Wednesday, January 02, 2008

When Barbies ruled the Earth...

The trouble with a life that includes no premium cable channels is that inevitably one is forced to gripe about a TV show ten years after its relevance has ended and it’s finally come out in syndication. Such is the case with “Sex and the City,” a show I’ve just now experienced, thanks to being trapped on an elliptical machine four times a week at a gym that shows only TBS and the Food Channel. (Just a quick aside here – who’s the psychopath who turns on the Food Channel while they’re working out? Is it a cry for help, or a terrible joke that the skinny people play on those of us desperately seeking girth reduction? Either way, it’s troubling.)

Anyway, back to my late-breaking diatribe, which I like to call “Sex and the City: Why, God, Why?” So I’ve seen maybe four or five episodes now, and I don’t understand how any of it is supposed to be entertaining. Watching it, I just feel ashamed, as though I want to turn around to every guy in the gym and say, “Honestly, not all of us are like that.” One episode I saw the other night involved Sarah Jessica Parker’s character getting picked up by a Hollywood agent played by Vince Vaughen. He took her out to lunch and then to his new $3.4 million home. After he told her the price of the property, she pounced on him like a cougar on a pork roast. Later, she gets woken up by an angry Carrie Fisher asking what they’re doing in her bed. Turns out, the guy was just a lowly personal assistant, not a high-powered agent. But the first thing Parker’s character asks him is whether or not lied to her about the money and the house. There’s no indignation that he lied to bed her. There’s only indignation that he lied about being rich.

And that’s my basic problem with much of the show – the way it turns romance into a commercial transaction, i.e., you can have me in exchange for that shiny new toy. All of the “Sex and the City” women seem to be looking for the richest man, the best looking man, the man who can buy her the biggest ring or the most luxurious fur. I’m sure I’m missing important plot points here – I have friends who like this show, so I’m assuming there’s depth here that I’m just not catching. But honestly, how can any self-respecting woman condone the behavior of these characters? Is it supposed to be parody, or am I supposed to feel empathy for these women? If it’s the latter, then I guess this is just another honking huge clue that I’m a black sheep in the American sisterhood flock. I don’t see anything glamorous or exciting or magical about these women’s lives. In fact, if I knew them in real life, I think I’d just feel sorry for them. And also wonder which of them carried a contagion, but that’s neither here nor there.

And so ends my culturally-obsolete fist shaking. Tune in next decade when I share my thoughts on “Deadwood” and why large-thighed men rarely look good in chaps.

20 comments:

Dana Detrick-Clark from Serious Vanity Music said...

Sing it! I always felt like I was alone in missing something about the mystique of this show. For fun, try envisioning it with Lili Taylor, Parker Posey, Tina Fey, and time travelling Carol Burnett. A better time will be had by all!

onepinkshoe said...

Yeah, you can't really judge the show based on 4 or 5 episodes (or any show, really). It's not about getting laid and finding rich guys, it's about the friendship between the four women, and the guys are secondary to everything else.

cubicalgirl said...

I used to hate this show, too, until I found an episode that changed my mind. Carrie is attending a baby shower and has her expensive designer shoes stolen from the communal pile (it's one of those houses where you can't walk on the carpet in shoes). The hostess, when finally guilted into replacing the shoes, balks at the price tag because she, as a mother, has more important things to spend her money on (like her kids) and poor, childless Carrie couldn't possibly know what it's like to have responsibilities and behave like an adult. Carrie ultimately comes to terms with the fact that she's not living her life the way women are expected to (get married and pop out kids), and that her choices are just as valid. As a childfree woman, that episode really spoke to me. While I have noting against women who want to be mothers, it's just not for me and it's tough being told from many sides that you aren't responsible, you're selfish, or you aren't a "real woman" because you don't choose to live your life a certain way. I found it really refreshing to see this addressed on TV and to see Carrie be proud of herself and her life choices.

Yeah, there's a lot of that tacky drive to be trendy and get money and be fabulous in the show, but I think by the end of the series, all the women really do change and realize there's more to life than hot clubs. They get to know themselves and become comfortable living their lives in a way that they never would have accepted at the beginning of the series. I think that's how we all develop. I'm not the same woman I was at 21, and I'm sure I won't be the same woman when I'm 41. To see that reflected on TV and get to watch some women figuring it out for themselves was a really cool experience.

Liz said...

Cubicalgirl, it's good to know that there are episodes like that out there. I was just so disheartened with what seemed to be a pattern with the show. But it's good to know that it gets deeper and starts delving into some more emotional issues rather than just skimming along on the surface the way it seemed to be.

Liz said...

Now a show with Lili Taylor, Parker Posey, Tina Fey and Carol Burnett, I could totally get in to. If their friend Mary Tyler Moore could stop in every now and again, I'd be hooked.

Liz said...

Onepinkshoe, you're right about judging it on four or five episodes. (That's usually one of the things I hate about TV critics.) I just kept seeing a pattern. Maybe I've been catching on a down cycle. From what CubicalGirl says, it sounds like things get better.

God knows, I'll be on that elliptical machine long enough to find out. :-)

Tara said...

I haven't seen much of the show, but I was always of the impression that most of the humor came from the fact that it was a program about scoundrels.

There are plenty of "lovable" bad-boy characters in the history of popular entertainment, whether it's Tim Allen paying more attention to his power tools than to his wife, or The Fonz strutting around with a different two or three girls every episode. Sex in the City is, in a weird way, a feminist anthem show, because the female leads, rather than being "Practically Perfect In Every Way", are allowed to be flawed and human.

SFG said...

I think it's a common female fantasy of living in a glamorous place (Manhattan) and bedding rich and powerful men. I wouldn't get too upset over it. Do you think your hubby gets upset over the existence of the Gor novels?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Park Bench. I have watched bits and pieces of this show over the years and believe she hit the nail right on the head. There is no deeper message in Sex and the City. How is a bunch of women going around they way they do good for "feminism"? It portrays women in a light I would not find attractive. Gold diggers, ugly, stupid, whiny, and gold diggers. I do not need my women to want to be a mom and buy sensibly priced shoes, I want my woman to be a normal human being with some moral compass and a less materialistic attitude. I want my women to enjoy a cute handmade gift rather than a $5K tennis bracelet.

Scrap Irony said...

Well, you can feel up to date since there's going to be a Sex and the City movie this summer.

agent57 said...

I too think that the show is being judged pretty harshly, and that you can't really get a good idea of it from "four or five episodes" or "bits and pieces". If you watch the whole thing and see how the characters and plot turn out, it doesn't really support your idea that they're all shallow gold-diggers. At least give it more of a chance! Also, the TBS episodes are noticeably content-edited, since the show was originally on HBO. I don't know if the edited content would interest you more or less, though.

And honestly... I think SitC really does have heart and stuff, (sometimes it makes me cry >_>) but the idea that shows always need a "deeper meaning" rather annoys me. Sometimes you just want to watch something for the witty dialogue and fabulous and or tacky outfits. I guess that's personal preference, though.

Dylan said...

If you watch a bit more, I think you'll become fond of Miranda as a character; she's career-focused and a little neurotic, and while she engages in loopy flings, she's still a pretty down-to-earth person who has to deal with the benefits and downsides of being a very independent woman.

Her primary relationship over the course of the show is a pretty good examination of some class, gender, and interpersonal issues.

Liz said...

Dylan, I think Miranda's the one character I do find interesting. She seems more contemplative than the others plus I like Cynthia Nixon as an actress.

Liz said...

Agent 57, I totally agree that shows shouldn't always have to have a deeper meaning. (Hey, I get teary eyed at The Biggest Loser so I'm definitely on board with that.) I might just be taking my general cultural rage out on this show. I have such a problem these days with how commerce has crept into personal relationships, that money is now used as a bench mark of how much someone cares about someone else. For example, that sweet 16 show or whatever it's called on MTV, where basically young girls are allowed to behave like small monsters just to coerce money out of their (willing) parents to impress their friends. Or that Cadillac commercial where the woman's driving along and she basically says, last year my husband got me an expensive crappy gift so this year I made him buy me this even more expensive, gas guzzling cadillac cross-over to prove he deserves me. And it seems like the world just says, OK, why not?

I guess that one scene I described from Sex and the City really just got my goat. But as you mentioned, you can't judge something from four or five episodes. I know I'd be upset if someone dismissed West Wing by saying, "I don't like liberal politicians" or something like that. So I can totally see what you're saying.

Besides, like I said above, I'll be watching plenty more of this show as I grind away the hours on that elliptical machine. Who knows? I might even come to like it. After all, I used to avoid the West Wing just because I didn't like Martin Sheen (who I would now like to adopt as an Uncle). :-)

srah said...

I only like Miranda, but Miranda is enough to make me watch the show when the TV is already on and I have nothing better to do.

Well, Miranda and Steve.

clockworkmonkey said...

I think you can make some judgements about a show if you watch four or five full episodes, actually. If those episodes are all sending the same negative message, there's a problem.

You can't assume everyone else is going to keep watching past the crap until they eventually get to better ideas later on. If you see the negativity over and over, you can be sure plenty of other people are going to only be getting the negative messages from this show too.

Spending five hours with a bad show is giving it plenty of chances.

Mickie Poe said...

Liz, thank you for saying the controversial thing about Barbies Ruling the Earth. I've seen enough of Sex in the City to know it's not for me. America's Next Top Model is just about all the superficiality I can enjoy. OK, and Entertainment Tonight...and Scrubs, of which I'm the only remaining fan in the nation.

prettypants said...

I'm with onepinkshoe-- I love sex and the city because it's more a show about the lasting relationships among the women-- having guys to buy dinner and shiny things for them is all well and good, but at the end of the day, it's the four of them. Much more fulfilling love story than most of those that both Kim Cattrall and myself have experienced, I'm sure.

Rachel said...

You're right on the money. I've seen a lot of Sex In the City and I can tell you, it's just not that great a show. It's *not* about four women celebrating their friendship--it's about four archetypes of pathologically selfish women spitting out the same formula weekly.

I agree with others who say Cynthia Nixon is the best part of the show, but even then, if you could see the ridiculous story lines they give her! Like when she slipped in the tub and hurt herself (only to be rescued by Carrie's awesome boyfriend Aidan, since Carrie was too busy being a bad friend), or got braces, or all these humiliating things that I guess are supposed to make a funny, career-driven woman seem less intimidating.

I don't know. I have problems with the show but I watch it anyway when nothing's on. I suspect I just like complaining about it. ;)

bshensky said...

S&TC is NYC escapism, pure and simple. And it sucks ass in its 30-minute form on TBS - watching it in its more epic one-hour form made for much better drama back when it ran on HBO.

I frequently watched it with my wife when it was on HBO and it was usually pretty entertaining even if a little gaudy. I can't stand seeing it on TBS, though.

Ironically, IMO the show says more about NYC on the whole than it does about the women that live there. There's a Manhattan trophy wives' reality show on one of the cable stations that really makes S&TC look rather quaint.