the lawyer writer

sometimes legal                     sometimes literary                     sometimes not

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The "I Hate Sex and the City" Diatribe


(above: Charlotte, Carrie, Samantha and Miranda)

We were at a pretty cool party last night--lots of liquor, lots of food--to celebrate a fellow author's book deal/move to Los Angeles. The crowd was intellectual but lively, which almost made up for the fact that party was located on the Upper West Side. At any rate, at some point, someone mentioned Sex & the City, and I almost launched into my near-patented Sex and the City Diatribe. Almost. I have better manners than to dominate the conversation like that. However, I decided to save it up for the blog, and here it is.

Thesis: I am the only woman I know who LOATHES Sex and the City.


But why? It's just a show
If only it were. I managed to ignore it as long as possible, but it became a cultural phenomenon. Unlike something soothingly airheaded like Melrose Place, Sex and the City purported to Say Something about single women's lives. It was heralded as feminist. It wasn't. It was a giant step back in feminism, and the show is both stupid and dangerous.

Why dangerous?

Because it features nothing but caricatures of women who were are supposed to take seriously. Carrie is the neurotic-normal Everygirl; Miranda is the career-minded ballbuster; Charlotte is the old-fashioned preppie princess; Samantha is the sex-crazy party girl. These, by the way, are not new caricatures; they have been seen various other shows, including Designing Women and Golden Girls (which was a far more revolutionary show: Old people with fulfilling lives! Involved in the world around them! Still having sex! Extraordinary!)

But don't you find Sex and the City funny?
Sometimes. It has sort of a crude Mad magazine type humor--lots of squeamish embarrassment and self-humiliation. (which, as I pointed out earlier, doesn't mean that it's any less self-involved). Frankly, I prefer it when it tries to be funny than when it tries to Say Something About the Modern Woman.

But it's about four thirty-something single women who are happy being single! It defies the stereotype that women have to be married at that age!
Are you kidding me? All these women do is chase after men, usually inappropriate or unavailable men. If they find a half-way decent one (Steve, Aidan, Smith) they act like neurotic harridans until any self-respecting man would throw in the towel and hit the road. They are obsessed with men, even while they claim to be happy in their (empty) lives. When do they find happiness in anything else?

What about in their friendships with each other?
I find their friendship forced and unrealistic, and very Carrie-centered. I particularly hate Carrie as I am compared to her often. She is supposed to be the "quirky, downtown girl," but everything about her screams "spoiled Upper East Side Socialite." Even her bizarre wardrobe is more high-risk couture than low-rent vintage. And she CANNOT write.

But why do you take it so seriously?
Because everyone else does. I was happy to ignore the damn thing, until every single women in the world began raving about it. Aside from the usual episode hype, there were books, articles, and essays (in places like Salon.com, no less) written about the Importance of the Show to Single Women. Which is a crock. Now thirtysomething unmarried women ("spinsters," sometimes) are not even allowed to be unhappy with their situation. They have to pretend that they're having the time of their lives without men, even as they secretly obsess about them.

You must not like or know many thirtysomething single women.
I beg your pardon. I am a thirtysomething single female writer living in New York City. As much as it disgusts me, I am fucking Carrie. Myself aside, there are plenty of thirtysomething, fortysomething and fiftysomething single women out there who say they do not want men, and I admire them for it. These women read books. They partake in high culture (without needing to classify it as pretentious or mock it) and low culture (i.e. fun without money). They are involved in their community and in charities. They take an interest in the world around them, including the world outside of Manhattan. Sure, they may buy Manolo Blahniks, but they have full exciting lives that do not revolve around shopping. And, most of all, they are not lying to themselves. If they do not really want marriage, then they don't go throwing themselves into serious relationships and wondering why the guy doesn't commit. (Of course, on the show, when the poor fool does commit, eventually, he gets stomped on).

But isn't it cool to see women enjoying and talking about sex?
What's new about that? The previously mentioned Designing Women and Golden Girls were full of sex. In fact, the way those women talked about sex was natural, as opposed to Carrie and Co., who apparently want big Broadway lights over their heads saying "Hey! We're liberated! We can talk about sex!" What those other shows didn't have, that is the very core of Sex and the City, is marketing genius and product placement. Sex and the City should be named Money and the City.

Money?
The show is aspirational only because of how much money and free time these women have. When I saw Carrie bitching because she had to pay more than $700 a month on her football-field sized one-bedroom, I went into spasms of disgust and went to clean my toilet. Poor Charlotte and her gigantic $20,000 diamond ring. Poor Miranda dating a lowly bartender. (Incidentally, Steve the bartender is the only middle-class man these women will deign to date. Even Smith the waiter had to become Smith the model/indie film star before Samantha could take him seriously). These women couldn't even go to ordinary bars; it had to be fancy hotel bars and Green Apple Martinis, usually paid for. And if I had to see Carrie in one more slutty, unrealistic outfit designed by an "up and coming" fashionista, I'd have killed myself.

Unrealistic? But isn't it supposed to be fantasy?
I wish the show had made up its goddamn mind. A pure fantasy would have been acceptable. So would a realistic show about lives of single women in New York City. This damn thing tried to be both. And who wants to be--let alone date--these neurotic fruitcakes? Their shallow lives seemed sad to me. Believe me, I knew women like these--Of a Certain Age, too thin, designer clothing, Pilates bodies, a look of bitter, pinched failure in their eyes. After all, I worked in the film industry. Give me an plump, honest, unglamorous fifty-year old, librarian-hippie any day.

So obviously you've put a lot of thought into this. In fact, it sounds like you've seen a LOT of the show.
I have seen almost every episode, never by choice. As I said, I am apparently the only woman in the universe who hates this show. To me, it's like watching a car wreck of femininity. That said, I have always had female roommates and lots of female friends. I have been regularly subjected to the show since it first aired.

You sound like you really look down on anyone who watches the show.
Some of my most intelligent, most respected, most glamorous friends watch this show. They have so much more substance and are so much more interesting to me than any of the characters that I simply find their fascination with it baffling.

Don't you like anything about it?

I like some of the idea of New York being a glamorous, exciting place for single women. It is. While the acting and was generally heinous (Carrie and Samantha being the worst offenders) and the writing pandered to the lowest common denominator (teary breast-cancer bullshit anyone?) I thought Kristen Davis's (Charlotte) acting got better towards the end.

But what about Samantha--wasn't it great seeing an older woman guiltlessly pursuing sex, without emotional ties?
Firstly, I don't know many (happy) women like that. I do know a few, but they seem to be exceptions the rule. Most women like to have sex with some emotion or connection attached. Frankly, I think most men do too. That said, I would have been happy to see a Samantha character if she hadn't been such a cartoon. Apparently, a woman can't enjoy guilt-free sex without becoming some sort of leering parody of an aggressive man. (Not for nothing, but many thought Samantha was actually a gay man in disguise).

Incidentally, why are you writing this?
I'm writing this because I think that Sex and the City has become an accepted cultural phenomenon, and no one is talking about its negative effects. I feel alone in my disgust. I'm hoping there are others who agree or would like to enter the debate. Like I said, I'd have been happy to ignore the damn thing if only the Cultural Powers That Be would have let me. I am also writing this as practice for a section in the Lizzie Borden chapter in my book, The Devil Inside Her. The connection? Part of the hysteria around Lizzie Borden was our fear of thirty-something spinsters, and the fact that they are sexually repressed or sexually loose. Contrary to popular assertions, Sex and the City did nothing to change that.

Okay, you've made your point. Is there anything else?

One last thing. Why was everyone so shocked and disappointed when all four women ended up in monogamous, committed relationships at the end of the show? Who do you think this show was marketed to? Middle-class America. The same middle class America that complained that Carrie, as a (I am not making this up) role model, shouldn't be smoking. So the writers had her quit. The show sells a fake glamorous life of single women, but essentially it was just another chick-lit novel where Mr. Right (or Mr. Big) conveniently rescues the heroine from spinsterhood. Middle class America could not stand for their beloved heroines to be happily single. The ending was not a betrayal, but a complete fulfillment of what the show was about.

Are you through?
Yes. I feel much better, thank you. I'm going to go see if I can catch an episode of The Golden Girls to cleanse my palate.

65 Comments:

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2:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The vast majority of SITC viewers are 20-30-something women. Let's face it, most guys don't watch the show. And, certainly, most guys are not having regular SITC parties - unlike their wives, sisters, and girlfriends.

So, if the show is so offending to women why do so many women loves this highly successful show? Probably because most women don't find it offensive.

If your opinion is based on feminist principles, are those principles out of touch with the core group they are designed to empower? It seems to me that if the majority of women won't support certain feminist ideals then those ideals are not worth much. After all, shouldn't those principles be supported by those who - purportedly - would benefit, if the acceptance of that position became ubiquitous?

Just a thought. I certainly can't comment on the merits of the show; considering I have only seen 10 minutes of one episode.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

The vast majority of SITC viewers are 20-30-something women. Let's face it, most guys don't watch the show. And, certainly, most guys are not having regular SITC parties - unlike their wives, sisters, and girlfriends.

So, if the show is so offending to women why do so many women loves this highly successful show? Probably because most women don't find it offensive.

If your opinion is based on feminist principles, are those principles out of touch with the core group they are designed to empower? It seems to me that if the majority of women won't support certain feminist ideals then those ideals are not worth much. After all, shouldn't those principles be supported by those who - purportedly - would benefit, if the acceptance of that position became ubiquitous?

Just a thought. I certainly can't comment on the merits of the show; considering I have only seen 10 minutes of one episode.

[oops, didn't mean to be anon.]

3:37 PM  
Blogger the lawyerwriter said...

hello brad:

the reality is that the reason the women give for loving the shows is different from the reason that the women actually love the shows. All the women who I've spoken too claim that the show espouses certain feminist ideals. But dig a little deeper and what they're really talking about is the fabulousness of trends and product placement--the money, the shoes, the martinis, the fantasy New York. The show is pulling the wool over women's eyes, making them parrot feminist ideology, but when you as them or the show to back it up, the invariable answer is "Well, it's just kind of fun to watch." Which is fine, but I don't want to hear any more about how it's changed culture or our views about unmarried women Of A Certain Age. It hasn't. Doubt me? Witness the end--pure monogamy, another Cinderella story. It's the same story over and over again.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Doug said...

I never liked or respected the show, was only exposed to it because of an ex-girlfriend, who herself wasn't like any of these women, so that whole connection puzzled me (she was a Peace Corp volunteer who didn't even care about shoes, which is what the whole show seemed to be about). The acting sucked, you're right that Carrie--along with the show's writers--can't write, and the damn thing begged not to be taken seriously. Maybe if I were a woman I'd feel the anger you do, in concern for my drunk/dazzled compadres. Pop culture is tricky to analyze; clever types always want to come into the fray and say it all has this really deep significance. Though I'd go with the Forest Gump-ism here: Stupid is as stupid does. (By the way, you're cute.)

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i haven't watched a single episode, just the ads for the show put me off. All the women seem to be full of shit.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow ... amazing - I too am not the only one!

great blog - nice to know there's actually another female out there who has not been brainwashed into this madness.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great. I am a 33 yo male and was just cracking up with my best friend as we just discovered our mutual hatred of this show!

I was then telling my ex-girlfriend that it's a crappy, meaningless show that centers around women receiving jewelry from men.

She vigorously denied this and came up with the following defense of the show:

"I love Carrie's shoes."

Christ. I mean, there's apparently even an episode where some necklace gets broken -- but instead of breaking the real one, the necklace has a stunt double which gets broken! I'm a grown man, and I don't even have a stunt double!! Why should a necklace?

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'Sex and the City' a Misnomer, Study Finds

London -- According to a new study, the name 'Sex and the City' is at best misleading and at worst patently inaccurate. Sociologist Owain Jenkins, 43, who teaches at The London School of Economics, recently conducted an in-depth analysis of all 136 episodes of the program. He found that each episode on average contains contains only 1.3 instances of (or references to) sexual intercourse.

By contrast, each hour of the program contains an average of 3.2 instances of women receiving jewelry from men, or reference to such real or hypothetical situations.

"A more fitting name for the program might be... 'Bling-Bling for Rich White Women'", the professor said. "I couldn't come up with a more boring program if I were paid to", added Jenkins.

Mr. Jenkins will be on sabbatical this coming fall, putting the finishing touches on his forthcoming book, "Girl-y Shite: From Manhattan to Mailbu."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go eliciting ever so eloquently all that reeks in Sex and the City. I'm a 24 year-old who recently lost a girlfriend to the same paper-thin, threadbare, chocolate-caked, shiny-object mongering that the show she and her two roommates idolize posits as potential reality. One of her friends moved in with her sister in NYC (her sister works at the Sloan Center) took a job at Toys 'R Us, and now pleasures a fat irish millionaire who sells technology to Satan's accomplice on Wall Street (headge funds), and after a four day stay and no doubt numerous half-hour DVD brainwashings of the show, my girlfriend has issues. Lord save the common gent who still believes feminism and chivalry can co-exist from the black hole kitschy glitz of Sex and the City. Okay I'm done.

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Anonymous SATC suxx said...

Amen! Sister,
I hate those SATC women..always complaining- no man is good enough. They are lookin for these perfect men- when thay are not so perfect themselves. I don't know about others but it doesn't have a feel good factor to it. ..and Oh! Carrie's puns...don't even go there..I love you for putting this so neatly..I found my role model in you ;).
I'm so glad you'll be on SM now.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Rob said...

nicely put.

I think that 80% of the young women who watch the shallow show take it for real.

All the show does is take a lot of the horrible things men have done and make it ok for women to do them. It dosent help anything.

It is only a show and I know this but you know how people can get with their shows.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said , this show is just as conformist as many others , whereas it pretends not to be. Why do I have to go on foreign sites to see such intelligent analysis! I'm from France, and on french sites all I can see is "this show is wonderfull,really credible, feminist" and I'm like "What?????"
Well stated ;)

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This show is total trash. It is anti intellectual, demeans women, any decent guy would run for the nearest exit if confronted by these shallow pretensious arrogant goldigging witches. NONE of them have one single redeaming quality. I wince everytime my wife watches this 30 minute foray of mental sewage. Hopefully at some future time all the episodes of this trash will be thrown down a DEEP salt mine.

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love you for writing this. I haven't seen much of the show, but if I happen to be unfortunate enough to stumble upon a rerun while channel surfing (damn you TBS) I quickly find myself irked and disgusted, because the women are always whining about something - anything! Everyone I knew in college who claimed to be a feminist ate up this show and couldn't get enough of it. The hypocrisy was amazing.

You're not alone in your hatred for this show. I hated it and still hate it. If I ever see Sarah Jessica Parker in person, I'll end up being arrested, because I'm going to punch that obnoxious bitch in her huge schnozz for ever coming up with such a vomit worthy show.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think I could ever sit through an episode of this show
every clip of it I've ever seen has reminded me of those women who for some reason decide to embody these bullshit commercial female stereotypes "OMG SHOES CHOCOLATE JEWELRY MARTINIS OMG ARE SO GOOD VIBRATORS ARE GREAT BECAUSE I CAN'T ACTUALLY TOUCH MYSELF LIKE WITH MY HANDS THAT'S GROSS I'M SO SEXUALLY LIBERATED THOUGH REALLY SEX IS GREAT I'M A CAREER GIRL I'M AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN I'M SEXUALLY LIBERATED REALLY HONESTLY LOOK AT ALL MY VIBRATORS" wtf

(I'm a woman, by the way)

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for writing this. I thought I was the only person in the world who disliked SatC for the very reasons you put forwar.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This show should have been titled "Whores and the City"

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i find sex and the city disgusting. not because of its entertainment value, which i dont really relate to, but because of the fact that it takes real feminist issues, like rights to pursue goals, women's health, governmental aknowledgment of issues that pertain to women, and spins them instead into an emasculation of men, and a MASCULATION of women, which is FORCED. As much as you can't deny the right of a woman with an inclination to be a high powered attorney, who wants to put the work in and make it happen on the same level as a man in the field, you can't pressure women who are not thusly inclined to shirk of the role of mother as a job. thats the crime of this breed of irresponsible decadent postfeminism

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

everyone has already said what i wanted to say, but i hate this god-damned show too, and can only shiver in horror at the movie production being currently underway.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Carl said...

Thankyou for saying what I've been trying to say for ages. Im 25 and have a lot of friends, (girls), around this age, every single one of them who loves this show. Is it just because its popular for women to like it? Do they think they aren't cool if they don't at least pretend to enjoy this shit? It can't be for the humour value...how do they even get to bill this as a comedy? Aside from the quirky music, there's nothing bar the odd droopy-penis allusion style juvenile joke. It must be pretty easy to write a "comedy" show without any jokes.

It would actually make me feel a bit sick to think that one day my life could be as painfully shallow and pathetic as the lives depicted in this show. And some girls actually WANT to be like that? I think its not the fact that this show exists that pisses us all off, its the fact that its just so fricking popular.

3:07 AM  
Blogger Chad Crawford said...

Male. 25. I agree with everything you've said.

Over the years I've had to overhear a lot of the episodes, but I've never actually watched a single one (my wife watches it, I read or blog while she's watching).

I have many issues, but the main one is this:

The dialog is bad and clichéd. It's almost as if the writers have a dialog generator somewhere where they enter a situation and then hit the "old slut" button and Samantha spits out something stupid. Then they go around the table, the redhead says something bitchy, the blond says something faux-witty and the brunette says something naive, or whatever her character is.

Also the narration is hokey, which is ironic because the narrator is supposed to be a writer.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate this show tooo..bunch of pretentious confused girls who act like they know it all.

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

I'm a 26 year old guy, and I have to say that I also hate the show. I don't have a lot to add, most of what I would have said other people have said better.

I spent a lot of my time growing up frustrated by the trend of girls towards this kind of superficial crap (and being single because of it). It pains me to think that SATC might actually be making things worse... Thankfully I now have a girlfriend who is nothing like these one dimensional joke characters. I was starting to think women like her no longer existed in America.

I hope more people will realize that women like this are the exact opposite of what any decent guy really wants. This show should only be watched as an example of what to avoid.

2:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfectly stated. I want every human to read this. I appreciate your frustration with this show/phenomenon - as you said, it is dangerous.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Rashelle said...

This show is bad for women of all ages, but especially younger more impressive girls that genuinely look up to these disgusting characters.

I'm sorry, you can be single, independent and very sexual without being an airheaded, neurotic, insecure, man-chasing SLUT. I don't have time to rant and rave at the moment, but wanted to agree with most of the replies.

I say it all the time: This show is bad for society.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Rashelle said...

And why in God's name do so many women think Sarah Jessica Parker is so beautiful? She looks like a horse!! She's one of the worst cases of "butter face" that I've ever seen! Watching her act like she's so cute and sexy gives me the chills, makes me feel sick.. I don't get it!!

11:28 PM  
Blogger Rashelle said...

"BTW, a Google search on "I hate sex and the city" will yield 700+ results!"

My search came back with 2,710,000+ results ;)

11:38 PM  
Anonymous starlet said...

You are not the only woman who thinks this way. I hate the concept of a supposedly feminist-show centred around trying to get laid and hankering after flaky, materialistic possessions (those Manolo shoes for instance!). Gosh, who are these people who like this nonsense!
And yes, Sarah JP looks like a horse:)

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh sister, you are not alone in loathing SITC, which I call Planet Twat. Recently, I forced myself to sit through the full first season and my 19 year old son joined me. We were disgusted with the inaccurate portrayal of women and men, relationships and human behavior. All my suspicions that this show is utter tripe, were confirmed.

I agree with the original poster that this show is dangerous because it does NOT reflect a reality. It's the Twilight Zone of singles sitcoms. The characters are self-absorbed and immature, the situations are far off the richter scale of our everyday experience. The foursome from Planet Twat make Ally McBeal look like Maya Angelou.

As a 46 year old professional single woman, who dates and loves men, and cherishes my sons and my brothers, I don't believe this show does anything to help relationships. It only causes more confusion.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank god... I thought I was completely alone in my loathing of S&TC. To be honest I think its patronising to both women and men. And it disturbs me that so many young women seem to use it as some kind of TV bible on the way a 'cool' life should look. thanks for writing!

1:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God I am not the only one! This show is corrupting people's minds all over the world. I live in Germany, and now German people are starting to think that this is reality in New York.

I lived in New York City for 17 years, and I never met or knew ONE woman like these shallow, sex-obsessed, materialistic women. Most of my friends spent a lot of their time working to pay the rent on their tiny apartments, only had time to go out a bit on weekends, and were grateful if they had one good man.

The women on the show, from what I can see, are spoiled and crazy. In the real world, any one of them would have been lucky to get one man after a year of being single. Men just don't throw themselves at the feet of vulgar middle aged women, no matter how wealthy.

What galls me is that young girls will start to think that their worth as human beings has to do with their shoes, clothes, sex life or money, rather than spiritual principles.

I hope humanity will wake up to its collective need for God, spiritual values and nature, before it's too late!

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ITS 4 WOMEN PRETENDING TO BE AFFLUENT GAY MEN OF POWER! THE PENIS ENVY IS ASTOUNDING. MEN WILL ALWAYS BE IN POWER...GET REAL AND STOP WHILE YOU'RE AHEAD!

2:12 PM  
Blogger Dana Vigilante said...

I was having dinner with three friends the other night, all of us in our early forties, successful and in happy long-term relationships, when the conversation turned to the phenomenally successful HBO series of the mid-90's "Sex and the City".   All four of us had been devotees of the series throughout it's entire run (including a countdown of days until the movie came out).  However, as we went from our early thirties, to our early forties, we had to wonder (as Carrie would say), what were we thinking?

Afew years ago, my boyfriend had the unfortunate experience of being holed up with me while I had the flu.  There also happened to be a bad snowstorm and our cable went out so I put in a SATC DVD.  As my boyfriend later said, and now still agrees to, it was the worst eight hours of his life.   He not only found NOTHING appealing, intelligent, humorous or sexy about any of these women, but also said they were a mockery to smart, intelligent women everywhere.   Several other men I know who've also had the unfortunate task of watching SATC have said similiar things.  I guess I wasn't surprised to find there are actually several websites devoted to men who hate SATC.

Given, apparently at one time we found the trials, tribulations and sexcapades of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte funny.  However, as we grew older and randomly tuned into the reruns that run endlessly on both E! and Style, we all had to agree that the series was for the most part, ridiculous.

Looking back now, what is it that Carrie, a woman so many viewers looked up to,  was thinking not only in her clothing  and  man choices, but in her etiquette?  If only we could have a count of how many times she did her "round the mouth lip lick" (when she sticks her tongue out and licks the entire circumference of her mouth).  Refer to the following episodes;  she and Burger having a burger, Steve and Aidan's bar opening when she's outside eating a piece of cake, Jazzman feeding her meekreb, meeting Burger on the way to the Hamptons when she has a disgusting glop of ketchup on the corner of her mouth, or in the movie when she's walking down the street with the copy of Vogue she wants no one to see. What is it with the lip lick?  Does she thinks it's sexy, appealing? It's disgusting, yet, at the time, viewers thought she was the bomb! Thank goodness we grew up.
Dana Vigilante

7:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The show was filthy. End of story

8:21 AM  

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