It occurred to me that I should write a little preamble to this rant. Prepare yourselves: it is a rant. It is an expression of my opinion and will likely be hostile at some points. I say this because I know of many people, whom I love and admire, who watch Sex and the City, and I mean no offense, for everyone is entitled to their opinions.
Anyone who has seen the comedian Lewis Black do a standup comic routine has seen him react violently to anything in society that strays too far from common sense. In his skit about Starbucks, for example, he recounts an experience walking out of a Starbucks, coffee cup in hand and admiring the beauty of the day. “Now, I say to myself, when I look across the street, there couldn’t POSSIBLY be another Starbucks—that would be too stupid, Oh no, surely, there couldn’t be! So, putting my faith in the common sense I slowly look up the street to the other corner, AND THERE IS ANOTHER STARBUCKS!” At this point, Black’s face contorts ferociously and his hands wave emphatically in the air. He yells rapid fire, cursing occasionally at the absurdity of the oh-so-frequent occasion of seeing two Starbucks on the same block. He calms down only when he decides that the only possible people on earth to whom such a situation would appeal are people with Alzheimer’s.
I recently had a Lewis Black reaction while reading an argument on why Sex and the City is so popular. According to this article, Sex and the City appeals to audiences because it is the story of four sexually liberated women, unconstrained by the bonds of society and free from its sexist stereotypes. In this sense, Sex and the City is a feminist push towards redefining female roles. As Feminism is popular with the modern woman, or something like that, we can assume that Sex and the City’s demographic is pleased with the show on this count.
(Insert Lewis Black reaction) WHAT KIND OF A HELLISH ARGUMENT IS THIS? WHERE DID THESE PEOPLE GO TO SCHOOL? THE NEW YORK TIMES CENTER FOR BRAINWASHED RETARDS? YOU THINK YOU CAN JUST STRING WORDS LIKE FEMINISM AND SEXUAL LIBERATION TOGETHER AND EXPECT TO MAKE SENSE?
(Crick of the neck and a sigh) Ok, ok, let’s get down to business. Though it is hard in this day and age to have escaped the sitcom entirely, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and provide a quick synopsis. Carrie, a New York columnist, writes what she learns about life in the city: dealing with men, bargain-hunting, getting along with friends, finding great hangout spots, etc. She gets most of her content by observing her three best friends: Samantha, a sexually promiscuous babe who is quick to turn every conversation into something kinky; Charlotte, the stuck-up, Old Rich of Connecticut, barretted brunette and nauseating optimist; and Miranda, the “Harvard” lawyer whose neurotic tendencies would make anyone nervous. The show is almost entirely about their sex lives, and very little about the city. The furthest outside of the bedroom the writers dare to send the characters is either to some swanky bar or a Madison Avenue shoe store. That sums it up, I think.
The mere idea that Sex and the City strikes a blow for feminism is utterly preposterous. Worse than this, it is an insult to feminists. Granted, feminism, like other isms, is difficult to define and usually spans a range of meanings, varying from helping women get out of the kitchen to cannibalism. There is a chance, I suppose, that Sex and the City could be found in this range, but I doubt it. I believe Sex and the City is truly offensive to female endeavors—this so called “Sexual liberation” is no liberation at all: it is merely the exchange of slavery to sex inside the marriage and home to slavery to sex outside of these institutions. Promiscuity should NEVER be a marker for social progress. Do I really need to warrant this? It saddens me greatly that others of my sex can be so wretchedly taken in by the idea that reform accompanies infidelity.
Now, you may say that the idea of sexual liberation preceding change is not new, that Sex and the City merely builds on ideas long ago established in works like Kate Chopin’s Great Awakening or Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Each of these works created a scandal by showing a repressed female character who decides for herself to break free beyond the confines of marriage. Many readers have felt over time that these works contribute to overall feminist progress. But aren’t we forgetting a minor detail? I will remind these literary geniuses that each of the main characters in these works committed suicide. The message of these works? Sexual liberation brings death.
If you look for sexual liberation working in a feminist’s favor, then look to Aristophanes’ Lysistrada. Here the women take upon themselves to refuse their husbands’ beds in protest of war. But notice the difference in this kind of sexual liberation: Sex is not the weapon—it is abstinence that provokes the desired response.
Unfortunately, the criticism of Sex and the City’s purported feminism does not stop with the promiscuity. The writing is atrociously offensive. Frankly, it is not hard to string together words to make a euphemism. This is proven by the improve comedy game, “If you know what I mean.” In this game, players compete by turning every sentence into a euphemism by following each by the phrase, “Do you know what I mean?” The first person to laugh is out. Here is a demonstration; it shall prove the ease of the game: Hey, going shopping today, if you know what I mean? For big shoes, if you know what I mean. Ick.
And what of the characters themselves? How often in the course of the show do they actually deal with real life issues that extend beyond their materialistic bubbles? I suppose they dealt briefly with death when Samantha’s character was diagnosed with cancer. But what of joy? Do any of them really experience pure joy caused by something other than an orgasm? These characters have little depth! They are merely shadows of real people, caricatured and reduced to superficial stock females.
I realize more and more that I agree with Malcolm Muggeridge’s assessment that television is the root of many evils in today’s society. Sex and the City warrants no exception to this criticism.