Viewed from a purely cultural perspective, I’m actually a modest fan of “Sex and the City,” the television show. The HBO sitcom came along at the perfect time; while President Clinton was facing impeachment for breaking cigar etiquette and the religious right and the Moral Majority was inching its way toward the mainstream, “SaTC” managed, ever-so-slightly, to help prevent the complete Eisenhower-Era, Stepford-esque, chastity-apron sexual reversion that George Bush, et. al, attempted to usher in in the late 90s and early aughts. “SaTC,” from 1998 to 2004, was, in a way, the second coming of Helen Gurley Brown, televisually advising women that it was OK to spread semen all over their faces (“Makes a fine mask, and he’ll be pleased!”). And while the show probably didn’t make that big a difference in the bedroom, it did affect the way women talked about sex, inasmuch as it encourage candid sexual conversation, both among friends and with partners — men no longer had to fumble around without a roadmap, suddenly, women were kindly offering directions (“Hey Asshole! It’s there — no, there. What the fuck is wrong with you? You gotta blind spot the size of Montana? Nono … fuck it. Nevermind, I’ll just do it myself.”). And for the few of us men brave enough to watch, “SaTC” was a little like reading the sex-advice column in Cosmo — salaciously informative, a tiny window into the female ID. Or, at least as close as most of us we’re going to get before a third date. Hell: I can’t imagine the number of 20-ish women who, after the first season, not only ran out and bought The Rabbit, but suddenly felt comfortable revealing that little bit of information in mixed company. Unfortunately, as much as the show encouraged women to believe that singledom, an active social life, and promiscuity were A-OK, even in your 30s and 40s, it did very little to discourage men from continuing to call them shallow whores.
But there’s always been a weird dichotomy between the progressive sexual attitudes fostered by “SaTC” and the backwards stereotypes engendered in the series. Sure, the series seemed to suggest, an empowered woman could be perfectly content fucking her ever-living brains out and gorging herself on Cosmopolitans and cock, but they’d never find true happiness until they were in a stable relationship with a man who could afford to buy them shoes. Lots and lots of shoes. And, as the series progressed, it began to focus less on the sex, the threesomes, the vibrators, the alcohol, and the blow-jobs, i.e., the fun stuff, and more on the shoes, the designers, and the men, who were no longer forgettable fucks quickly disposed of, but actual characters with feelings and emotions. Jay-Suz. Them bitches sold out to Manola Blahniks and the happily-ever-after myth.
Which brings us to Sex and the City: The Movie, a film that — more or less — brings us full circle, right back to where we fucking started from before the series began: Get a man, marry him, and erect a white picket fence (or a giant clothes closet) to encircle your happiness — typical fairy-tale princess bullshit that’d damn near satisfy Phyllis Schafly, if only Samantha could keep on her goddamn clothes (for all of our sakes, really). “Labels and love,” Carrie Bradshaw intones in the opening minutes of SaTC, and that’s basically what the movie amounts to: lots of shoes, a lot of smushy relationships, and no casual sex to speak of, thus decimating most of what was once most appealing about the show: Sex-hungry, successful women looking to get laid. But hey! They’re in their 40s now, and not even in New York City can a forty-something woman be happy unless she’s settling down with an older, twice-married prince with a deep pocketbook. I read that in Vogue.
Four years has passed between the television show and the movie, but Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha are still where they left off: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is seriously involved with Big (Chris Noth), but their decision to move in together has created a sense of urgency about getting married, for practical business reasons, of course. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is still with Steve (David Eigenberg), though when Miranda’s memememememe -time narcissism inevitably rears up, their love life slows to a crawl, and Steve goes outside of the home to get himself some tail, thus nearly ruining the one truly decent male character in the series. Charlotte is still Charlotte — happily married, now with an adopted daughter, and dull as hell. But she’s happy. So fucking happy. Happier than Ren & Stimpy teaching your grandmother to suck an egg. That happy. And, for whatever reason, they also decided to make her character Joey-Tribiani dumb for the big screen because, naturally, marital bliss and dimwittedness are inextricably intertwined. Meanwhile, Samantha — living in L.A. and involved with her actor boy-toy for five years now — has begun to grow restless, but to combat the itch, she resorts to food instead of fucking — her character has basically been rendered fangless caricature of her formerly caricatured self; she respects the cock from afar, while snacking on a nice dip.
The plot itself is typical of what you might see in a “Beverly Hills 90210” reunion show — a gamut of pregnancies, weddings, and break-ups, all crammed into two-plus hours that feels like 15. But now in their 40s, the women seem to all have devolved — it’s like a goddamn gaggle of drunk teenagers — while the relationship complications befit an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” more than they do a groundbreaking HBO series. Michael Patrick King, a series veteran, writes and directs the film, adding several uncharacteristic elements — a humping dog and a flatulent Charlotte, to name two — seemingly to appeal to a broader (i.e., dumber) base of women. The jokes are flat, stupid, and obvious, and it’s probably the most gobslobbering punfucked script of the decade, machine-gun spraying puns and pap-smeared clichés like Rambo with only a heavy arsenal of Hallmark sentiment and Perez Hilton witticisms to work with. Worse, the central plotline is driven by a lousy “Three’s Company”-like misunderstanding, the sort of thing that might work in a half-hour sitcom, but fails miserably when you’re trying to attach some actual dramatic heft to it. Oh, and Jennifer Hudson, who plays Carrie’s assistant, has officially pushed Cuba Gooding, Jr. aside as the least talented Oscar winner in the history of film —- she couldn’t sell a goddamn line to a hard-up Amy Winehouse.
Which is not to say that Sex and the City is all bad - there’s a certain comfortable familiarity with the characters, which makes it slightly easier to swallow the preposterousness of what’s happening onscreen (I mean, really: Steve would never cheat on Miranda. Give me a fucking break). It’s that familiarity, too, that heightens your emotions — when the bad shit goes down, it hurts a little more because you know who they are, and when the good stuff happens, that familiarity gives it a little more wallop than your typical romantic comedy. But it’s still a typical romantic comedy — the “sex” in the city has dried up like the erogenous zones of a cougar in a nursing home orgy.
Still, for those of you wondering who might have died in the film, it’s not spoiling anything to say that they all did — the original spirit of the series, wheezing and sucking air as the sixth season wound down, has finally succumbed to the death of a Katherine Heigl/Kate Hudson la-la land of magical romantic make-believe. But, if what you’re looking for is a cry-in-your-pillow, instead of bite-your-pillow, female comedy, I suppose you could do a lot worse than SaTC.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Sex and the City / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 30, 2008 | Comments ()