“I don’t want to be treated as your equal. I want to be treated a lot better than you!”
– Blanche Deveraux
Throughout history, man’s role as stoic provider has essentially stayed the same. But woman’s role has run the gamut; from Biblical vixen to “Just a Housewife” to I Don’t Know How She Does It, Nora has had her awakening. She can turn the world on with her smile and, yes, can make it after all because she’s a W-O-M-A-N. And deserves your R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
The modern woman is told that she must use her brains instead of her body, yet to always have the body as a back-up if the brain fails. She is told to be independent yet demand to be treated like a queen. She is told to bring home the bacon and fry it up, to objectify herself and then get upset about being objectified, and buy enough cosmetics to gussy up the inhabitants of a small planet because – why? – she is worth it. Every kiss begins with Kay’s and Choosy Moms Choose Jif. All while wearing deodorant strong enough for a man but made for a woman. Being a 21st century woman must be a confusing mess.
The apotheosis of the modern day woman is the TV show Sex and the City. But contrary to popular belief, Sex and the City is not, as often touted, a show about four strong, smart, sexy women juggling work and love in New York City. Sex and the City is a show about four strong, smart, sexy drag queens in the form of four women juggling work and love in New York City. More specifically, it is a gay man’s interpretation of what he thinks women are – or his own Breckinridgian fantasy of what he wants to be. Darren Starr and Co., naturally groomed on The Golden Girls, picked up where Susan Harris left off. Or I suppose, more accurately, Sex and the City is a cosmopolitan precursor to The Golden Girls, right down to its stock characters: Samantha, the obvious Blanche; Miranda, the obvious Dorothy; and Charlotte, the obvious Rose. Starr’s addition is the feminine “icon,” Carrie Bradshaw. Apparently, she is what women want to be (although the only person I have ever known who wanted to “be” Carrie Bradshaw was a gay man in his early 20s…). She is smart, successful, and stylish to a fault. Gay men have clung onto her carefree petulance for dear life and catapulted her to the heights of historical relevance and cultural omnipresence. But as Cleopatra, Heloise, Anais Nin, Margo Channing, Alex Forrest, and Fiona Apple before her, Carrie knows that without love, it ain’t much.
So there Carrie and her friends – like all women (or gay men) before them – go from man to man to man to man, looking for the pot of gold at the end of love’s rainbow before it’s too late. For a show that prides itself on being about independent women and the feminine power, they spend an awful lot of time looking for men. Some to dominate, yes, to show their equality, to prove that they can date and fuck just like men and to hell with “The Rules,” but at the end of it all, these four women want the story book romance from their childhood of being proposed to at a fountain in Paris by a rich man with a big dick.
It’s most fitting that Carrie is the one who gets to enact this fantasy because Carrie is the most childlike of the four. The opening credits even tell us that she is to be infantilized as she runs through the muddy streets in a ballet tutu. She is always doing things to sabotage her relationships as if learning lessons is something that she is not capable of doing (obviously, she never put her hand on a burning stove). Which is ironic because the entire show is structured as a dialogue with herself, narrating for her column, yes, but also asking these questions out loud, presumably to learn. To grow. But the Princess need not grow. She just has to find her Prince Charming who will put up with her bullshit. And stay pretty.
Then there are the movies. The first one sees Carrie get married – after being stood up at the altar by a cold footed Big; the sequel finds Carrie traversing the complicated angles of marriage by way of Abu-Dhabi.
I hated hated hated this movie for the same reason I hated The Wedding Planner or really any modern day romantic comedy: because I hate hate hate women who act like fucking whiny brats and then are rewarded in the end by some altruistic man whose sole purpose seems to be to save these women from themselves.
I’m most embarrassed that this film was written by a gay man because the amount of stereotypical, awful gayness is strangulating. I want Michael Patrick King to be stripped of his homosexuality. At least if this film had been written by a well intentioned woman (which would give it a whole other set of problems) or a dumb straight man, I could justify its insane amounts of estrogen, but this – THIS! – Mr. King is going too far.
1) Four minutes in and we are already vindicating hags – the most annoying of the feminine gender. Women who latch on to gay men as “besties” because they are too insecure (or ugly) to have meaningful relationships with straight men or other women. They feel they can chat with them like a girlfriend! Open up and share all of their inner most secrets they could never tell a real woman for fear of being deemed petty or shallow or jealous. Gay men are the repository of women’s garbage. Now, of course gay men and women are allowed to be, can be, should be friends. But The Hag is a pariah, a worthless individual who needs to get her own shit together and leave us the hell alone. And no. I don’t want to touch your fucking boobs and then laugh about how open and edgy you are.
“Her best gay friend is marrying my best gay friend!” Charlotte giggles in her provincial way, trying to prove to the sales clerk in Bergdorf-Goodman that she is cosmopolitan. The sales clerk is impressed. Wow. You have a gay. I’m jealous! Fuck off, woman in ruffles.
2) “Just when you thought everyone was too old to get married, here come the gays!” Carrie and her catty little drag queens are amused at this piece of “wit.” They chuckle. What is this even supposed to mean? Aww. Even those cute little gays are getting married now. Isn’t that lovely? I fucking hate being called “the gays”. We are people. Not some trinket on the shelf to put on your nightstand. No matter what that bitch Kathy Griffin thinks.
3) As Carrie straightens Big’s tie, he reminds her: “Don’t make me look too good. Gay wedding.” Thank you, Michael Patrick King. I’m sure we all needed a reminder that the gays’ sole purpose in life is to convert the straights. Which is followed later by the obligatory oogle of Big by a gay man at the bar.
4) “Will you stop referring to it as a gay wedding? This is not a gay wedding!”
Cut to the New York Gay Men’s Choir singing showtunes in white tuxedos as the swans frolic in the man made moat.
5) Samantha approaches the girls with her dog in tow: “You brought your dog?” “It’s a gay wedding. What’s one more little bitch with an attitude?” “Guys…shouldn’t we be a little bit more PC?” To which no one says anything. And Mario Cantone comes riding in on his tampon, appalled by the tackiness of it all.
“Well, Stanford got the wedding of his dreams. And I get to cheat.” “You mean, you get to cheat because you’re gay?” “No, I get to cheat because I’m Italian!” “I don’t get it. Why get married if you are going to cheat?” “Well, he didn’t say he was going to cheat, just that he was allowed to cheat.” “Is that how you heard it?” “Well, it’s not really any of our business.” “Except he told us!” “I’m just saying, every couple has the right to make their own rules.” “Not really. It’s marriage!” “Who wants a cocktail?” “I do. Oh, and get me something to eat. I need a little nosh.” “Eight years later and she’s finally a Jew.” And after this sketch cut from a routine at the Catskills, the plot is in motion. The central drama of the film is Carrie “learning” what it means to be married. But I will return to this in a moment. I still have gay things to complain about.
6) “Are you taking Anthony’s name?” “No, we are guys.” “Guys? Have you seen yourself in the mirror, Lady Dior?” “Tehehe. Bitch.” To be clear, Stanford is NOT wearing a dress, a veil, or even pumps. He is wearing a suit. OK, a suit with a ruffle or two. But a suit. Why is this funny, Michael Patrick King? Do we not have enough self-hate and cultural stigmatization that we are like women that you felt we needed another reminder? In 2010! Who is this for? Do some gay men actually find this amusing? Or are you writing for the hags you should despise yet have made your millions milking?
7) “Could this wedding get any gayer?” As Liza Minnelli comes out to perform the ceremony. “Why would Liza say yes to this?” “The law of physics. Any time there is this much gay energy in one room, Liza manifests.” A short cut to the program to ostensibly show us that the ceremony was almost over, but really to show us that the closing song, which we don’t see or hear in the film, is… “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
And the piece de resistance: 65 year old Liza Minnelli, dressed in a black sequined shirt/dress and knee high black boots, belts out Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”…and dances the ORIGINAL CHOREOGRAPHY. All of this before the 15 minute mark. OMFG.
And lest you think I am just a self-hating fag, read this.
OK. Take a moment. Digest that.
And we continue.
So. Carrie and Big are seated at their table eating dinner when a woman leans in to fawn over her. “I am you! I have been reading your books for years!” The adoration is embarrassing. Until she finds out that Carrie and Big don’t want kids. “So it’s just going to be you two…?” Oh the shame of it all! To which the fan turns away in utter disappointment. So much for elevating the modern woman.
This incident sends Carrie on a tailspin of marriage panic. They return to their hotel room to hear Samantha fucking loudly through one wall and Charlotte’s baby crying through the other. This is supposed to be a not so subtle way of putting us in Carrie’s head: our marriage could either be a lifetime of fucking or a lifetime of crying babies. Big asks, “I don’t know which is worse.” “Samantha. The baby will tire eventually.”
They turn on the TV to drown out the noise and find It Happened One Night, a first time for Carrie. It is the famous scene where Claudette Colbert lifts up her skirt to hitchhike. “And there Big and I were. Somewhere between wild sex. And a baby.”
The next morning at breakfast we learn the two competing “storylines” that pollute the remainder of the film: Samantha is on a 44 pill a day regiment to turn back the clock and Charlotte is worried that her hot, braless nanny is too much of a distraction for her husband. I guess when you are a woman who prides herself completely on her sexuality instead of her sexuality and her intelligence; and if you are a stay at home mom with nothing else to do but worry that her nanny – the one she doesn’t need because, oh, she doesn’t have a fucking job so why are you paying someone else to help you raise your kids, you entitled bitch – might be a little too hot; your focus can definitely become one track minded.
Big and Carrie return home to New York to their palatial apartment that is a little more “down to earth” than the penthouse suite they thought was “their dream”. “We may be closer to Earth but we kept a little bit of Heaven…” As she glides into her huge walk-in closet. (Gawd, what is the point of this banter! To show how shallow and worthless she is?)
“It’s 4:30. Where should I make dinner reservations? Any cravings?” “Why don’t we just order in?” “We ordered in two nights last week!” Which means they went out five times. And they just returned, literally like an hour ago, from a weekend in Connecticut. Big plops down on the couch to read his paper. And the nagging wife continues to bother him. Give me attention! What are we going to do?! What am I going to do? I don’t know, Carrie. Read a fucking book. Go to the movies. Or go buy something else you don’t need. Just leave the man alone so he can have a moment’s peace after spending the whole weekend WITH YOU at YOUR friend’s wedding.
But the drama continues when he gives her a TV for their anniversary. Remember that night they spent in the hotel, snuggling together “somewhere between wild sex and a baby” watching It Happened One Night? Well, Big thought it would be romantic to always be able to recreate that special moment. But Carrie wanted jewelry! As if she didn’t have millions of dollars worth of clothes and diamonds and Gucci fucking bags, you materialistic whore. Sorry. Where was I…oh yes. Carrie flies off the handle, terrified that this will be the rest of their lives, since you know it is going to be just them. Watching TV for the rest of their lives!
I must pause for a moment to give Carrie – and perhaps all women, if I am not being too presumptuous here – some marriage advice. Men are incredibly simple. Yes, we are smart and sophisticated and have conquered worlds. But at the end of the day, all we want is a good laugh, a good lay, and a good night’s sleep. We are not playing games with your emotions.
The beauty of marriage is that you trust that the other person is there for you no matter what. You don’t constantly need them to prove they love you. That would be…I don’t know…childish. And at 40-something and after two years of marriage, you should not only have learned this about relationships (especially when you have made your fortune WRITING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS), but you should have gotten to a point in your life where you don’t need someone else’s attention at all times. You are a smart, professional woman of the town with three best friends. DO SOMETHING WITH THEM! DO SOMETHING ALONE! Your husband wants to have an evening where he unwinds in front of the TV because, you know, he is in his 50s and has been going out for the last 30 years and has theoretically found what he has been looking for, namely YOU!, and has had a bad day at work and doesn’t want to get gussied up for a movie premiere. Give the man a goddamn moment to himself. But Carrie whines and moans and acts like a petulant toddler. And playing the part of the good husband, he knocks back a scotch, puts on a fresh shirt, and goes to the premiere. But then when Penelope Cruz hits on him at the party, she pulls rank and immediately demands to leave. #hotbitch
So there they are at home. She is trying to seduce him, glancing over the shoulder in her panties, but she is no competition for Penelope. Or Deadliest Catch. “For the record, that’s not a black and white movie. THAT was supposed to be for black and white movies!” Um…are we seriously supposed to believe that she never watches TV? “When the gay guy at the wedding hit on me you thought it was funny.” “Oh, this is not about the flirt. I didn’t like the flirt. But in fact you could dial up the flirt around here a little bit. I get TV and take out guy, but Bank of Madrid lady gets sparkle guy!” Carrie, what planet are you on? What do you think marriage is?! Marriage IS TV and take out! Grow the fuck up!!!!!!! AND after your husband got off the couch, got dressed up, went where you wanted to go, and now presumably hours later, he is not allowed to watch TV before bed? I know she is our “heroine,” MPK, but why are you making us despise her? Unless…you really don’t think we would agree with her right now, do you? You do see that she is an insane bitch right now, yes? YES!?
The next morning, Carrie goes to her old apartment to write (they kept it because it wasn’t exactly “a buyer’s market”). She stays the weekend to work/avoid her foolishness. She returns to a willing Big to make some kind of compromise. The thing adults do. But this is NOT what she had in mind.
Big suggests that they spend two days apart each week. She can get her writing done and he can watch his TV in peace. Then the other five days they would be totally committed and devoted to each other; to work on “the sparkle.” “Is this because I’m a bitch wife who nags you?” Yes, Carrie. Yes it is. He never would have made this suggestion at all if you didn’t fly off the goddamn handle because he wanted to watch a little TV in bed.
But they will have to discuss it further some other time because Carrie and the girls are off to Abu-Dhabi. You see, Samantha got invited to do some kind of PR work there, which is never fully explained because it is just a MacGuffin. The only proviso Samantha gave them is that she must be able to take her three best girlfriends with her, all expenses paid (incidentally, there is a Golden Girls episode, “The Case of the Libertine Belle,” where Blanche invites Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia to come away on a murder mystery weekend because three is just the magic number she needs to get the group rate at the hotel…).
The literary purpose of their trip is to attempt to illustrate some kind of women’s lib crap with these wild crazy American girls juxtaposing the rigidity of the burqa (at a karaoke bar they sing “I am Woman Hear Me Whine” oh, I mean “Roar”): Miranda is finally freed from the shackles of her misogynistic boss and is going to live!; Samantha will teach these women to embrace their sexuality (or get arrested trying); and Charlotte…well, Charlotte spends her entire trip trying to get phone service to check in that her husband isn’t cheating on her. So she’s beyond annoying. And wouldn’t you know it. Her hot, braless nanny is a lesbian. So she had nothing to worry about. Which if she had an ounce of self-esteem she would see she had nothing to worry about in the first place. This of course doesn’t teach Charlotte (or her fans) anything about being a modern woman except that being a stay-at-home-mom – one with a great husband and LIVE IN HELP – is so hard that you have to cry about it over cocktails.
The trip is also supposed to teach Carrie the things she must learn about marriage and that she actually has it pretty good at home. But not before she meets long lost love Aidan in the marketplace and makes out with him after dinner. And then, like a complete moron, calls Big, the first time they have spoken her whole trip, to tell him, “Hey I made out with Aidan. Please forgive me.”
Carrie. Carrie. Carrie. OK. If you are going to “cheat” as you put it – which let’s be absolutely clear, a kiss is hardly grounds to get somebody all worked up – this is information YOU KEEP TO YOURSELF. Telling the other person that you transgressed does nothing but alleviate your guilt and exacerbate a situation that your husband doesn’t even know existed, particularly when it happened on the other side of the world. What purpose does it serve telling Big????? None. The New Yorker WAS right. You should put a piece of tape over your mouth.
But without “cheating” on Big, she wouldn’t have learned the film’s most valuable lesson: that marriage is sometimes hard. And it is all about compromise.
And then Big, to always remind her that she is married, gives her a huge whopping diamond for all of her bad behavior, telling women everywhere, “Yes, I can be a cunt. And still get jewelry.”
My husband Julian would have a very difficult time sitting through this film because of what he would call “pretty, rich white kids with problems.” And I have to admit I agree with him. For some people, perhaps women, perhaps other gay men, Sex and the City and its ilk (ie soap operas, rom-coms, and other films of the wealthy in trouble) speak to them; the Vicarious Living clause that films almost demand we sign. But I am much more a pragmatist. With luxury comes privilege. And with privilege comes comfort. Rich people don’t have problems. They have issues. And it is very hard to feel sorry for people who create their own drama out of boredom. And if I am going to watch “pretty, rich white kids” particularly women with “problems” then goddamn it, you better learn something. You better not be rewarded with a fucking diamond ring after 2 hours and 20 minutes of being an annoying bitch.
Speaking of bitches, I am currently reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s book Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women and I am having a problem with its definition. The current definition, or at least the one that women are telling us, is that a bitch is just a man’s way of saying that a woman is too powerful and speaks her mind too much. That she should shut up and cook and clean and get on her back. Maybe straight men see you this way, but as a gay man, frankly, I – and I would venture to say our sub-culture as a whole – have survived by emulating this “bitch” mentality of all of the strong women who have come before. Bette. Joan. Judy. Madonna. Streisand. Cher. Midler. The Boss. It is why we place these women on a pedestal (and why hags flock to us…) Society has told us we are feminine; therefore, we look for strong women to idolize and imitate. To help us fasten our seat belts, express ourselves, and tell the world we are coming out and want the world to know it. We believe in life after love and will find our place over the rainbow because we are people, goddamn it. People who need motherfucking people; sorry, Elizabeth and Co. but I’m not buying it.
No, to be outspoken and passionate and equal to a man is not being a “bitch.” I would never define bitch as a woman who got too big for her britches. Being a bitch is being a horrible person. To engage in behavior that is unnecessarily volatile, manipulative, and hurtful. Like Carrie.
Sex and the City the series is rightfully famous. It is intelligent, witty, and possibly did more on a mainstream scale than all the years of Camille and Gloria and those trips to Mars and Venus to circulate the question “What Do Women Want?” But once we get to the second film of a TV series that has been off the air for six years, all of the cleverness, all of the evolution, all of the cutting edge bravado that made it a hit to begin with becomes stale and listless, leaving you wonder why they bothered in the first place. (Oh, that’s right. To make money. And to give Kim Cattrall something to do)
The most accidental piece of irony is that by setting the film in the Middle East with its large, broad attempts at making women seem independent and fabulous (even by dressing the Arabian women in the fall fashions under their burqas), Sex & the City 2, with its harrowingly shrewish leads and their terrible attitudes and self-righteous behavior actually make women look absolutely horrible and deserving of second-class citizenship.
Is Sex and the City 2 a Car Crash, Colonoscopy, Berkley, or Kardashian?
***A Bloody Four Car Pile Up with No Survivors***