Monday June 9th 2008 – Sex and the City
There has been much written on Sex and the City, more so now that it’s made its inevitable leap from the small screen to the big. But I almost feel as if this is completely justified. In this supposedly post-feminist world, Sex and the City seems to say an awful lot about the role of women in today’s society. And the role of men. And the role of shopping.
The thing is, after seeing the film I decided that I didn’t actually hate it Carrie and co cinematic debut. I knew exactly what I was going to expect. I knew that the gender politics would anger me. I knew the blatant commercialism would offend me. I knew that the film’s message, underneath all that crap about ‘female friendship and empowerment’, would ultimately be that women are defined by who they sleeping with and what they are wearing on their feet. And I think it did just that. Yes, it could be claimed that the film shows a world in which women are free to make their own choices about the men who they sleep with, but in short they still seem somewhat contrasted by these men. Even Samantha, the ‘man eater’, who we are to believe has sex like a man (as if all sexual acts can be so easily gendered), still seems to validate herself by the men she is sleeping with. Men find her sexually attractive, therefore she is. The film, to me, seemed to jump far too quickly to the conclusion that women ‘need’ men, although they’d had the forethought to dress it up so that it read as ‘women need love’. When Carrie ‘loses’ her man, she seems to completely lose herself, refusing even the female friendship which I was under the assumption was the whole crux of the plot. Either that or the message of the film is that women need Vera Wang dresses. In a way, I think I hated the commercialism more than I hated that particular brand of post-feminism that Sex and the City does so well. Problems seem to float away with the purchase of a designer handbag. Greed is good. Money solves problems. If you are having a bad day, you will have less of a bad day if you buy a nice dress. Yes, in this materialistic culture it is true that purchasing power does make people a little happier, but do new shoes really solve your problem? And interestingly enough, once again the power of pretty things seem to be a gendered thing. It is only women’s minds that are easily distracted by a necklace. Never are we shown Big buying a nice designer suit to make him feel a bit happier about himself.
Of course, Sex and the City did, to borrow a cliché, what it said on the tin. But did it leave me feeling empowered as a woman? No. Did it leave me emotionally drained? No. In fact, I felt that as a piece of cinema it completely lacked the emotional drive I wanted it to have. The tone was all wrong, and kitchen sink drama merged with melodramatic bullshit and teen gross-out humour seemed completely the wrong way to present the story that wanted to be told. Of course, my lack of emotional attachment to the characters was probably because I never cared about these women during the period in which the show was actually on. And maybe it was also because it was a big Hollywood production, and we all know that those tend to end nicely, more often than not with the big patriarchal hand of marriage.
Sex and the City wants to pretend that it exists in a world where women are empowered, and where the world is not intrinsically sexist. But we know that’s not the case at all. Mainly because it exists in a world in which products like Sex and the City exist, shameless marketed towards women. It makes no attempt to ask questions about feminism or women roles in society and instead upholds age old stereotypes. What makes matters far worse is that it denies that it is doing such. I’m fine with mindless fluff; I just don’t want it to pretend that it is playing a greater role in society. Sex and the City did nothing to change the face of feminism, in fact I believe its pseudo-empowerment hinders more than it helps.
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