"Pathetic hags…" "[with nothing] to aspire to other than being attractive, having pretty clothes and having sex…" -- Dawn Eden on Sex and the City
Sex and the City was the ultimate "chick flick" TV series and like most men, I spent years avoiding it like a prostate exam. However, after discussing the show with the incomparable Dawn Eden when I interviewed her about her surprisingly deep and spiritual book, The Thrill Of The Chaste, I decided to take the plunge and actually watch a season of the show. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed watching Sex and the City so much that I cycled through three seasons in roughly two months time.
Why was the show alluring? Well, it featured four attractive, single women in their mid-thirties getting into funny situations that revolved around dating and sex -- and then talking about them without men around. For a single man in his thirties, it was almost like watching tapes that had been sneaked across enemy lines. Moreover, the characters, while not necessarily sympathetic, were at least intriguing.
There's Miranda, a feisty, slightly neurotic lawyer who's frustrated with men. She was the only character who would occasionally go an entire episode without having a man in her bed.
Next is Samantha, a walking, talking female libido who has very little to her personality beyond being generally assertive and sleeping with just about any good looking man she can coax into her bed.
Then there's Charlotte, the "nice" commitment-oriented, more "conservative" woman who's totally focused on getting married. She is a very likable character in some ways, but almost as unrealistic as Samantha when looked at as a whole. How do you take a character seriously when she's supposed to be a good girl who actually gets horribly offended when her own friends drop "F-bombs" in her presence, but meanwhile, she ended up sleeping with almost as many different guys as Samantha did during the first three seasons?
And last but not least, there's Carrie Bradshaw, who's supposed to represent the "every woman" watching the show. Of course, the fact that the character people are supposed to be able to best relate to -- is a woman who writes a column about sex for the local paper, is obsessed with high fashion, and spends her time frantically alternating between meaningless flings and long-term relationships -- tells you a lot about the show.
As a group, although the show tries to portray them as likeable, with the possible exception of Charlotte, they're an extraordinarily selfish group of women with meaningless empty lives. Their jobs are an afterthought, they're all as shallow as kiddie pools, and they look at people outside of their little group, including the men in their lives, as little more than disposable playthings that have no purpose other than to make them happy.
Does that mean that Sex and the City promotes a promiscuous, unhealthy lifestyle? Yes, it does, although to be fair, the show does occasionally show the consequences of sleeping around.
For example, one of my favorite moments in the first three seasons is when Samantha gets sick, knocks a curtain rod down, and needs help getting it back up. So, she starts calling all the different one-night-stands she has been with and even though she goes through an enormous number of them, not one of them cares enough about her to come over and help.
Unfortunately, such moments happened far too seldom on the show and were so sanitized that as a conservative, you almost want to cheer when one of the women actually has to deal with a consequence of sleeping with a different guy every week....
Which brings me to the movie. Much to my chagrin, Charlotte and Miranda were married when the movie started and Samantha and Carrie were in long-term relationships. This was horrifying because the dating stories were the heart of the series for the first three seasons. It was almost like watching an A-Team movie where the guys had given up helping people and spend the whole movie playing monopoly and checkers.
So, if there were no dating stories, what was going on? Lots of brutally painful relationship stories along with talk about fashion. In other words, it was guy hell. We could put that movie on constant rotation at Gitmo and within a couple of days, the terrorists there would be begging to be waterboarded just to get away from their TV screens.
At about the 40 minute mark, I was ready to gouge my eyes out with my thumbs to stop the pain and that's when I remembered that the movie ran a full two hours and twenty minutes. Furthermore, I couldn't leave because I had to discuss the movie in this column. At that point, if they had cyanide capsules at the concession stand, I might have bought a handful.
Later that night, after calling some female friends who were big fans of the show, I found out that it got much more relationship-oriented in the later seasons. Had I only known, I would have just written column #47 on Barack Obama instead of spending more than two hours of my life in that Prada nightmare.
If you want a quick review of the movie, it's easy to give you one in less than five words. For women it's, "Relationship stuff. You'll love it!" and for men, it's just "Run!"
Beyond that, two things really stuck out for me about the movie.
The first is that the show's view of "love" is just as warped as its view of dating. The movie features this romance novel notion that when a mutual mistake breaks up a couple, the man should pine away for her, hopelessly in love for months and months, with no encouragement, no reason to think it's not over -- until the woman finally changes her mind and they take up right where they left off. In the real world, as often as not, this is called creepy, stalkerish behavior.
The other unintentionally sad but telling moment, requires a mini-spoiler so consider yourself forewarned if you continue.
Near the end of the film, Samantha -- who has been with a much younger, good looking, rich, successful man who has worshiped the ground she walks on for five years -- dumps him because she wants to have sex with different guys. The movie then finishes as the girls celebrate her 50th birthday party. Perhaps the message is intended to be empowering somehow, suggesting that Samantha didn't need a man or a family in her life to be content or perhaps were supposed to conclude she should be congratulated for being true to her nature. However, the reality is that she's 50 years old, her friends are all in long term relationships, and her days of going clubbing with them and picking up hot guys for casual sex are probably about to draw to a end. So even in its closing moments, like the rest of the show, the movie promotes a lifestyle and a value system that may be entertaining, but makes utter wreckage of people's lives.