I have a love-hate relationship with Sex and the City

I mostly hate it. It’s a gay man’s idea of what women are. You’ve got the frigid WASP, the slut, the ball-busting career woman and the, well, the myriad of awful that is Carrie Bradshaw. She’s not really a stereotype, other than ‘lol, women like shoes’, but she’s also the most obscenely self-obsessed harpy. Worse than that, (well, not worse, but just as bad) it’s a very specific kind of gay man’s idea of what a gay man is. But it’s also the sort of gay man that the dreadful women the show portrays thinks are the only ones that exist.

I was once genuinely told by this woman that she loved gay men because they’re so stylish (while I was unshaven and wearing an ill-fitting fisherman’s jumper), have the best parties (while I was playing darts in the pub) and that I should take more cocaine, because gay men love cocaine. Now, please understand that that’s not me trying to be all ‘I’m so masculine and straight-acting’, because that crap is ridiculous, and I’m also sitting here nearing midnight writing a thousand words about my emotional response to Sex and the City. A lumberjack I ain’t. But the idea that I’m some super-primped wealthy Alpha Gay is equally absurd. But basically, the show’s idea about gender roles and how people should act are not pretty, and don’t bear even a little scrutiny. It comes at you from different directions and is basically offensive in all sorts of ways at once.

I still watch it when it’s on, of course. I just tune out the bits that are most appalling and look at the surface. I don’t really like the ‘it’s a bit of fun’ defence, because it’s an excuse for laziness and poor standards, but I make an exception. Also, you know, getting pissed off at TV shows is fun. Currently, there’s repeats on one channel and the movie on another, and I’m flicking between the two for some weird time travelling cognitive dissonance. Although both the series and the movie are revolving around Carrie going ‘I CAN’T MARRY! WHY CAN’T I MARRY? WHY DIDN’T HE MARRY ME?’. So you know. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même show.

I’ve never seen the movie before. It’s APPALLING. The series at least had its moments. It was occasionally very funny. Mostly for the times when Samantha is an entirely different show from the rest of them, a show where she just stares at the camera and rolls her eyes and necks some vodka and effectively says ‘Can you believe these bitches?’ Or when she’s stoned and does a little dance in the street to her ring tone. Also any scene where Cynthia Nixon got to act, because she’s amazing. Her multiple personality disorder episode of Sexy Victims Unit is basically the best thing ever. ‘LEAVE HER ALONE!!’ The Sex and the City where her mother dies is pretty devastating. Lady can act, is what I’m saying. She has the advantage of acting the character that’s most written like an actual human being, of course.

But the movie? Has literally none of the charm of the series, with the added bonus of Jennifer Hudson as A Black Person who loves Another Black Person and spends New Year at a Black Person Party and buys a wedding dress with her Black People Family and explodes with joy when she gets a handbag. No matter how much Carrie apparently likes her, the only black person she interacts with is the help, and the only white person Jennifer Hudson interacts with is her boss. Oh, and the lady who sells her her wedding dress. I’m not trying to say let’s all live in a multiracial rainbow or that it’s terribly racist that a lot of people tend to have friends of their own race. But this just leaps off the screen with its crass obviousness. Also, Jennifer Hudson says things like ‘Yeah, I totally understand your pain about the man who you’ve loved for years and have this massively complex, twisty relationship with, dumping you at the altar. My boyfriend dumped me and I miss him soooo bad.’

The whole movie is basically an exercise in reshuffling all the pieces to make sure that they end up in the same place as they were to start with. You know, like an episode of the Simpsons (which has the excuse of being a cartoon and in many ways immune to change, and also resolutely joyfully episodic), or the end of a series of Doctor Who (which doesn’t have the excuse and needs to stop. with. the. story. arcs. But that’s a whole nother post.) Or the whole Samantha ‘She has feelings, so she EATS. Ain’t that just like a woman? Deanna Troi knows what I’m sayin’, right gurl? Bitches love chocolate’ aspect. And I’m pretty certain that it’s pronounced St Lou-iss and not St Lou-ee when you’re talking about the city. Try not to make a plot point about something you can’t even say, yeah?

I don’t think even my scientific curiosity and my insatiable appetite for really really bad entertainment can make me watch the second movie where they ride camels and liberate all the Muslims by throwing tampons and lipstick at them and saying ‘fuck’, or whatever it is that happens. Also isn’t that the one where the juddering groaning reanimated corpse of Liza Minnelli sings Beyonce like a drag queen of herself? That’s just depressing. Apart from anything, if you’re going to have Liza sing at your wedding, it should clearly be Ring Them Bells. (Which, incidentaly, Bebe Neuwirth sings on her newish album. Who knew she had one? Thanks Spotify. Also incidentally, Bebe Neuwirth as Velma on the Broadway cast recording of Chicago really emphasises that Catherine Zeta Jones is not … very good. And oh my god, you have to go and watch Catherine Zeta Jones doing Send in the Clowns at the Tony awards. It’s SO bad, you guys. It’s amazing. Send In The Lemsip And The Flyspray Because There’s a Fly In The Room And it’s Really Bugging Me; That’s The Only Excuse For My Head To Be Moving Like This And I’m Fairly Sure My Voice Isn’t Meant To Sound Like That.)

Part of me is questioning the wisdom of writing so much about Sex and the City. It’s still got to be better than whatever ‘So I got to thinking, is love like pasta? So many different varieties, you can find it everywhere, but have too much and you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Meanwhile, across town, Samantha was having her raviolo filled’ crap Carrie comes out with. And that’s problematic in itself. Jacob Clifton pointed this out in relation to another show; I don’t remember which, but it holds true here. The show is full of people telling Carrie that she’s an awesome writer, they love her work, she’s so witty and insightful and blah. But the episode writers also wrote Carrie’s writing. So Character A is writing something, written by Writer, and character B, voiced by Writer, comes along and says ‘GOSH. THAT REALLY IS SOME TOP DRAWER WRITING. BRAVA, FOXY. BRAVA.’ That’s a pretty hard knot to unravel. The cleanest solutions (never show her writing, or never talk about her writing) are kind of a blunt instrument, but playing it utterly straight, like the show does on countless occasions, leaves a rather funny taste. Of course writing is somewhat narcissistic. I’m writing this at least two-thirds in the hope that people are actually going to read it and like it. But a little subtltely goes a long way, and ‘You (AND BY YOU I MEAN ME) are a great writer!’ just ain’t subtle.

I will say that Miranda and Steve are basically the only couple in the whole of fiction that I’m invested in. Well, not the ONLY. Also Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden in The House of Mirth. (And, by the way, my other New York-set show I perhaps shouldn’t watch, Gossip Girl, featured in its first season the married-for-money and a bit of love socialite Lily, married to the brazillionaire, Bart. A show about rich people in Manhattan whose lives revolve entirely around socialising and where scandal and lack of invitations to places is genuinely devastating, slips in Lily Bart references. In a show aimed at teenagers. Actual layers! Jokes that are only funny if you get them! Never mind that, here’s an old woman giving a man a blowjob in a restaurant.) What can I say? I’m a sucker for a woman who does everything she can to sabotage her own chances at happiness. Unless it’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I hate that bitch.

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