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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

59

Sex and the Dystopia

Television critic Emily Nussbaum has an outstanding piece on Sex and the City—and how it lost its "good name"—in this week’s New Yorker. When people tell the story of quality television, Nussbaum argues, they talk about The Sopranos and the raft of other HBO shows that followed. They might acknowledge Sex and the City, but their scorn is palpable: “It might as well have been a tourism campaign for a post-Rudolph Giuliani, de-ethnicized Gotham awash in money,” writes Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ to ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad.’  

But Sex and the City was doing many of the same things, and sometimes doing them even better, than The Sopranos. As Nussbaum points out, 

“Sex and the City,” too, was once one of HBO’s flagship shows. It was the peer of “The Sopranos,” albeit in a different tone and in a different milieu, deconstructing a different genre. Mob shows, cop shows, cowboy shows—those are formulas with gravitas. “Sex and the City,” in contrast, was pigeonholed as a sitcom. In fact, it was a bold riff on the romantic comedy: the show wrestled with the limits of that pink-tinted genre for almost its entire run. In the end, it gave in. Yet until that last-minute stumble it was sharp, iconoclastic television. High-feminine instead of fetishistically masculine, glittery rather than gritty, and daring in its conception of character, “Sex and the City” was a brilliant and, in certain ways, radical show. It also originated the unacknowledged first female anti-hero on television: ladies and gentlemen, Carrie Bradshaw.

The reasons for reading (and liking) this piece are manifold: I like that Nussbaum explicitly calls out the revisionist history that elides the presence of shows geared towards women and other “feminized” objects. I like that she reminds us of how nuanced the characters and their plotlines actually were. I like how she emphasizes how much friendship mattered to these women, and I really like that she told me on Twitter that she wanted to call the sex interludes “Chauceurian fabliaux, down to the farting.”

But I also have some problems with a secondary claim of the article, namely, that these characters were feminists: 

Most unusually, the characters themselves were symbolic. As I’ve written elsewhere—and argued, often drunkenly, at cocktail parties—the four friends operated as near-allegorical figures, pegged to contemporary debates about women’s lives, mapped along three overlapping continuums. The first was emotional: Carrie and Charlotte were romantics; Miranda and Samantha were cynics. The second was ideological: Miranda and Carrie were second-wave feminists, who believed in egalitarianism; Charlotte and Samantha were third-wave feminists, focussed on exploiting the power of femininity, from opposing angles.

These claims are ostensibly correct: Miranda and Carrie were very much invested in egalitarianism. They were bread-winners; they didn’t expect others, and men in particular, to provide for them. I’ve often heard guy friends refer to Miranda as a “ball-buster,” which is another way of saying that she acts like a man. Charlotte and Samantha were also focused on exploiting femininity, whether in the form of traditional demureness or sex-positive self-objectification.  

But I don’t really know if any of these women—with the pointed exception of Miranda—were actually feminists at all. I don’t think that they were pre-feminists (even though Charlotte could, at times, have exchanged places with an obedient Henry James character). They reaped the benefits of second-wave feminism (reproductive rights, sexual freedoms, access to workplace), but, given their sexual and financial freedoms, who needs the actual politics and rhetoric and discomfort of feminism? They weren’t emblematic of second or third wave feminism, but of postfeminism—the belief that feminism, as a movement and a real politik, is no longer necessary.

Under postfeminism, freedom to choose becomes freedom to consume: which shoe (Jimmy Choo), which drink (Cosmopolitan), and which meal (brunch) defines me as a person? It also marked the return of many of the things for which first and second wave feminism fought so ardently to leave behind: staying at home and funneling your energy into “putting a ring on it.”

But it’s not like postfeminism was an identity marker—no one goes around saying “I’m a postfeminist,” and Carrie certainly didn’t, either. It’s a cultural mode, like “post-9/11” or even, to some extent, postmodernism. When I teach postfeminism, I point to Pretty Woman and the students kinda get it; then I point to Sex and the City and they really get it.

Which is part of why Sex and the City has curdled in my memory. Like many of you, I'm guessing, I had a period of obsession when it initially aired; I remember renting the DVDs (you could get the entire season at once) and ordering Cosmopolitans and consuming the series wholly uncritically. Today, Sex and the City stands in for the time in my past when, for better and for worse, I played with behaviors and tastes that grad student me would call “problematic.” I don’t regret them, per se, but I do think it’s important to be able to look back and see what they suggested in terms of norm, whether in terms of dealing with vaguely and not-so-vaguely misogynist men or the need to buy lots of shit.  

But as I read the article again, and discussed it with Nussbaum, I realized I was being unfair. When milk curdles, you don’t take a deep drink and really taste it; you spit it out. And that’s what I’ve done with Sex and the City, neglecting the ways in which the narrative never straightforwardly endorses Carrie’s consumption (at least in the beginning, she’s always haplessly broke) or romance (the Big storyline up until the final season, wow), and uses the supporting characters to explore all manner of crucial, generally ignored women’s issues with genuine grace and humor.

So I was being unfair, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. As Nussbaum points out, the fairytale ending of the series goes a long way towards unraveling the otherwise progressive storylines. But you know what else makes me think bad thoughts? The movies. The first one, sure, but the second one is an abomination. I realize it’s unjust to blame the original for the sins of the offspring—Star Wars, I’m so sorry for your loss—but with the movies, we had the same characters, the same actors, and the same plotlines, only now they were hackneyed, reductive, and completely evacuated of nuance. The postfeminism of the series was complicated; in the movies, there’s nothing complicated about it. SATC2, especially, is racist and xenophobic and, ironically, somewhat woman-hating. You don’t look at these women and see someone you want to emulate; you look at them and understand why patriarchy endures.

Sex in the City the series is arguably less white than Girls, but it treats race much in the way that it treats gender politics: as something we’ve moved beyond. When the series aired, no one (that I read) was making arguments about how the show’s title, coupled with the casting, suggests that sex in the city is the unique provenance of white upper class women. It wasn’t because the show was somehow more sophisticated or meaningful in its handling of race—it’s that those weren’t the conversations critics were having, at least not broadly, at the time. When critics talked about Sex and the City, they talked about sex, the new HBO and fashion. (Also remember: this was pre-blogosphere, where the critiques of Girls and other shows largely originated). But maybe we can restart that conversation now, and think about the ways in which SATC— and its often unspoken racial politics—shares DNA not only with Girls, but also Grey’s Anatomy, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, and countless other shows.

Here’s what I want to do: revisit Sex and the City and think about the ways that it might actually function not as an endorsement of postfeminism, but as an early artifact of postfeminist (and "postracial") dystopia. I’ve used this term to describe Girls, Bachelorette, and Revenge: these are all texts that represent the “fruits,” for lack of a better word, of postfeminist culture. It's a world filled with really bad sex, catty infighting, and generalized dissatisfaction with what you thought you wanted.  

Girls never celebrates this life; it makes it seem murky, scary, and sad. Sex and the City did celebrate this life, but it was never as straightforward as I like to remember. Carrie was, indeed, an anti-hero, and a large part of that might have been due to the difficulty of reconciling feminist tendencies (she, too, could be a ball-buster) with the societal imperatives of postfeminism. Sex and the City may not be dystopic in the manner of Girls, but it’s also not exactly utopian. Pretty Woman it most definitively is not.  

So maybe I’m ready to rethink. Are you?

 

Anne Helen Petersen is a Doctor of Celebrity Gossip. No, really. You can find evidence (and other writings) here. Her book, Scandals of Classic Hollywood, is forthcoming from Plume/Penguin in 2014.



59 Comments / Post A Comment

franceschances

I think my favorite thing about SATC, and the reason I will always defend it, is just how ANGRY it makes men that a woman they deem unfuckable was the star of a show. There's a certain kind of man who just cannot help himself from shouting "HORSEFACE" when Sarah Jessica Parker is mentioned. It makes them so angry that no one consulted their penis! How dare it be ignored? And for ignoring these dicks, I will always love SATC.

annejumps@twitter

@franceschances I know, right. And when the first movie came out I remember all these male critics complaining that the movie was even made in the first place. OMG a movie starring women that are kind of too old for me to want to fuck and also it's aimed at an audience of women? OMG the nightmare

testingwithfire

I don't know. The show premiered when I was in my thirties and I felt as though it was depicting a club that I could never belong to for many, many reasons. To me, feminism is inclusion, not exclusion; a show that will probably make me feel worse about my lot in life is not going to be on my to-watch list.

Also, Carrie may have been an anti-hero of sorts but maybe I don't really buy a female anti-hero unless she looks something like Marie Dressler. (On the Sarah Jessica issue, for every man who shouts "horseface" there's another one who thinks she's hawt because of her body. I do agree with franceschances that the horseface factor is one great reason to support the show.)

The crones of "Top of the Lake" are more my speed, then and now. Jane Campion & Elisabeth Moss FTW. Looking forward to that show coming out on DVD.

Mad Dog

@franceschances This was always one of my favourite things about the show as well, and something actually quite revealing about definitions of female desirability. Because you're right, at a conscious level, it is indignation at being left out, at not being consulted, that these men are feeling and that fuels their anger. But I think on a deeper level, there is fear. Women creating their own sex symbols and defining for themselves* what makes a beautiful, attractive, desirable woman, is scary as shit. Because if this was actually pervasive, suddenly women would not be spending all this time, money, and mental effort fruitlessly striving to meet arbitrary standards of attractiveness as determined by men. Suddenly there might just be a little more "Don't like it? Who cares? Next!" attitude. That is actually a pretty huge power swing right there, and even if they cannot articulate it, I think deep down in their bones, it scares those angry, indignant, "HORSEFACE"-shouting dudes.

*in terms of mass acceptance and adulation of a sex symbol technically designed by a gay man. I realize Carrie was not actually created by a woman, which is a whole 'nother thing.

franceschances

@Mad Dog I think you're right - it is rooted in fear. It's that fear of the loosening hold of patriarchy. I think that's what the fashions in the show were about, too. Carrie wore some eyebrow raising outfits, and her attitude was definitely "Don't like it? Who cares? Next!" She didn't "dress for her body" and she certainly never would have cared about any article about "best bathing suits for your shape!" It's a privileged kind of freedom, because dressing in a non-mainstream way is always much more acceptable when the clothes are designer, but it was definitely a push back.

kerrypolka

@Mad Dog In what way was Carrie not created by a woman? (Legitimate question, I'm confused!) I'd name Carrie's main 'creators' as Candace Bushnell (column and book author who came up with and first wrote the character) and Sarah Jessica Parker (actor who played her) - what am I missing?

Mad Dog

@kerrypolka I was referring to the show's creator, Darren Starr, who arguably had more to do with the TV and pop culture icon Carrie than Candace Bushnell. But you are right - I didn't mean to erase her role or SJP's role; I should have said not *completely* created by women.

zbzxbery737

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TATABox

@franceschances This. It seems like every guy my age is vaguely annoyed by the show (of course they've never watched it) because it stars 30-40 year-old, real-looking women, who are being portrayed as sexy and desirable. Of course whenever you try to call them out on their shit they just go, "Ohh, so are you one of those Sex And the City girlss??" to try and embarrass you and shut you up.

Also: if I had a nickel for every internet commenter who thought they were being clever and irreverent by making a SJP=horse joke...almost as bad as the people who have to comment about how they're "craving bacon" every time there's an article about vegetarianism/veganism.

kerrypolka

"You don’t look at these women and see someone you want to emulate; you look at them and understand why patriarchy endures."

WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA.

WHOA.

Kara Zor-el

I think women are shamed for liking romantic comedy. Chick flicks are denigrated as less than. Sex and the City is darker than most romantic comedy, but that's what it is, with the women front and center. Womens' likes and desires are deemed trivial. Wanting a satisfying relationship while maintaining independence is a complicated subject: it's addressed by men in a lot of different art forms, comedy included ("Wedding Crashers"). But when women do it, men hate it so women hate themselves for liking it. "Sex and the City" is HBO's most profitable show. Period. It syndicated successfully -- none of their other shows have. The movies made money, even the second one. The need to place it in a political context demeans it as entertainment. Using the last season or the movies to bash it is ridiculous... lots of people grumbled with The Sopranos last episode, but since David Chase is a straight white man he's a fucking genius so WE must be wrong. I love Sex and the City and I don't need to explain why. I like romance and fantasy and hair styles and sex jokes. I like Sex and the City way more than Girls because it's fun. But that's me.

18379756@twitter

@Kara Zor-el I'm confused by your statement "The need to place it in a political context demeans it as entertainment" in part because that seems to be what you're doing, too - which is great! Politics and entertainment are both systems we've created for understanding our world, and to try to divorce them would, I think, reduce our ability to engage with either. You're absolutely right, that SATC gets more shit than The Sopranos and that the ways the shows are gendered (and the sexual orientations of their auteurs) is a big part of that. You never have to justify enjoying something - that it's fun is a great reason! - but I don't think it's incorrect or unhelpful to use a political lens to look deeper. For some of us, it's what makes it fun.

practical cat

@Kara Zor-el I'm a wildly unapologetic SatC fan (it didn't "curdle" for me the way it did for AHP and others here) but I'm super confused by this comment. Your first two sentences seem TO ME to be an assertion of the gendered politics of media consumption. When you write that romantic comedy etc are (unfairly) denigrated by critics/society, you seem to me to be placing the show within a political context (and not dissimilarly to how Nussbaum and AHP do). So that, there, is an example of why we can't talk about media without talking about politics and still be nice to women at the same time. Media is not nice to women and your comment seems to support that very strongly in other ways.

The statement that "the need to place it in a political context demeans it as entertainment" takes as an assumption that to criticize (or think critically about) a form of entertainment is to hate it or to advocate for the decreased enjoyment of that particular thing. People much smarter than me have been talking about the role of criticism for far longer than I have been alive but I don't think that is AT ALL how feminist criticism works. We can still like something and find it "fun" and want to think/talk about what enjoyment in that particular cultural artifact tells us about ourselves/society. In fact, I (and many others, I think) think most critically about things that we love the most.

And besides, if we dismiss the whole nature of criticism because we think it detracts from entertainment value, we're dismissing politics/feminism (and progress) in favor of entertainment. And I don't think that's fair to entertainment OR politics/feminism.

ETA yeah, what 18379756@twitter said, basically

279th District Court

@Kara Zor-el

Your comment (and this whole discussion) makes me think of my friend's comment upon seeing the critical success of The Descendants: "I've seen that movie with a woman at its center. It was an acknowledged soapy Lifetime movie and would never be more. Put a man in that role, and it's an Oscar contender."

But I enjoy it just fine while sharing this opinion.

WorldofSass

I enjoyed Nussbaum's and AHP's perspectives on this. I hated SATC when it was first out because of the shopping-shopping-shoes-shoes nonsense that clogged so much of the show. All the running in heels, omg. Its humor and focus on female friendship made me come around, more or less. The only point I see as problematic in AHP's piece is the idea that a woman must be loudly feminist in order to be feminist at all. Carrie may not have been strident, like Miranda, but she didn't really seem to depend on a man or passively take condescension/disrespect from men. These days, with so many young women denying that they are feminists, it seems like the new bottom-line definition of feminist has become anyone who believes women should enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men. Agree wholeheartedly that the creatures depicted in the movies are ugly caricatures and shouldn't be part of this discussion.

madamvonsassypants

@WorldofSass Caitlin Moran's "How to be a Woman," amirite?

Onymous

@WorldofSass >These days, with so many young women denying that they are feminists

Is that really any different than "those days" though, was feminism ever really more popular than it is today?

Katyola

@WorldofSass I feel like I need to watch the shows again (and not the edited version on E!) because the shopping and crazy Samantha sex scenes are all I really remember of it. The movies ruined the show for me too! (Also, your line about shopping-shopping-shoes-shoes makes me think of the non-watchers of Mad Men who talk about it as a show where everyone's sexist and stands around smoking -- both shows get filtered down, don't they?)

WorldofSass

@Onymous I didn't mean to imply that feminism was more popular prior to "these days," just that there's been a lot of talk recently about what "feminist" means. Seems like it all started with Yahoo's Marissa Mayer proudly declaring herself not a feminist? And then there were a bunch of thinkpieces about how a lot of young women have gotten the patriarchal message that "feminist" = "unshaven man-hater." I was really confused when all this chatter started and polled people on my Facebook, asking if they'd heard this. A couple of my friends who are college professors said yes, absolutely, it's a thing. I mean, I suppose you're right that the negative stereotype of feminists has never really gone away; personally, though, I was floored that it still had such a stronghold on mainstream perceptions of feminism.

@madamvonsassypants Bingo!

@Katyola You're totally right about those shows getting filtered down. At some point I probably need to approach "Breaking Bad" again, because it's apparently so so freaking crazy omg good, but I watched a couple episodes and just couldn't get past my own moralistic, "DON'T DEAL OR MAKE DRUGS AND THIS SHIT WON'T HAPPEN!" judgment. I realize it's just a matter of style; I'm not gonna say it's a bad show -- it just doesn't really snap my beans.

Katyola

@WorldofSass Breaking Bad is on my list of shows-to-watch (along with The Wire and the last 4 seasons of The Sopranos, Orphan Black and that show with Elisabeth Moss) -- the funniest thing about that is that Vince Gilligan is from Richmond, where I live, so several people have given me guilt trips about not watching BB. Which makes me less likely to watch!

shantasybaby

@WorldofSass Indeed, I bristled at the show initially because I was in college, a lesbian, and not rich and or fabulous so I thought I could never realte to the exterior package of designer clothes and big city living. But eventually I got over than and enjoyed it for the laughs and the crazy outfits and the frank sexy stuff.

like a rabid squirrel

This is so interesting as I wrote my M.A. thesis on queer SaTC remixes and am revising it out into a couple of articles at the moment (this is a giveaway for anyone who knows me IRL, ah well). What I love about the remix work with this show is that it takes the show's absolute failures to be diverse and inclusive (tokenized gay characters, almost-feminist moments) and makes a whole new narrative out of them, and in so doing acknowledges how betrayed many viewers felt when the show wrapped - as if it hadn't lived up to the promises made by its early seasons.

sarah girl

@like a rabid squirrel This intrigues me! Where can those remixes be found, are they on Youtube?

like a rabid squirrel

@sarah girl Here's a preview that links to all the others: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4-IjZJajTI

RNL
RNL

"When milk curdles, you don’t take a deep drink and really taste it; you spit it out."

This is absolutely descriptive of my experience with SATC. The show was revolutionary. It portrayed women in a funny, pretty deeply nuanced, and honest way. It talked about sex and desire, and explored all sorts particularly female flaws and challenged. But we've turned on it, because it is simply outdated. We are now beyond SATC. (And it turned terrible. That second movie was a horror show).

What an interesting time to be alive, when the zeitgeist is tailored to me and my thoughts and experiences, and comes to me in my hand anywhere I am.

Bittersweet

I enjoyed SATC, both on HBO and DVD, when it came out. I used to have long conversations about it with my husband and sister - not because we agreed with the lifestyle, or the consumerism, or the values, but because it brought up women's issues that we weren't seeing anywhere else.

I was disappointed in the ending of the TV series, because it would have been more interesting if Carrie had rescued herself from her situation in Paris than having Big fly in on a Big White Horse (so to speak). But that ending was no more problematic for me than The Sopranos, and I think Nussbaum is right that White Man Shows get a big pass because they're supposedly so Deep and Thought-Provoking, man.

But the first SATC movie really ruined it for me, since it made Carrie into a wedding/status-obsessed shrew and all her friends just sympathetic ciphers who stroked her hair in her Great Grief (which, holy crap, was really overdone). So much so that I skipped the 2nd movie altogether and my affection for the original show dimmed quite a bit.

Katyola

@Bittersweet You're lucky you skipped the 2nd movie. It really was bad.

lora.bee

@Bittersweet I pretend the movies don't exist.

katzenklavier

@Bittersweet I got wasted on cheap rum with my brother and saw it in a second-run $2 theater where we could get away with heckling. I think that's the only way it could be tolerable.*

*Except not even then because SO RACIST.

fondue with cheddar

@Katyola I keep hearing how bad the second movie was, but I thought the first one was pretty terrible. I only sporadically watched the show, and that was in the earlier seasons, so I guess I didn't know what to expect.

Jaya

I wrote a piece a while back about the profound disappointment of SATC2. And this is coming from someone who was not a huge fan of the show. There were elements of it that were so incredible, and had such potential to reach this audience that would never think about issues like that otherwise.

It starts at a gay marriage, involves women talking about the hardships of motherhood and admitting that it's not the be-all-end-all, and even takes steps to legitimize a willingly child-free marriage and open relationships. There is all this insanely progressive stuff in there that I'm guessing the non-grad-student watchers of SATC would rarely have been introduced to before.

Of course, that was all overshadowed by racism and outlandish fashion and all the other stuff mentioned above. I watched it one day on HBO while home sick and I just felt so sad, seeing how much could have been done, and just how much wasn't.

Megan@twitter

I've been wondering ever since I read Nussbaum's article whether what I see as SATC's main weakness - its horrible consumerism - can be excused. For culturally-lauded dramas like the Sopranos and Breaking Bad, we easily excuse the terrible killing and drug-dealing habits of the protagonists. No one wrings their hands over the influence the mafia or Mexican drug cartels may have over viewers of those shows. Could we possibly view the main characters' shopping additions and general acquisitiveness in the same way?

BattyRabbit

@Megan@twitter I think it might be harder to forgive the SATC women their shopping habit than to forgive the Sopranos/that Breaking Bad guy (I am so uncultured sorry!) their crimes because the violence involved in those shows feels farther away from our own lives. Most of us don't kill people, directly or indirectly, in our day to day existence. We all have to decide how to spend our money, though, so we feel more able to critique the SATC folks when they take actions that we deem as irresponsible, class-unaware, greedily, what have you. Consumerism of course has many devastating affects other than just causing distaste, but they may not be as apparent on first viewing. I haven't watched the other shows you mentioned, but this is what I think the difference is.
(Edited because my pronouns were vague)

Megan@twitter

@BattyRabbit Yeah, I see your point. I can't figure out if it is worse that the male anti-heroes are so outlandishly evil that we don't worry about the moral implications of their decisions, or if it is that we can more readily forgive them mortal sins when we can't forgive the ladies' consumerism. I'm going around with myself on this one, but I still love the show unashamedly (and while blocking the movies from my memory completely).

practical cat

@Megan@twitter I think the problem is less that we should be excusing the SatC ladies like we do the dudes but that we should be criticizing the dudes with at least that same rigor. The race and class issues in SatC are issues and we should talk about them but, my god, let's talk about not scapegoat it.

stuffisthings

@Megan@twitter I don't think you get to have it both ways. If you're going to view SaTC as an empowering postfeminist portrayal of the modern woman then its uncritical attitude towards pre-2008 capitalism is part of the package; it can't also simultaneously be a "dumb slutty women be shopping" critique (and IMHO obviously isn't trying to be).

It's just like how you can't both say "why can't modern dudes be more like Mad Men?" and regard the show as a piercing critique of 1960s masculinity. Oh, and people who "excuse" the violence of characters like Walter White are completely missing the point.

BattyRabbit

I have drunkenly argued the merits of SATC on many occasions. And I have rankled and yelled at people for their 'horse-faced' comments (like you didn't jerk it to her character in Hocus Pocus, come ON. you're just angry because she's not giggling and harmless anymore). The show is really important to me, and was a tiny form of rebellion for me when I was in a terrible relationship with someone who disdained many things I enjoyed, especially overly 'girly' things. I'm really glad that people smarter and more articulate than me are saying the things I have been trying to say (and a lot of other smart things I hadn't thought of!). Maybe soon I will start a marathon re-viewing of all six season (because of course I own them all) and try to join the conversation.

Scandyhoovian

God, the movies really did take something that was, for its time, mostly great and full of a lot of things other shows weren't bothering to address in terms of women's issues and women's perspectives. I cannot begin to describe how many girls' nights I had with my friends in which we watched the show and then proceeded to talk about all kinds of things using the show as a starting point. I loved it when it first came out, enough to scrape together some money and buy the complete series on DVD.

But those movies, guys. Those awful movies. They really did completely cover the entire series in this awful dreck-cloud of dreckitude.

BattyRabbit

@Scandyhoovian I took a friend out to see the first movie as his first exposure to the series (I hadn't seen the movie yet) and when we came out of the theater I was just like "You are never going to watch this series now, I am sorry I have taken that from you by showing you this horrible movie."

Speaking of cake, I have cake

It was flawed, but I'll always defend it for its moving moments and its humour. One of my favourite moments was Charlotte frantically and defensively yelling 'I choose my choice! I choose my choice!' when her friends gently suggest that giving up her job for her husband mightn't be the best idea in the world. It's hilarious and sad at the same time, and so real - I've seen so many women (including myself) try and justify a decision that they know in their hearts is being made for the wrong reasons.

selyse

@Speaking of cake, I have cake My favorite moment was also a Charlotte moment ... when she declares that she's been dating since she was sixteen, she's tired, where IS HE?

sevanetta

@Speaking of cake, I have cake I have never been a massive fan of the show, but I don't hate it and it has had some great moments (Gilmore Girls, now I could talk to you about my undying love for Gilmore Girls all day). And that Charlotte quote is my favourite too! Soooo relevant to LYFE.

swirrlygrrl

@Speaking of cake, I have cake For some reason, the only SATC quote I can think of now is also Charlotte, yelling "Don't you bring that flat baby in here!" at Trey.

TATABox

@Speaking of cake, I have cake I must chime in with another great Charlotte moment, "The penis likes this, and the penis doesn't like that, and the PENIS WANTS TO BE MEASURED!"

selyse

I loved SATC. I felt like it was the first representation I saw (or noticed, might be more accurate) that a woman could just be single on her own terms - it wasn't just a state of limbo until some guy proposed to you. I know that sounds horribly naive and all kinds of other things, but I just remember at the time feeling this incredible pressure to be coupled up, to be on a path to marriage and SATC was the first thing that made me sit up and say, "Oh hey! I could be doing other things with my time." And as @franceschances mentions, I also felt like the show didn't really give a shit what dudes thought ... the women, the conversations, the clothes. I'll always have a soft spot for the show.

Poubelle

Honestly? I hated it when it was airing, still don't like it, and feel very vindicated now that popular opinion has swung my way. I was a city kid who knew absolutely no one with lives like the women on the show (and yes, of course my teenage peers and I didn't live like that, neither did our mostly middle-aged parents, but neither did the single ladies I knew--my aunt, people's big sisters and cousins, former babysitters). But I didn't get how a show billed as feminist could be so alienating to me as a young woman--surely, New York wasn't THAT different from Chicago. It seemed to me only a slightly different variation on the romcom/chicklit theme. And maybe it would've bothered me less if the dialogue around it had acknowledged that it was consumerist fantasy (I suppose it's progress that women of my generation grew up with the idea that we didn't need a man to be happy, we could just buy happiness ourselves), instead of it winning Emmys all the time.

Like, at least with Pretty Woman, the film openly acknowledged it was a fantasy--all the references to fairytales, closing out with the whole "Welcome to Hollywood-what's your dream?" I never had to hear about how it was something more.

juniper

Some of the reactions I've read to that New Yorker article seem like reviews of the writer's own self 15 years ago, when they first watched the show. We think back to ourselves sitting with friends in college dorm rooms (in my own case, and more recently than 15 years ago) and judge the show based on how embarrassing and unfortunate we were back then, and how much the show resonated (perhaps) with our then-embarrassing/unfortunate selves. So we describe and remember the show itself as embarrassing/unfortunate, as if coming to any other conclusion would peg us as "one of those girls," the Scary Sadshaw type, or someone who hasn't matured since then.

Megasus

Maybe part of the reason I soured on this series is because I grew up, and quickly realized we DON'T live in a postfeminist world. It's not really something you can come back from.

bluebears

While I agree that I think the show gets a lot of flak simply for being so women-centered I also think the show was on a whole not very good. I think the show started off fun and different but after the first two (maybe 3) seasons it had made it's deal with the devil (ie the worship of consumerism above all else) and that's BEFORE the final season's descent into blatant emotionally manipulative schmaltz. Lazy. And don't get me started on Samantha's terrible one liners. Woof.

Like anything else, we can have nuance when we discuss this show. It was very of it's time, it could be fun to watch, it wasn't Great Art. But then why should it have to be?

17698956@twitter

I also despised the show from the beginning, mainly because it was so shallow. I grew up in New York and was also in the media world it was set in (as an intern, sure, but we saw things) and there was literally no one like these women anywhere. In fact, the show minted a wave of immigration to New York by young women who thought that the city was about shoes and chasing rich men; nothing about earning your place in the social order by being interesting, which is what New York until then was all about. These women were not interesting. They were not independent. They spent all their time talking about men, like they were still in high school. It was a shallow picture of a glamorous life, sure - those shoes! those dresses - but it was just sadness all the way down. They only came to confront their emptiness by the end of the show. Anyway, the best description of why the show was not only bad, but also antifeminist is this one:

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/burkas-and-birkins/Content?oid=4132715

17698956@twitter

Also, the best comment I ever read about this show is that it is not, in fact, about women at all: it is about gay men. If you look at the dialogue, the characters, the assumptions, that all fits well too.

20663526@twitter

The show changed after they brought Mike King (late '99) in to run it. It became more of a standard rom-com with characters essentially based on gay men. The first 2 series were mid-blowing at the time. It was the version of NY and some of its women I knew well. Even the boyfriend archetypes: I was called Mr Big every time I wore my suit and overcoat (I have black hair and I'm tall: Chris Noth way more handsome). It wasn't perfect, but it it reflected a reality that certainly existed at the time, and they talked about sex openly. Miranda was the most complete character for me. I did not really want to fuck any of them, but god I loved that show in the beginning. (PS I only 'like' Girls. My wife HATES it).
I thought the ending of the show was fucking terrible (agree with the comment above that Carrie should have solved the problem herself), and I barely survived the first film, never watched the second. It became a sanatized, saccharine Hamptons conservative fantasy. Charlotte won out over all the others. Such a waste.

38435734@twitter

Man, I hated this show. Some of my friends swore by it and we always had to watch it and I didn't want to be the only one bitching about it, but, man, I hate this show. The consumerism, the sexual standards that were so not mine, the acting, the empty glossiness of it all, the fact that people called it deep whenever something scratched barely below the surface: I hate this show. It is not as good as the sopranos. We know this, because is has not stood the test of time.

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