Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sex, Lies and the City

An obligatory right of passage one must endure when coming to a women’s college in Manhattan is watching Sex and the City. I swear, no less than half of the girls on my hall had all six seasons on DVD, and probably a third chose to come to Barnard for little other reason than to emulate one of the show’s fab four. No joke, these were girls who categorized themselves as either Carries, Charlottes, Samanthas or Mirandas and dressed and acted accordingly. With all this fervor, it was not long before someone shoved a copy of the first season into my hands and I began to watch. I wasn’t in love, in fact I had a sneaking suspicion that I hated it, but I also felt that perhaps I couldn’t judge until I had seen the bulk of what the show had to offer. So whether I was spurned to watch in order to maintain a guise of being open minded or to confirm the hatred forming in my already narrowing mind, I watched every episode. Now I can safely say – without any risk of being labeled preemptively judgmental – that I hate it.

I don’t buy the chemistry between the four women, find Sarah Jessica insanely obnoxious and don’t understand Mr. Big’s appeal. However, all these things are completely subjective and not really at the core of what makes the show so reproachable. My biggest problem is that Sex seems to be trying – unsuccessfully – to redefine what a woman in her 40s can be. Rather than being confined to housewifery, the show purports that women can be successful, savvy and “fabulous” – whatever that dubious expression may mean – without needing a man. While this is all well and good in theory, the show is really its own worst enemy; while these women pretend to be strong, fierce and independent, all they talk about is sex and men. Each prove time and time again that their lives do revolve around men as they put up with the most ridiculous crap from the losers they date, never talk about their jobs, families or anything else that would define them as individuals with actual souls, and ritually go out to bars dressed like hussies and prowl around for tail. Instead of promoting an image of the alternative, 40-something woman as empowered, strong and independent, all the show does is make New York’s single gals look pathetic and easy. Worst is the fact that – like my Barnard first year cohorts – a vast number of people actually think that the sadistic and degrading behavior of the four tramps on the show is representative of the rest of us here in NYC.

And just when the commotion from the series had died down leaving the city partially in ruins in its wake, the half-witted frenzy was again dredged up when the bitches came back – not any prettier, smarter or loveable, just a bit more wrinkly – in the cleverly named Sex and the City: The Movie. Naturally, I would never pay money to see that shit in the theater, and apart from a drunken attempt to watch a pirated copy this summer (I passed out from boredom and alcohol halfway through), I avoided seeing it. However, I recently discovered that one of my roommates has a copy, and I think I must have had a sick, self-congratulating desire to prove myself correct in my hunch that the movie would be terrible, because two days ago I cracked and watched the second half of the film. I must tell you now how abysmally loathsome, how embarrassingly backward and ungodly deplorable it is.

Spoilers be damned – I’m giving you all the salient points! The film starts promisingly enough; each of the ladies has a significant other, thus keeping them off the streets trolling for men, though not guaranteeing that they have anything interesting to say. The movie swims along fine until Big stands Carrie up at the altar. Now in my opinion this is one of the most reprehensible, hurtful and humiliating things a person can ever do, and no matter what – especially given his incredibly shady track record – Big should not be forgiven. Now for a while, I actually thought Carrie wasn’t going to give in and take him back. She moves into a new apartment, hires a token black assistant who helps her keep it real, and for a sec I thought the movie was going to end with Carrie slowly getting over the breakup – Big-less but independent - and actually developing some self-respect. No, of course not. How could I be so stupid?

She takes Big back. Even that didn’t bother me so much, but it was the way she took him back that was truly offensive and disgusting. At a dinner with Miranda 5 months after the wedding day, Carrie is still obsessing and says it is her own fault that Big stood her up because she didn’t listen to his wishes to have a small wedding (a concern I think he voiced maybe once?) and that she “let the wedding get bigger than Big”. Apart from the fact that that phrase is ridiculously annoying, it’s also pathetic. Then Miranda confesses that the day before the wedding – in a fury after finding out her husband cheated on her – she tells Big “You two are crazy to get married, marriage ruins everything”. Carrie lashes out and tells Miranda that she’s the reason Big stood her up. Thus, in summary, it’s pretty much everyone’s fault but Big’s that he was too immature and selfish to show up to his own wedding. What kind of a message is this?

Finally she finds out that he sent her a bunch of emails (since when were those romantic?) of famous love poems he probably just cut and pasted from Google. She thinks the whole thing is super romantic, and they get back together and agree to have a smaller wedding. The whole film reeks of hypocrisy and pretty much made me want to vomit all over the DVD, preventing anyone else from watching such backward and demeaning filth. And now I hear they are going to be coming back to the big screen again in a sequel? They’ve already done enough damage to modern women – can’t they just disappear already?

1 comment:

  1. wow. I'm a fan of the movie, but your arguments are pretty convincing... But then again, I think what a lot of people like about the show/movie is simply watching people live fantasy lives where, for example, Carrie writes a column and some how has enough money to own an entire closet full of haute couture and meet really attractive, interesting men at bars on a daily basis. Plus, anyone who's watching sex and the city to replace their therapy session or to gain a defining sense of self is a dumbass anyway.