Spoiling Sex and the City
Four women argue about the clothes, the men, and the ending.
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008, at 7:46 AM
Meghan: I like your sympathy for Big, Erinn, and it's clever to flip the gender like that: We'd read his ambivalence really differently if the genders were reversed. I thought he seemed within his rights. He felt that Carrie was ignoring his ambivalence about having a huge wedding, and he was right. She wasn't listening. Not that she deserved to be jilted, but the issue there was more complicated than it might seem. Same with Steve. Yet the movie's writers never let the viewers really contemplate the true back and forth that needs to go into any partnership—which is what, since the movie is about these characters growing up and finally dealing with commitment, I hoped to see. But nope! Instead, it was off to the next iconic moment: A fashion show! A scene with Cosmos! Charlotte being humiliated! Carrie in fur!
Erinn: Very interesting about Big being a MacGuffin. But if that's the case, then what are they striving for? I never thought of the men as not the point. I guess because the women can be so mean to each other (laughing at Charlotte's Montezuma's revenge; Miranda telling her bff's fiance "you're crazy to get married"; Samantha rushing off the phone when Carrie says she's engaged) that their friendship doesn't seem like the point either. If it's not about men or women, what's the point of the show then?
June: They were mean to one another in places. The idea that Charlotte soiling herself would be the really funny thing that finally allowed Carrie to laugh totally baffled me.
Erinn: Their friendship is toxic.
Dana: I don't have a scatological sense of humor myself. But I have at least one friend who would fall down laughing if I crapped my pants, and that wouldn't mean she loved me any the less.
June: OK, now I'm laughing at the thought of you crapping your pants!
Dana: Does that mean our friendship is toxic?
June: Let me just put it this way: When you notice I've put on 15 pounds, no need to be quite as direct as Mario Cantone's character was to Samantha.
Dana: God, we haven't even touched on that horrible fat-Samantha plot development—a moment when you realize that for all its glossy "feminism" the show really is policing women's bodies quite closely. God forbid a 50-year-old woman have the tiniest roll of belly flab, or that a working mother's pubes should go unwaxed.
June: As uncomfortable as the pubes thing made me (I wanted to plug my ears and shut my eyes), it was one of the rare moments when the women were presented as having flaws. Samantha was a bitch. (And why didn't anyone else say so?)
Dana: But that's the problem. The movie presented it as Miranda's flaw (having visible pubic hair) instead of Samantha's (being a bitch).
Meghan: To answer your question, Erinn: I think the point of the show was to try to capture something accurate about the rhythms of mating in NYC in the shadows of hedge funds. I think it wanted to show what it felt like to walk down a West Village street wearing an outfit that would make power brokers (of fashion, of film, of art) turn around. I think it wanted to portray how fleeting interactions between men and women in penthouses could leave deep scars. I think it wanted us to mourn for its characters and to envy them, and to realize how screwy that was—like wanting power more than happiness, a condition many New Yorkers find themselves in. And the show did capture a lot of this stuff (early on, at least). The movie, on the other hand, wanted merely to recapture the iconography of the show.
Erinn: That makes sense. Someone told me that when she left New York and moved to Hong Kong she enjoyed the show much more than when she returned here. I think that's important. I just love this city too much to think the meatpacking district's crowd embodies it. Because it doesn't.
I guess, in the end, I actually liked the movie as far as the SATC phenomenon goes. I didn't see it as much of a departure from the characters' essences, but this time it was like I was sitting in a really big living room with the jampacked audience hooting and sniffling away. Yes, unfortunately, the craze will go on and the movie will be a hit.
June Thomas is a Slate culture critic. Follow her on Twitter.
Erinn Bucklan is an editor in New York.
Meghan O'Rourke is Slate's culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother's death, is now out in paperback.
Still of Sarah Jessica Parker (left) as "Carrie Bradshaw" and Chris Noth (right) as "Mr. Big" in Sex and the City by Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema.