A throwaway comment at the end of my Swinky’s Sexy Cupcakes post has left my thinking. I said I would not watch Sex in the City 2 because it was sexist and clichéd. I feel bad about that. I didn’t see the movie, I do believe the characters and the format are clichéd and sexist but I gave no reasoning or explanation. It was a generalisation without proof, hardly fair and lacking in evidence. So I’m going to read through the transcripts of the show in an attempt to explain it. The things I do for feminism.
The title of the show ‘Sex and the City’ is the same as the column that the main character Carrie writes. The title suggests the act itself and could be seen as the female sex.
Season 1, episode 1:
Four women are introduced with information about their professions. The information is useful for conveying the type of woman each one represents, their appearance helps as well. Miranda Hobbes Esq – Corporate Lawyer, is the handsome, short haired, no nonsense lawyer (the masculine overtones are helped later on in real life when the actress comes out as a lesbian).
Samantha Jones – Public Relations Executive, (PR: all about promotions, being forthright, extroverted) whose main purpose is to have sex. She outlines the duality of the situation “You have two choices: you can bang your head against the wall and try and find a relationship or you can say SCREW ‘EM, and just go out and have sex like a man”, she means ‘without feeling’.
Charlotte York – Art dealer, is gentle, graceful, upper class, feminine. She still believes in romance and has no intention of acting like a man. However it just doesn’t work, the man behaves as he wants to no matter what she does.
And then there’s Carrie Bradshaw, the show’s narrator, who writes a column, is a detached observer, “sexual anthropologist” and also confused. A modern woman, as presented in glossy magazines, one who is strong and independent but still partial to expensive Minolo Blahnik shoes and quality fashion. Apparently she represents us, she’s the one we are meant to identify with and is probably based on the author of the show Candace Bushnell. It’s harder to cast a stereotype on the only potentially real character so the descriptions about her are a little more vague.
We enter into the world of women, led by the narrator, who are questioning what to do about men and relationships- the title of this week’s column is “unmarried women, toxic bachelors”. Women are confused because they don’t understand the rules of the game in New York (concrete jungle where dreams are made of).
The first example is of an English journalist left bemused by apparently normal NY male behaviour which sounds like manipulative pseudo-intimacy until the man gets what he wants and then moves on. Carrie sums up the show’s reality: “Welcome to the age of “uninnocence”. No one has ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’, and no one has ‘Affairs to Remember’…” The characteristic that unites these women is that they are single. “It’s like the riddle of the Sphinx. Why are there so many great-unmarried women, and no great-unmarried men?” Carrie explores these issues in her column and she has terrific sources, she tells us – her friends.
Treat them like they treat us, suggests Samantha: treat sex as if it’s meaningless. Charlotte wants the fairytale and the waiting and the romance. Miranda knows what she wants and won’t put up with anything less. Through the episode we see Carrie move on from wanting to be with someone who only wants intimacy without emotional commitment, to being able to have sex without needing anything more intimate only to find that this is not a satisfying choice either.
So what is the answer? Along comes ‘Mr Big’ who is tall, dark and handsome and never referred to by his name but only by his stature. Pointed aside: how did your father look when you were little? He rejects the casual sex offer from Samantha and saves Carrie by giving her a ride in his black limousine (see Pretty Woman for connection between knight on horse riding up to save the princess). She outlines her issues to him and he tells her what her problem is, she’s never been in love. She felt the “wind knocked out of” her. It is the fairytale. The answer is to regress back to what we first knew about women when we learnt it through picture books. Forget women trying to compete with men on their terms because not all men have the right answer. Only the right guy will do.
So which parts are sexist and clichéd?
[more in Part Two]