I was reading my New Yorker this morning, and had a bit of a revelation while reading, of all things, a letter to the editor. It was regarding Anthony Lane's recent review of the Sex and the City movie, and the part that got me was when the writer responded to Lane's disgust that women should react so strongly to the part when Big builds Carrie a closet from heaven. The letter's writer, Annabeth Bondor-Stone, says, "Am I an unrepentant materialist if I smiled when Carrie got a big closet? Can't I harmlessly indulge in fantasies of traditional femininity while the predominantly male audience next door drools over candy-colored cars?"
Exactly! The thing that wears me down during a lot of discussions about Sex and the City is that people seem to take it so seriously, when really it's like an action movie for women. Every woman I know will readily admit to an awareness that the movie is pure fantasy, and not possible for the vast majority of women in New York or elsewhere--those of us who live here and pay ridiculous rent for a shoebox knows firsthand that there's no way Carrie can live alone in that apartment on a freelance writer's salary, never mind maintain a closet full of Manolo Blahniks and Christian Dior. At the same time, however, I don't know of any men (smart ones, anyway) who walk out of a movie like The Fast and The Furious and fully believe that the lifestyle of drag-racing with scantily-clad lustful women could or should be theirs. I feel pretty comfortable when I say that most action movies are not scrutinized for their cinematic value nearly as closely as Sex and the City has been, even though in many ways they live on two sides of the same coin.
Over the last few weeks, my man and I have spoken often of Sex and the City. He didn't come with me to see the movie, and hasn't even seen one full episode of the show. He's pretty sure that he's seen all he needs to see to get it, a statement with which I disagree. In many ways, it's not his fault. He's not a woman, so he can never truly understand what happens in female friendships either in a group or on a one-on-one basis. It's also not his fault that the show is in lots of ways mistitled, as it isn't really about sex.
It's about friendship, support and growth shared between women--and yes, it makes you want to max out your credit cards so that you can have as much fun getting dressed in the morning as each one of the girls does. But can you blame us? Clothes and fashion are forms of self-expression, shaping how we are presented to and received by the people in our world. Most people don't want to be dull and boring, but it so happens that the pieces which are the most exciting also cost the most money. Patricia Field is an incredibly talented designer, but of all her successes perhaps her greatest is that she makes it all look so fun and playful. That sense of lightheartedness is refreshing in life and in any other escapist movie. The next time I hear someone coming down on Sex and the City as though it were trying to be the next Lawrence of Arabia, I intend to ask firmly but politely that they remove the stick up their ass.