I haven’t seen the latest Sex and the City movie, and I don’t plan to because I’m sure it will be terrible. It also sounds a little bit racist! And, like the rest of the franchise, shallow and kind of silly.
However, Choire makes some good points here:
It used to be that we loved rich people; then recently we came to find them distasteful, or at least wasteful. And now America burns with a weird, left- and right-wing resentment. It’s been a long time since our country has been angry enough to come close to redistributing the wealth.
It is true, in my experience, that a surprising number of rich people are actually fairly terrible (and spoiled and short-sighted and ugly on the inside). But the four rich women of Sex and the City are of a different ilk. They love clothing, each other, homosexuals, intercourse, and their feelings, in that order. Have we forgotten that these are fantastic qualities? Apparently so, because that is what is now being used to trash them.
Even more important, the movie provides a first-wave feminism flashback the likes of which we haven’t seen anywhere. Charlotte and Miranda, getting drunk, and telling the socially unutterable truth about how they sometimes hate their children? Hello, it’s a much-needed refresher course straight from 1971.
I asked Andy Cohen—Bravo executive/host and Friend of Sarah Jessica Parker, and defender of Sarah Jessica Parker—what he thinks about all the spite. “Given the amount of actually stupid/ridiculous movies that come out every year, I was amazed by the degree of vitriol leveled at a good one (of very few) that celebrates women,” he wrote to me through Facebook.
It is pretty amazing. But then, some topics—fashion and morals and rights and responsibilities and sex with strangers on the beach, that great American pastime—still make people pretty uncomfortable.
A lot of the criticism of Sex and the City is valid, but some of it — or at least the criticism that appears in mainstream media sources — is also mean-spirited and sexist. And a lot of it is silly — like the criticisms of the clothes. Of course the clothes are ridiculous and over the top. It’s Sex and the City! Remember the giant flower? And the tutu? I’ll admit that I enjoyed the show well enough, and I even think it was groundbreaking insofar as it featured women on TV talking about sex honestly, with female experiences centered. The characters also prioritized their female friendships and, while most of their conversations were about sex and men, they all had individual identities and perspectives. They were funny. They were raunchy. Sure, they were a little shallow with the adoration of clothes and shoes, but so am I, to a point. Was it a feminist TV show? No. Did it have its moments? Yes.
I’m not surprised to see the movie being raked across the coals, though. And I’m not exactly heartbroken over it. Sex and the City had its moment; it was groundbreaking ten years ago, when explicit sex talk from women didn’t have much of a place on television, and it was fun and indulgent in a thriving economy and in a culture that embraced excess. Those things have changed, though, and SATC has not changed with them.
Choire’s right that a lot of the vitriol targeted at SATC is sexist and ageist, and that the film is receiving disproportionate criticism in part because the story is centered around older women; in American culture, we like the women in our movies to be young and pretty, at least if they’re talking about having sex. Women with wrinkles and handbags full of condoms are just unseemly. The film also challenges our ideas about marriage and motherhood — and those challenges are rarely met with enthusiasm in a culture that lionizes both, without actually taking steps to support the individuals who make up (or wish to make up) those institutions. And while I’m also critical of the emphasis on consumption in the show and in the movies, SATC seems to draw disproportionate criticism for celebrating wealth and stuff. You don’t hear the James Bond or Oceans-whatever-number-we’re-on-now movies being taken to task because the lead characters are obsessed with money and toys.
But some of the better criticism centers on the fact that SATC is only concerned with the rights and experiences of a certain class of women. Muslim women? Oppressed, but, of course, silent. American women, by contrast, have everything going for them and are fully “free.” When Muslim women do take any sort of action, it centers around… shoes. And rescuing our heroines, of course. The movie is “good for women” insofar as it features some women, but that doesn’t stop it from being racist and sexist.
My Louboutins for a decent popular movie about lady-stuff.