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What We’ve Learned from Sex and the City

 
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The movie Sex and the City brought in the largest opening weekend ever for a romantic comedy, R-rated comedy, and a film starring all women. The TV series (though edited considerably) has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its frank and open discussions about sex from a woman’s point of view.

So, after one movie, six seasons, and 11 years, what have we learned from Sex and the City?

1) Female sexual expression is still confined to upper-class heterosexual white women. The series does feature some fleeting discussions of sex as it pertains to race, sexual orientation, and economic level, but these are related to situations that only last an episode or two (“The Caste System” (Miranda dates a poor man), “What’s Sex Got to Do With It” (Samantha dates a woman), “Boy Girl Boy Girl” (Carrie dates a bisexual man), “No Ifs, Ands, or Butts” (Samantha dates a black man). The only way that Sex and the City attempts to include a long-running discussion of sexual orientation is with its exceedingly flamboyant gay characters, Stanford and Anthony, but their dialogue is cliche at best and stereotypical at worst.

2) Older women are still sexual beings. Once each of the main characters are safely cocooned in a monogamous relationship (which doesn’t occur simultaneously until release of the movie), the writers do a great job of demonstrating that there is sex after marriage…AND sex after 50! In a world where women are shamed for being oblivious to the needs of their male partners and endlessly frigid, it is good to see an accurate and healthy portrayal of middle aged sexuality.

3) Women have a right to be taken seriously by the world. The dialogue can be shallow, consumerist, and flippant at times, but media geared towards males is guilty of the same drawbacks.

Add a Comment3 Comments

Thanks for your thoughts, ladies. Your comments make me feel like I'm not alone in my co-existing reverie and gripes. I really have a huge bone to pick with the writers of this show when it comes to the blatant heteronormativity and complete disregard for...uh...women of color? Poor people? Non-New Yorkers? In particular, the episode where Carrie is about to lose her apartment is painfully laughable. We're supposed to pity her for having no savings, while simultaneously engaging in the circle jerk that is her "fabulous wardrobe." Give me a break.

Maybe it's just the rabid feminist in me, but it's really disappointing to see that this show/movie can't be bothered to include different points of view (a black Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's assistant? Barf-o-rama).

At the same time, it's the optimist in me who is encouraged by the opinions, faults, and tribulations of each of these women. Of course, I'm a quasi-successful white person, so their positions are not too hard for me to identify with, but there is still something really liberating in hearing grown women speak candidly about their sex lives and feelings and not apologize for a second about them.

I own every season of the show on DVD, as well as the movie. I guess my conclusion is that I'm a sucker, but a disgruntled sucker.

November 25, 2009 - 6:19pm

I was so happy to see your first point. I think Sex and the City is a prime example of "popular feminism" that actually doesn't do much for the majority of women. While I will admit that it's an empowering show, it is strictly empowering to upper class white women, and not only through sexual expression, but also when it comes to their outrageous shopping sprees and Manhattan condos. I think it's important to look at a show (or a movie, or piece of art...) in its entirety so we can still enjoy all the wonderful things about it while keeping in mind all the aspects that we still need to change in our society.

P.S. There's a great article about Sex and the City by Angela McRobbie in Sept 2008's issue of the Cultural Studies journal.

November 25, 2009 - 7:41am

As stereotypical and cliche as this show may be, I still watched it religiously at one point and apparently the author of this article did too :-)

The show's success is based loosely on the fact that they were women who talked openly about sex. The stereotypes, the gay men parading around flamboyantly, were just funny add-ons that kept us laughing. I actually had a couple of gay friends that were eerily similar to Stanford. Not to say that all gay men do this but I live in a big city, were it isn't abnormal to see an openly gay man strut his stuff down the street.

November 2, 2009 - 6:19am
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