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
Readers take note: This discussion is designed to be read by people who have already seen the Sex and the City film. There are REALLY BIG SPOILERS ahead. GIGANTIC, ENORMOUS SPOILERS right in the VERY FIRST LINES. Read at your own risk.
Dana Stevens: Let's kick off with the most spoiler-y question of all. What did you all think of the ending? When Carrie finally married Big—after he'd left her at the altar (well, near it) in the movie's first act—did it make you swoon, gag, swoon while gagging, remain poker-faced, or what?
Meghan O'Rourke: I felt numb. The movie was heading toward Schindler's List length. The whole thing felt bloated and self-important—precisely what the zippy TV show never was.
Erinn Bucklan: It felt like the characters hadn't changed, especially Carrie, even after all that drama. These women will continue their pattern:blow up at a man, bond with the ladies, buy a few things, and go back to a man.
Meghan: The show (and even more so, the original book by Candace Bushnell) was essentially episodic and nonteleological. And that was part of what was good about it:It dispensed with one-dimensional Cinderella narratives about women and talked about what dating life in NYC was really like. But the movie reneged on that essential contract with the viewers.
June: I agree. This movie convinced me that at least in some cases, telly is better.
Meghan: I never loved the show all that much, but I tuned in for the clothes and to have something keeping me company as I paid my bills. It was short, tight, and sorta charming (like S.J. Parker herself). I thought the movie was shallow and materialistic. And the materialism of the show feels very different in 2008 than in 2000. E.g., Carrie, after Big jilts her, says, "I feel like I took a bullet." Um, really? You mean, like a soldier? It totally animated the moralist in me.
Erinn: It's so funny that you bring up that "bullet" line. So many audience members were sobbing throughout my screening, and I was struck by hearing more crying in that movie than during any serious war movie or mourning scene I've watched in a looong time. I left thinking, Geez, people are really hurting for love.
Dana: Erinn, can you describe your relationship to the show as our resident hater? Did you watch it regularly despite (or because of) the fact it got on your nerves?
Erinn: I actually did watch it regularly because so many people around me were obsessed, and, well, I did like to track the cartoonish fashions. It was a train-wreck of a group of women.
June: One thing I really missed in this movie was work. Yeah, yeah, the apartments and clothes were always beyond their pocketbooks, but they did have jobs. In the movie, Samantha was still working but hated what her job had turned into—got no pleasure from it. Miranda doesn't seem to like her work, but she's responsible and knows she has to do it. Carrie didn't do any bloody work, though she seemed to have produced some books. Charlotte's got her man. But there was no joy in work.
Meghan: There was no joy in anything! There was just a lot of fear. And porn, or what counts for porn in NYC: The movie opens with the money shot, as it were—a beautiful view of a stunning prewar penthouse that Carrie and Big want to buy and live in.
My big problem with the movie is that no one talked about anything. Steve fucks another woman when Miranda won't have sex with him (they've had sex once in six months). And she gets mad and won't forgive him. But there's no discussion of what role her frigidity played or whether they might be able to get past it. The film invokes all these contemporary koans about what's hard about marriage (commitment, fidelity, etc.). But it never investigates them with any pathos.
Erinn: It's true. These women are supposed to be so sophisticated. But they are always so emotionally crude.
June: And the big dilemmas the characters face are over nothing—Steve did something wrong, but thoughtlessly, unintentionally, almost accidentally; Big jilts Carrie, but only because he wanted to talk to her before the wedding and forgot that brides don't always have their cell phones handy (there were no pockets in that Vivienne Westwood, after all—maybe grooms should see the wedding dress beforehand so they realize that).
So the characters weren't asked to compromise—just to forgive transgressions that are almost random.
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.