Monday, June 9, 2008

Sex and the City, Part II

I wasn’t going to write about Hillary or elaborate on my Sex and the City “review” below (brevity, as well as cleanliness, is next to godliness in my book) until a friend forwarded me this Judith Warner blog post, and I realized that my credentials as a feminist were in question because I didn’t vote for Hillary and I liked “Sex and the City.”

Warner: Is it a coincidence that the bubbling idiocy of “Sex and the City,” the movie, exploded upon the cultural scene at the exact same time Hillary’s campaign imploded? Literally, of course, it is. Figuratively, I’m not so sure, And before I set off an avalanche of emails explaining why Hillary deserved to lose, I want to make one point clear: I am not talking about the outcome of her candidacy—mistakes were made, and she faced a formidable opponent in Barack Obama—but rather about the climate in which her campaign was conducted. The zeitgeist in which Hillary floundered and “Sex” is now flourishing.

Warner bolsters her view by providing a link to an inflammatory video montage of footage, mostly from Fox News, of both men and women making crude, stupid, sexist remarks. Believe me, I’m not saying that sexism has been eradicated. But isn’t this what we expect from Fox? And isn’t it more indicative of the right-wing mentality than bias among Democratic voters? Instead I agree with Ariana Huffington, who wrote about Clinton’s campaign as a “historic triumph” for women, and Gail Collins, in the Times, who reiterated the theme saying:

Nobody is ever again going to question whether it’s possible for a woman to go toe-to-toe with the toughest male candidate in a race for president of the United States. Or whether a woman could be strong enough to serve as commander-in-chief.

What surprised me about the campaign was not how endemic the sexism was, but how little gender had to do with it. Clinton lost, and only by a small margin, to a black man whose name is only one consonant away from one we associate with terrorism. She lost because Barack Obama ran a tighter campaign, showed the courage of his convictions, and was better at reading the mood of an electorate that was weary of polarizing politics. But in spite of that, I’m convinced that if Clinton hadn’t made the fatal mistake of voting for the Iraq war, she’d be the Democratic contender right now.

But back to Warner who goes after “Sex and the City” (not without a little male-bashing in her description of Charlotte’s husband as an “adoring troglodyte…so short, so bald”) and concludes:

“Sex and the City” is the perfect movie for our allegedly ever-so-promising post-feminist era, when “angry” is out and Restalyne is in, and virtually all our country’s most powerful women look younger now than they did 20 years ago. Oh lighten up, I can hear you say. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. Earnestness is so unattractive in a woman.

Funny, I was going to say that. How did she know? Perhaps because inappropriate earnestness, the inability to get a joke, isn’t attractive in anyone. I mean—tell me if I’m missing something huge here—I thought “Sex and the City” was a satire. For all the talk of Labels with a capital L, those fantastical over-the-top clothes were designed by Patricia Field, whose boutique I remember from the East Village in the Eighties where she used outfit drag queens. And how can you take seriously a story in which the love interest is called Mr. Big? C’mon, is that not hilarious?

So, far from the paean to consumerism the hyper-serious commenters on Warner’s blog thought the film was (if many of them actually saw it, which I doubt), I got the opposite message—such as, don’t get so involved in your wedding plans that you forget about the guy. But the film could just have easily been about Forgiveness—there was a lot of that going on—and, of course, let’s not leave out Loyalty. And what how about how women in their forties and even—gasp!—fifties can hang out, be lusty, and have fun?

Then there’s Anthony Lane in The New Yorker who complains about, of all things, too much schmaltz. He also doesn’t understand how Miranda, a lawyer, can drop everything and to fly to Mexico to support her friend (hello, it’s a fantasy, all right, but hardly one that’s “posing as a slice of modern life” any more than Sasha Baron Cohen expected us to believe Borat was really from Kazakhstan). Lane gets into a twitch about the little dog who humps everything—and he’s right, it was awful, which is just what was so great about it. But why would a hetero guy over forty, who admits he “never was sure how funny the TV series was meant to be” take on the film in the first place? It seems Lane violated his maxim of “Whenever possible, see the film in the company of ordinary beings” and went to a critics’ screening, where he took notes on every instance of political incorrectness (he had to write fast). He should have seen it with some gay friends and instead of rushing home to transcribe those notes, spent the rest of the evening driving around with the top down, listening to the Scissor Sisters.


Pretty Lady said...

Groovy! You've convinced me to see it, now! Not having cable, and only turning on my regular TV about once a year, I didn't have enough 'S&C' background to engender any interest in it. But a satire filled with great costumes, oh boy! I can't wait!

You are also dead on about Hillary. She lost, I think, by not being feminist enough--by not sticking to the courage of her convictions, and giving in to pandering. I personally lost respect for her in about 1993, when she started writing a syndicated cookie-baking column in response to Middle American outrage about her cookie-baking comment. It wasn't even well-written. I can't believe nobody else seems to remember that.

The Iraq war vote was a symptom of the same thing--giving people what they seemed to want, in this case a 'woman who isn't weak.' She knew she couldn't stop the march to war, so she positioned herself politically to come across as a tough guy.

The irony of it is, standing up to Bush & Co with the right kind of outspoken practical indignation would have made her look tougher than King Kong.

Carol Diehl said...

Yes, yes, yes!

Anonymous said...

Ya, dude. Feminism = being what you decide you should be, not being what somebody somewhere thinks you should be.

Having now seen it, S&C is a very, very, very good bad movie! It's like supermarket cake and I shoveled it in my mouth without shame. Just like Samantha.

Anonymous said...

I can't even begin to elaborate on how awful that bad review is or how good S&C was. What I think is most awful is all the negative backlash the movie (and actresses) got. What was with Time Out New York featuring them on the cover with duct tape over their mouths? That wasn't a gimmick they were in on. Was it a way to say "enough already! we don't want to talk about women anymore - females in the spotlight for too long make us squeamish"

And Hillary went down because next to Barack Obama she was a paper doll. She should have run against Bush - but she was garnering "experience" - phooey!!!

Pundits keep saying it is a testament to Obama that he defeated a "Clinton" - when in fact I think it is a testament to Clinton that she did as well as she did against the tsunami that is Obama - I chalk it up to the rest of the country not knowing him as well as us Illinoisans do. Those who voted for Hillary just didn't know any better. I won't hold it against them.

Carol Diehl said...

I think the male critics were upset because the film really doesn't have much to do with men--it's about a bunch of women making fun of themselves. I guess they don't know we have a sense of humor.