and Mr. Big) where women are continually commodified ceremoniously with and without their talents in tow, I am reminded of Joyce Maynard’s NY Times Magazine article from 1972 about being eighteen and worshipping Jackie O, the ever-perfect American Woman:
"I knew she must but somehow I could never imagine Jackie Kennedy going to the bathroom. She was too cool and poised and perfect. We had a book about her, filled with color pictures of Jackie painting, in a spotless yellow linen dress, Jackie on the beach with Caroline and John-John, Jackie riding elephants in India and Jackie, in a long white gown, greeting Khrushchev like Snow White welcoming one of the seven dwarfs…"
"And, later still, reading some Ladies’ Home Journal exposé (“Jacqueline Onassis’ secretary tells all...”) I felt almost sick. After the first few pages I put the magazine down. I wasn’t interested in the fragments, only in the fact that the glass had broken."
And broken it is.
Makenna Goodman is a freelance writer based in New York City.