Sex and the City: A trainwreck.

I was so excited to go see Sex and the City. Like most feminists with any shred of race or class analysis, I have always had a love hate relationship with Sex and the City. There were things about that show that were so god awful that I literally had to tune them out completely to enjoy the show. As a woman of color inundated by media that fails to ever acknowledge who I am or that what I am is valid, I am used to this type of spectatorship. And Sex and the City has always been one of those shows that always made it worth it, because for better or for worse, the show always made me feel better, especially if I was feeling heartbroken (which has been often!).
So naturally I was most excited to go see the movie with two of my best gal pals. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my lofty expectations. Disappointment would be an understatement. Did I laugh? I sure did, but I am stupid like that sometimes. And honestly, I couldn’t tell if I was laughing at the movie or with it for most of it.

*******SPOILER WARNING********
The one redeemable quality to the movie, I felt, was the character of Samantha (the character that I had always felt I related to the most) who actually ends up alone and is OK about it. This was the one interruption to an otherwise painfully heteronormative script that I had hoped, in my more positive reflections, the show had disrupted.
But I was wrong. Beyond the embarrassing overacting of the role of “love” in life and romance, I could have dug it if at the end Carrie did not end up AGAIN with Big. One of the worst things that happened at the end of the last season is when Carrie takes Big back. Why? Because he was an asshole to her and the epitome of the kind of man that you hate when your best friend is dating. The unavailable, macho, insensitive, brooding “i can’t express my feelings,” so I am an asshole instead, kind of dude that has your gal pal (or you) in tears every other week they haven’t heard from the bastard.
The movie starts with them in love, a love that is so final and real they are even reading love poetry together. So Carrie plans a big fancy wedding including a Viviane Westwood gown and it is all just perfect. But then he flakes on the wedding because he can’t handle the pressure and ruins her big perfect day. In all fairness weddings are painful and full of pressure and expectation and make the strongest and most supportive of folk quiver. You would like to think he loves her, he has done enough to her, he will go through with it, but no he freezes. She is devastated, but in good SATC fashion all the gals crash her honeymoon and go to Mexico together. The character that comes after the devastation is quiet, sad and older. I almost started liking the quiet, non-boy crazy Carrie, but I knew somehow the fairy tale would have to end with them ending back together, so it was difficult to stay hopeful of my own feminist fairy tale ending.
And they do, so the moral of this story is wait for him, that one that fucked you over repeatedly, he will come around one day even when he is well into his 50’s and it will be totally worth it. Granted it is fiction and it is Hollywood, but SATC had that one shot at rewriting the princess dream and despite tangoing with a new story on occasion, you realize at the end you have been duped and it was married to the knight in shining armor narrative since the beginning.
But it doesn’t end there. The larger part of my critique of SATC wasn’t about the romance. What startled me more than it has before was the role of people of color in the fairy tale that is white upper class NY. SATC has never been good on the role of race in the construction of their characters. Depictions of women of color were rare, whether it be a comment from Charlotte at a nail shop about “class” and pointing to the Latina women working in the shop, or black women “acting” black at a club in NY. The closest they had to a lead person of color was the role of Blair Underwood as Miranda’s boyfriend who if we recall correctly was an attractive rich doctor for the Knicks that she ends up leaving for her barely employed white soul mate Steve.
But that is nothing. In the movie there are a few moments that are appalling and just make you feel embarrassed for the characters and the writers. One of them is Charlotte’s eating pudding only in Mexico-albeit realistic to the way that ignorant people think about the global south-but painful at that. Also in another scene when Miranda is looking for an apartment after finding out that Steve has cheated on her, she is in Chinatown looking for the apt and says, “look follow that white guy with the stroller, he is going where we want to be, that is where we want to be.” Just a mild but obvious reference to gentrification.
The last straw, the one that I think offended me the least probably was the introduction of their first black female character, Carrie’s assistant , Louise, played by Jennifer Hudson. She becomes Carrie’s support and nurses her back to health. Organizes her life and website playing off the stereotype of black “mamies” that support rich white women in their hopes and dreams. It was their first attempt at having a strong black woman and it was too little too late. However, I love Jennifer Hudson and I wasn’t mad that I got to watch her on the big screen.
Finally, Samantha’s character seems to be the one place that we can break out of the narrative of happily ever after as the only path to female happiness. This is discounting the awful scene where they talk about her weight and talk about how she got fat, even though she literally looks like a size 6.
All in all, I have to say I was upset about the way the movie turned out. They all seemed to be overacting and the jokes were not really as punctual or effective as the show. Maybe Sex and the City has always been like this and it just took me seeing it on the big screen to understand how bad it actually is. I will always have a special place for Sex and the City, but the movie did remind me that we need a new narrative for young women, desperately, that defies the fairy tale romance that all love stories seem endlessly bound to.

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