[Marxism] Sex and the City

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 26 08:52:56 MST 2004


Back in 1994 Candace Bushnell began writing a column in Arthur Carter's 
weekly NY Observer called "Sex and the City". Since Carter's upscale 
salmon-colored publication was being given away for free on NYC's Upper 
East Side at the time, I would pick it up to satisfy my unquenchable 
reading addiction. I was also curious to see where Carter was going with 
his NYC paper, which seemed to be modeled on his Litchfield County 
Times--an outlet for coverage on antique auctions, debutante balls, 
yacht races and other WASP foibles in Connecticut.

I was puzzled at the time why Arthur Carter would also be the publisher 
of the Nation Magazine, a journal that I had a strong identification 
with in the late 1980s and even sent donations to from time to time. Of 
course, it is much clearer to me in hindsight that Carter was part of a 
process to shift the magazine to the right, where it now sits as a kind 
of Kerberos of liberal orthodoxy.

I remember Bushnell's column leaving me cold at the time. It was a 
hodge-podge of fictionalized references to the nightlife of Eurotrash, 
investment bankers, models and freelance writers that she had access to. 
Her columns left me cold because I had some familiarity with this world 
as well and what I saw left much to be desired. Escorted by an old 
friend from Hollywood and the Catskills, I had spent enough time in 
Nell's (a trendy disco), the Hotel Chelsea (a Warhol hangout) and art 
galleries to know that these were not places to have an intelligent 
conversation, which for me is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Bushnell's columns were transformed eventually into the highly acclaimed 
HBO series, which had its final episode last week. Co-Producer Sarah 
Jessica Parker played Carrie Bradshaw, who is loosely modeled on 
Bushnell. The three other lead characters were single females who like 
her were on a nonstop hunt for sexy men, great restaurants and drop-dead 
designer clothing. You never find any reference to the other NYC in this 
show. The stars never take subways, they are never confronted by 
homeless people and they never worry about AIDS. In other words, their 
NYC has about as much connection to the real thing as a Woody Allen 
movie, or its antecedent in another troubled time, the movies of Fred 
Astaire.

I would also have to confess that I became a big fan of this show over 
the past few months. I will explain why momentarily.

For people who had been watching the show for a long time, especially 
women who identified with the four co-stars, the final episode was a 
major event. People gathered together to watch it together. The New York 
Times reported:

 >>What better way to mark the end of "Sex and the City" than a ménage à 50?

Across New York, people commemorated the end of the cable television 
show that romanticized New York City for six seasons by massing together 
and tuning in. Bars pushed "Sex and the City" parties. Friends gathered 
at one another's apartments. Out-of-towners bereft of cable posted 
desperate messages on Internet bulletin boards.

One party that captured the spirit and meaning of the show could be 
found inside a loft on West 49th Street. Fifty women, some in their 20's 
and some in their 50's, some friends and some strangers, piled onto 
couches and sat on the floor to watch the last unfurling of a television 
show that seemed always to be about them.

They got slightly drunk on wine and pomegranate-red Cosmopolitans, 
laughed at the same moments and cried through the ending. Some hooted 
and others clucked when the main character, a sex columnist named Carrie 
Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), decided to abandon her 
boyfriend in Paris and return to New York with a recurring love 
interest, known, until last night, only as Mr. Big (played by Chris Noth).

The show's final punch line - that Mr. Big's name is John - drew shrieks 
all around.

As people trickled into the cavernous white loft, they marveled how, 
over its six years, a show that began with jokes about oral sex and 
orgasms had become such a part of their lives.

"It's a sad night for us," said Jalande James, 29, who organized the 
party at the rented loft as part of Just Us Girls, a social network for 
women in New York. "We've lived with it for so long. When I moved here 
from Florida, I knew nobody. I'd watch 'Sex and the City' and think, 'Oh 
my God, they have such wonderful lives.'"<<

In Preston Sturges's "Sullivan's Travels", a screwball comedy made in 
1941, the eponymous lead character is a Hollywood director who has 
become highly successful making comedies, but who is frustrated with the 
studio's refusal to allow him to make serious films about the working 
class. In other words, Sullivan appears to be a fictionalized 
representation of Sturges himself. Sullivan decides to go on the road 
disguised as an unemployed worker in order to learn about the working 
class firsthand. In a string of comic mishaps, he learns that workers 
are somewhat different than the idealized notion he had of them. In the 
stunning climax of this classic film, they show one of Sullivan's 
comedies to an audience of workers at a typical New Deal work camp. They 
laugh until they cry. This becomes an epiphany to Sullivan, who realizes 
that the gift of laughter is precious and that it helps us get through life.

That is my reaction to "Sex and the City". In a time of deepening social 
and economic crisis, war and environmental despoliation, you need to 
laugh in order to keep from crying, as the title to a great Harry Edison 
jazz record once put it.

"Sex and the City" is one of the few laugh out loud comedies you can 
enjoy anywhere. With the collapse of Woody Allen, there are very few 
adult entertainments out there. Comedy has become cruder and more 
misanthropic, with the films of the Farrelly brothers setting the 
standard. As escapist fare, it ranks with the stories of P.J. Wodehouse 
that depicted a world of dotty English aristocrats having about as much 
relationship to reality as the glittery world of "Sex and the City".

Here's a summary of a typical week's episode. If you think that you 
might enjoy this sort of thing--not everybody's cup of tea I would be 
the first to admit--you can find all of the episodes in your local 
DVD/Video shops.

---

The girls are invited to the unlikely wedding of Carrie's supposedly gay 
friend, flamboyant lounge singer Bobby Fine to society lady Bitsy Von 
Muffling. Stunned by the news, Carrie thinks about what it takes to make 
a relationship work. She asks: When it comes to saying 'I do,' is a 
relationship a relationship without the zsa zsa zsu (aka: that special 
something that gives you butterflies in the stomach)?

Charlotte's new 'just sex' partner, Harry, invites her to be his date 
for the big Hamptons wedding. Charlotte worries about his crass 
behavior, but accepts provided that hairy Harry wax his back. In another 
not so clear relationship, Miranda inexplicably finds herself having sex 
with Steve. Meanwhile, Samantha calls upon the services of her ex, 
Richard, in another way: she arranges to throw a party at his house in 
the Hamptons.

On the way out to the Hamptons, Carrie runs into Jack Berger, who tells 
her he broke up with his girlfriend. Carrie can't help but feel that zsa 
zsa zsu. At Samantha's fabulous pool party, Carrie and Berger have a 
heart to heart about relationships past, but it's too much for Berger to 
handle and he departs suddenly and swiftly. Carrie wonders if she should 
just throw in the towel and settle for a so-so relationship. Samantha 
struggles to enjoy herself because of the appearance of three of 
Richard's bikini-clad bimbo babes. She accuses the party-crashers of 
freeloading but realizes that she herself is still hurting over the end 
of her affair with Richard.

At Bobby and Bitsy's wedding, the girls find themselves moved by the 
mutual love of the bride and groom. It appears Bobby and Bitsy do have 
the zsa zsa zsu. Obviously inspired, Charlotte tells Harry mid-dance 
that she may be falling in love with him. He says he shares her feelings 
but that he's Jewish and he has to marry a Jew. Also on the dance floor, 
Berger tells Carrie that he'd like to go on a date with her before they 
break up. Carrie is reminded why she refuses to settle for anything less 
than butterflies.

---

Sex and the City website: http://www.hbo.com/city/


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