Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sex and the City - It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing

Do Whop Do Whop...

Hey Dickwad, I’m speaking!

In Sex and the City: the movie, Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha may all sing, but none of them really swing. Or, in other words, they all talk the talk, but these ladies’ don’t really walk the walk.

I suppose it was wrong of me to invest so many of my feminist hopes and female dreams into this one fiendishly femme flick, but all of the signs pointed in the right direction and I must have gotten ’carried away’ with my desires to declare Sex and the City the most empowering chick flick of the year. It’s not. Plus, I was all starry eyed by the impact of the midnight show and being surrounded by hundreds of dolled-up gals. I’ve taken three weeks+ and three viewings of the film (…7.5 hours) to think things over carefully and considerately before declaring my verdict of the film to the world.

And, to be honest, I still haven’t completely made up my mind about the philosophy of SATC’s narrative. Though gray isn’t a prominent color in the wardrobe of these sparkling fashionistas, there sure is a lot of gray matter within their lives that either fails to be addressed completely or is glossed over and not given a second thought, which discredits a lot of the progress the film and TV show attains.

For instance, the fact that Samantha lives in Los Angeles now and, yet, still seems to appear in every single scene of the film. It had never occurred to me before seeing the movie that these friends don’t see each other every single day. The tourniquet-esque editing style coupled with the bombardment of lunches, shopping trips, and general hangouts between the ladies’ causes their lives to seem inseparable from one another. And, obviously, that’s the point of Michael Patrick King’s aesthetic choice and I absolutely love their towering friendship - however, it severely detracts from showcasing the women as individuals. It would be amazing to see Miranda kicking butt as a partner in her law firm and Samantha sassing up her agency. Or, better yet, see Charlotte slowly going insane with her happy housewife status and Carrie actually(!) doing some writing. In fact, about the only time they’re away from one another is when their men-folk are around.
So, what about their men folk? Why do these four talented, smart, absolutely gorgeous women drop everything for love with a sweet cheater, Mr. Blah but sexy, Mr. Blah but rich, and Mr. Blah Blah Blah? God knows they’ve tried, but why can’t the gals’ be involved with men who are as vibrant, passionate, and worthwhile as they are? Back in the glorious days of women’s pictures, it was perfectly acceptable for the man in the woman’s life to simply be “just” an archetype or even be a quadruple Blah (I’m looking at you Van Heflin) because the women themselves were larger than life - at least the life most women led at the time. They always put themselves first and didn’t revolve their entire lives around a man, at least not without wondering why they needed to. The ladies of SATC don’t have that option. Their friendships with one another may always come first, but the men in their lives come second with the third, less proportionate element being themselves as individual people. Why does it have to be that way?
Dare I say, is it because Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda aren’t worth a damn on their own? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Each gal may have her little niche inside the clan, but as separate characters, they’re mentally and emotionally malnourished and only become shall we say, “whole,” when around the other three women, kind of like Captain Planet for mature ladies with designer labels instead of teenagers with earth conservation.

Oh, but when they’re “whole,” glorious things start to happen - feminine love is spread throughout Manhattan and wonderful, sincere girl chat is vocalized and cherished by the three most important people in her/their lives. No other film this year has so completely understood the feminine need for friendship, for loving, comforting companionship. When the girls’ get together, there’s no stopping their powerful impact upon NYC, Mexico, LA, or anywhere else they choose to go. They rule the roost. And, most importantly, they cherish their femininity. They’re not ashamed to be women, in fact, they’re damn proud of it. The film, if nothing else, celebrates their pride and showcases it like a diamond necklace at Tiffany’s.

All in all, Sex and the City is a mixed bag of feminist feelings and ideas. I love the gals’ despite their shortcomings and seeing the movie at the midnight show with so many other women is a memory I’ll cherish forever. I'm also enormously happy to see it doing so well at the box office. Judging by the reaction to the film by critics and box office analysts, I'd say my hopes for studios creating other female-driven flicks based upon the success of SATC is a-go. Progression isn’t at the forefront of thought in either the movie or the show, but by doing its best to honor the code of femininity, I think the movie makes up for some of its falsehoods and meandering ideals.


A.A. Dowd said...

Tough but fair. You did an exemplary job of balancing your affection for these characters with your broader concerns about what SATC, as a movie AND a television series, has to say about modern femininity. And it's a pretty rad piece of writing at that.

Some highlights: the sing and swing metaphor, the Captain Planet reference, and your astute put down of the men folk as BLAH.

I actually wish this were a little longer. I KNOW you have plenty to say about the way the movie sort of subtly blames Carrie and Miranda for their dudes' bad behavior. Or what about how Samantha's plot offers a corrective to the let's-pair-em-all-off regressiveness of the series finale? Or how much Big continues to be a terrible match for Carrie? And don't get me started on the troubling racial connotations of Louise From St. Louis or their little trip to Mexico...

Sorry, that one's MY bone to pick. A different subject for a different blog. All and all, a balanced and highly enjoyable bit of analysis. You left me wanting more.

BraveSrRob said...

I agree with a.a. about the captain planet analogy. But, any reference to Captain Planet gets me excited.

However, I wouldn't be as gung-ho about new movies being put out that are female-driven. Will it happen? Probably. However, SATC had a built in audience that NOTHING else has. If Hollywood tries to cash in on the SATC gravy-train, there could be some box office bombs, which could kill any momentum SATC has achieved.

If you want to see more movies like SATC, you should hope that the studios proceed cautiously and make only really good examples of the genre.

Basically, I would argue that for SATC to have a lasting effect on Hollywood, the impact has to be gradual and grow naturally. It'll be a slow process.

Alexa said...

The best commentary on SATC that I have read so far, and deserves an award:

Josh Staman said...

Haven't read your review yet. Watching a screener I received in a few days. After what I'm reading, I need something at least tackles something feminist with some result rather than buries it. Yeesh. All my love to you and Jake and talk to you soon.

Josh Staman said...


I let an editor I'm using to finish up 'Almost Runaways' (woot!) watch it first. She has a week. I wanted to tinker. I tinkered for a little while. I'll watch it soon.

cath said...

Who would the love the characters Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha in the TV series. Ofcourse everyone would love them! The DVD collection is already out in the market.

Melody said...

Since the first time I saw this TV show, I realized about the way women use to think, in fact, I still remember a chapter where Samantha took Cheap Viagra . However, I see the movie screwed up their good fame.
What a shame!

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