Friday, May 30, 2008

Vexed and the City

This has been bouncing around in my head for a while now, and it's probably too late in the day (and the week) to really dig into it properly, but all the hoopla (and it's been one hell of a hoopla) over the Sex and the City premiere has adopted an odd tone from the start. Which is understandable, considering it's the movie version of an incredibly polarizing TV series. I know women who love it, I know women who loathe it. I know gay men who view it as guilty pleasure, as gospel, and as the grime on the bottom of their shoe. I know straight guys who hate it and straight guys who REALLY hate it. And given the fact that I can't seem to make up my mind as to whether I want to see it or not, I'm certainly not about to cast aspersions on people for feeling either way about it.

But in some circles, the movie's being treated like it's an invading army of strapless dresses and bad punchlines that needs to be endured until it goes away. There's much speculation as to what kinds of audiences will show up (hell, I linked to one such post myself) and how many straight guys will be dragged by their girlfriends and how much you'd have to pay certain people to go see it. And if this current election year has taught me anything, it's been to look for sexism and misogyny at every turn, so I began to feel queasy at the idea of a pile-on simply because a female-centric movie has the gall to have "event movie" aspirations.

I tossed it around in my head for a while -- haven't I, in the past, blanched at certain explosions of Straight Guy Pride masquerading as summer blockbusters (The Dukes of Hazzard, say)? Isn't the Sex and the City movie kind of the girl/gay equivalent of that? This is a guilty pleasure movie, after all, and if you don't happen to get the pleasure of it, aren't you just left with a guilty verdict? Didn't I similarly look down my nose at those who would line up to ogle Jessica Simpson in her eponymous Daisy Dukes?

That being said, I find myself in the position of rooting for Sex and the City to succeed this weekend and surpass all expectations. Not only to keep the gloating hordes at bay, but also in the hopes that a Sex success might open up doors for movies whose core audience doesn't necessarily have to include 15-24-year-old boys. Or boys of any age, really. At least not more than 10% or so. Carrie and Big and company might not exactly be my dream flick, but damn it, that Maude movie could still happen!


Kris McN said...

See, Joe. This post and "Just A Clarification" are just a couple of reasons why you are my boyfriend!

And for the record, my husband is all, "I'll go. Why wouldn't I want to see a movie full of beautiful, funny, smart women?" That, and I'm sure he's hoping to see boobies.

JA said...

I know a couple of straight guys who LOVE SatC. Course, they also love Madonna and dancing with their shirts off at gay clubs. They are, let's face it, the exceptions.

And I too have felt this gross wave of misogyny surround the movie this past week that made me feel a little dirty about my, well, kinda iffy comment a couple weeks ago about wishing the SatC characters would each end up on a date with Patrick Bateman. I mean, I still wish them death, especially Samantha and Carrie (Charlotte will always be Brooke Armstrong, smashing her head on the side of the pool in a crazed frenzy for her beloved Billy, and therefore truly unhateable). But I think maybe, instead of disembowelment by a woman-hater, they could be trampled underfoot by being thrown between a crowd of thirteen year old girls and some overpriced accessory THEY JUST HAVE TO HAVE.

BeRightBack said...

I agree with this post a lot. I recently read one of the more interesting things I've ever read about Sex and the City on the blog Sex Like Men, which focused on SJP's ambiguous role in publicizing her movie and "brand." The perspective on money and gender in SATC is refreshingly nuanced, factoring the consumerism into the equation without dismissing it as unavoidable or using it to denounce the whole enterprise outright.

(ps: this is the reader of yours who used to comment here as "secretmargo")

Joe Reid said...

I like your kind of straight guys, Jason.

And Brooke Armstrong is a national treasure and should be recognized as such. "Billeeeeeee! Don't leeeeeave meeeeeee!"

OleNelson said...

I'll add to the agreement here. Straight guy. Probably not going to see the movie. But VERY happy to see it make loads of money yesterday. I'm particularly looking forward to Jeff Well's disgruntlement.

Among other things, it would be nice if this could contribute to an expansion of the concept of "event movie." After all, I love big events. And I love movies. But I end up liking relatively few of the "event movies" that come around.

StinkyLulu said...

I've become a SATC aficionado by marriage, as MrStinky watches episodes from the tv series on pretty much a daily basis. And because I'm a promiscuous popcultureslut, I've found my own way/s to take delight in the series.

Watching the movie yesterday, I was impressed at (a) the sheer volume of intergenerational friendship/family groups at our mid-afternoon screening; (b) the whoops and cheers when familiar references popped in; and (c) how much the movie remained truthful to the source material, which seemed to both please the audience and which bode well for a huge initial dvd launch with possible sequels.

All of the above features would be considered attributes of success -- proving the viability of the franchise -- if this was the first film based on a beloved comic book. BUT because SATC:TM is based on a female-centric tv series the enterprise seems to be viewed through an entirely different lens. Which I find suspect...

US media culture likes to privilege certain, usually masculinist, fan cultures (think the superbowl or nascar) while gleefully mocking others (trekkers, soap superfans). I also think adult female fandom freaks people out for all kinds of particular reasons. And we all know that mildly misogynist mockery is an easy boilerplate for journalists to use when they'd rather not think about what they're writing about. (Maureen Dowd's made a career of it.)

I'm probably not going to stop snickering about Claymates, Oprahphiles, or QVC shoppers. But I am realizing that my snarkery is part of a creepy continuum of disparaging women for the fact of their being fans.

Linda said...

"BUT because SATC:TM is based on a female-centric tv series the enterprise seems to be viewed through an entirely different lens. Which I find suspect..."

I'm going to have to disagree, despite my readiness to acknowledge sexism in the way lots of parts of pop culture are received.

To me, the reason I view this entire enterprise as concerning (and I saw the movie today, and I don't hate the show) is that I have absolutely no problem with this show as long as people acknowledge that it is merely an absurdist fantasy about women who lead preposterously shallow lives that would, if they were real, confirm all sorts of revolting sexual stereotypes about how women are happiest when men are providing for them and giving them closets full of shoes.

I have NO problem with SATC as diverting entertainment. What I have a problem with is that no less a reviewer than Peter Travers of Rolling Stone basically wrote that this movie is great to teach men how women really think.

That is the way the show has always tried to sell itself, and I find that PROFOUNDLY disturbing.

If the show is seen as escapist nonsense, it's harmless. If it's seen as an excuse for people to actually believe that friendships among women exist for the purpose of discussing shoes and men, then it is quite literally a force for sexist bullshit, and that's very, very bad.

To me, the squeeing fandom is gross for reasons that have nothing to do with sexism against women's movies. Every time I hear a woman say Sex And The City was the first time she saw a woman who thought or felt as she did, a chill runs down my spine, because that is tragic.

And remember -- I enjoy the show, and I enjoy the movie, as long as we're not claiming that this is an educational film about the way women really function.

Deirdre said...

I saw it yesterday at a matinee, and, like Stinkylulu, was surprised at the demographic variety in the audience. Yeah, there were a few guys who were probably there solely because of their girlfriends, and yeah, there were a lot of 20-35-year-old women in groups. But there were also a lot of middle-aged women and older couples as well as some girls who looked like they were probably in elementary school when the show was in its heyday.

I was never a huge fan of the show; I've seen very few of the unedited versions and found it much easier to take once I stopped thinking of it as a comedy and started looking at it as a soap. And while I agree with Linda that it should be viewed as a fantasy (for example, Big turning his car around on a one-way street in New York because there's no one behind him), the thing I appreciated most about the show that's been carried over into the film is the depiction of women who have long-lasting friendships, and its acknowledgement - nay, its celebration - of the fact that women who aren't nubile 22-year-olds have wild and fulfilling sex lives.

Joe Reid said...

Yeah, I think the show -- and its characters -- have aged rather well.

I'm actually just now back from seeing it (with a friend and her husband who we didn't even have to coerce all that much). I think I'll go into it more in its own post this week, but I found it perfectly adequate (if too long).

But I will say, apropos to this post, I was really happy seeing an audience respond to a movie like this as an event movie. There was probably as much clapping during the movie as there was during Iron Man (yes, yes, it annoyed me then, and I object to it as a rule, but this was something I hadn't seen before). Which is fitting considering SATC is kind of a comic book in its own right.

Sarah D. Bunting said...

I liked the show pretty well, although Carrie drove me really crazy sometimes, but when it went off the air and we could stop talking about it like it was a litmus test for everything from footwear fashions to women's sexuality to life in the Big Apple, I was relieved. And when it stops this time, I'll be relieved again.

I liked the movie pretty well, too, but there's a reason I saw it at the 1:30 matinee the day it came out: there's only so much mindshare I can give the damn thing.