We’re about to go all Sex, all the time around here, as we begin the final countdown until Sex and the City: the Movie drops. If like Historiann, you’ve occasionally thought to yourself, “whatever happened to Sex and the City?”, don’t miss NYC Weboy’s terrific overview of SATC (the TV show)and thoughts on how and why the show changed over time. (You can find NYC Weboy at his eponymous blog, or over at New Critics.) NYC Weboy’s thesis is that the show became more about the clothes than the characters: “Pat Field’s evolutionary costuming wasn’t just a “fifth character” as so many suggest – it was the vehicle for reimagining the whole story as a consumerist fantasy.” At the same time–and perhaps not coincidentally–the tone of the show was brightened up to make the characters more likable “types” than the individuals who inspired Candace Bushnell’s original columns in the New York Observer. (Quick aside: check out the cover of Vogue, featuring SJP wearing a very druggy face and crouched in between “Big”‘s legs. Not an encouraging omen for the movie!)
I think NYC Weboy is correct–but I’d also humbly like to suggest that the TV show incarnation was always a consumerist fantasy, although I like his point that the materialism accelerated with the brand-name shoe fixation and Alexander McQueen couture miniskirts. The show was always a consumerist fantasy because the four key women were depicted mostly eating and drinking in restaurants or bars gossiping with each other or meeting men, while effortlessly remaining size 0 or size 2. It was all about the spending of money on the body, not the getting of the money, too: the characters were rarely shown working, and problems at work were never developed except as they became problems in the characters’ social and/or sex lives. Occasionally, the characters would be shown exercising–chatting in a yoga class or jogging in Central Park–but maintaining their sylph-like figures was another kind of work that was rendered strangely invisible.
In other words, the show was a fantasy about the consuming body–feeding the body, pouring in alcohol, adorning it, giving it sexual pleasure–without the possible consequences that consumption ordinarily leads to (weight gain, debt, alcoholism, pregnancy, and disease). Carrie Bradshaw even smoked cigarettes! (Talk about a fantasy of the consuming body–she may quite possibly be the last likeable main character in a TV show who was a smoker.) With many other women–married women and mothers–their bodies are there for the pleasure and use of others: husbands, babies, and children all demand satisfaction from the bodies of wives and mothers before the wives and mothers can claim their own pleasures. No wonder SATC was such an appealing fantasy world for middle-class women. It was a world in which women’s pleasures came first, and without consequences.
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