So, like many of you (you may not like to admit it, but box office numbers... they do not lie), I went, of my own free will and volition, to see Sex and the City 2. In the theater. On opening night. Even though I knew, for a fact, that I would find it intensely, "having surgery without anesthestic" painful. Even though I had passionately hated the first film, and knew from my anxious, peering-through-my-fingers viewing of the previews that the second one promised to be even worse. (When a bit in which the leads make jokes about hot flashes when they are riding on camels through the desert (because, get it, THE DESERT IS HOT) in the bloody previews, you know you're in for quite the bumpy ride. [Insert obvious joke about how riding on camels through the desert is also quite the bumpy ride here.] Even though I knew, from having read all the unvaringly vitrolic reviews that this would quite possibly prove to be one of the worst films of the twenty-first century.
I knew it all, and yet still, I slapped on a little black dress, and sat myself down in an uncomfortable movie theater seat at darkest midnight, and prepared for two and a half hours of no-holds-barred mental torture. I was a lamb to the slaughter. A willing victim, leaning in towards the sacrificial knife, throat submissively bared. I shelled out fifteen of my hard earned dollars (not counting the candy I also needed to purchase to comfort myself through my terror and my tears) to see a film which I knew, with a certainty as sure as death and taxes, that I would whole-heartedly despise.
So... why did I go? Why did I reward Hollywood's crass desire to make buckets and buckets of shining cash rather than maintain any kind of creative integrity with, well, some of my very own shining cash?
Because I loved the show, you see. Loved it, I say. It made me laugh, made me cry, the whole racket. Living in a pop culture in which Bridget Jones and her clones were all too often the most positive representations of single womanhood out there (and I actually like the Bridget Jones books, as well, but that's a story for another blog), SATC felt like a tremendous breath of fresh air. Yes, the show was massively, hugely, vastly problematic. (Unquestioned race and class privilege up the ying-yang, unsettling portrayals of The Gays and transgendered folks, and yes, even troubling representations of the straight single ladies... I could go on... and rest assured, I certainly will do so.)
But still. It was one of the first TV shows to look the myth of Happily Ever After and Prince Charming dead in the eye and say, "Huh. I'm not so sure about that, actually. Could it be that maybe love isn't easy... or the answer to everything? That you don't actually automatically know when someone is 'The One'? Could it be that there actually is no such person as this perfect, flawless 'One' who is "holding the key to your heart and your dream house"?
The show took the dreary, lazy conventions about how romance narratives were supposed to go - about what romantic comedies were supposed to look like - and spun them like tops. In the movies, when a woman gets proposed to by a man she loves, she is all smiles, tears, and uncomplicated joy. In the series, when Carrie gets proposed to by a man she loves, she throws up, breaks out in a rash, and ends up trashing a wedding dress which eventually winds up in a dumpster.
I loved that darned show, I tell you.
Sometimes, it can be embarrassing to admit this. "You of ALL PEOPLE," one of my friends said to me, when I told her I had raced off to see the second movie. "You of ALL PEOPLE! Wasn't that show all about chasing men, and how every woman needs a rich husband and painfully pointy shoes to be happy? Why would YOU want to watch THAT? You of ALL PEOPLE, what with your thrift store shoes (which other people have worn, in case you'd forgotten, which is VILE) and your ringless ring finger and your Women's Studies books piled all over your house - I DO NOT GET IT."
"Oh, I get it," said another friend, when I made the same obligatory confession to her. "It's like a guilty pleasure thing, right? It's like me and Gossip Girl. I watch my crap because Blake Lively is super, super hot, and they're always putting her in short shorts--you watch your crap because you like to fantasize that freelance writers get paid enough to live on 73rd Street and buy designer clothes!"
Not to contradict my friends--lovely people, my friends--but I don't think that they have it quite right. Because the truth is, when it comes right down to it, I don't think of loving SATC as some kind of illicit anti-feminist act which I secretly engage in on the sly, like reading Sarah Palin memoirs or cutting out Ronald Reagan paper dolls. ("And now, you're properly dressed to erode women's reproductive rights and to smite the gays--and TO DANCE!") I don't think of loving the show as a guilty pleasure which I, as a happily single feminist, have to hang my head in shame for enjoying.
Feminist ideals have been central to my thinking and my life ever since I clutched those first, beloved Women's Studies textbooks to my tender young heart when I was a slip of a college girl. Feminism is not only the center of my work (I teach Women's and Gender Studies classes, lucky devil that I am) but also of my principles and my ideals (no offense, Presbyterianism, now that you've ditched pre-destination, you're a swell belief system, too!) And, surely, I was right to think that the show (while not being unambiguously, card-carryingly, "I read Feministing every day" feminist) actually did have many elements to warm the heart even of an ardently feminist spinster like myself.
So, over the days and weeks which are to come, I am firing up my DVD player, and sitting down to rewatch the entire series. All of it, from soup to nuts. Everything from Carrie sporting leopard print and dark roots in Season One, to her traipsing around Paris in approximately two tons of tulle in Season Six. I will not even spare myself the episode where she inadvertently becomes a sex worker for a night, or the one where they all go to the Playboy Mansion for a pool party (cue Hugh Hefner looking like a leather muppet in an ascot!), I swear. And won't you, dear reader, come along and take this journey with me? After all, it can't be anywhere near as painful as the movies. (You saw them, admit it, I know you did.)