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This is How We Do It

June 13, 2010

Before Sex and the City was a polarizing franchise, it was a book, clearly positioning itself as a glimpse inside the world of one particular columnist – Candace Bushnell – who wrote stories about her friends and her on again/off again relationship with a Bond villain-esque industrialist named “Mr. Big”. The book, while entertaining, wasn’t exactly hard hitting or especially noteworthy. I know this because I read the damn thing in one setting and quickly dismissed it as fluff and went about my business.

The television show was on the air for nearly four seasons before I decided to investigate why a mediocre book had been transformed into a hot show on a network I didn’t even get. I remember it was a sunny June afternoon and I was driving with my niece. We’d just come through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge en route to La Mommie’s house in VA. I heard a promo for the episode: Ring a Ding Ding where after breaking up with Aidan, Carrie discovers she’s also about to be booted out of her rent controlled apartment. Carrie says, “I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes.” and it made me laugh. More importantly, it made me intrigued. Who was this Carrie and why was she about to be rendered homeless?

The show proved to be far more entertaining than the book, with humorous storylines, wonderful reversal of fortunes for its leads and, of course, that gorgeous Chris Noth. More importantly, it seemed to be about four female friends who actually adored each other. Not in that bullshit way that females often do on other shows, where it’s more frienemy than friend, but like sisters.

Stumbling through the feminist landscape I rarely came across nuanced critiques of the show, instead hearing the same misogynist and problematic dismissals stated by others who I didn’t expect much from anyway. For the most part the critiques rang false and seemed to come from a very mean spirited, catty place – “a show about women who act like gay men written by men”. Um, maybe your season Six Part 2 disc came with some other special features, but mine came with one where a room full of women talked about how they brought their own experiences to the writing of the show. Then there was the ageist critiques, which largely went unexamined or the Family Guy, “Isn’t that a show about three hookers and their mom?” quip that didn’t seem to be enough to cause folks to go, “Wait a minute.”

What I have observed in the critiquing of SATC is the same thing I noticed when Kate Hudson allegedly got her boobs did – feminism is for all those pure of heart and noble of spirit women. It’s not for privileged people (ignoring the fact many of us are privileged in some areas) and it’s okay to throw those women under the bus because they’re just not as cool as us.

Uh uh. I don’t think so.

SATC has problems – lots of problems. Seriously, you do not have to mansplain that to the chubby brown girl. And legitimate critiques are welcome, but so-called feminists don’t get to pass off the nasty rhetoric lifted from others as criticism. More importantly, I just don’t care what people who don’t like the show think about its problematic elements. Here’s why.

Your critiques are embarrassingly captain obvious
Classism? Racism? You don’t say! I am shocked that a show featuring four white leads would have some elements that are racist and classist. Next you’ll probably tell me they’re heteronormative. Have you noticed this about Liz Lemon? What about Amy Poehler? Battlestar Galatica? Dr. Who? Bones? Oh wait, those are feminist sanctioned shows so we don’t have to notice their issues, only the shows we don’t like. Man, shut the fuck up. This is why I hate allies, slactivists and cheesy ass feminists. Always acting a fool in front of company. Hateration has never been recognized as legitimate feminist discourse. Hate it if you must, but own that.

I can tell you 25 things legitimately problematic with the show and 22 things wrong with film (besides the overly long running time, mediocre plot, racefail, tedious attempt at class analysis of mothering, disappointing wardrobe choices, wonky interior design and lack of LOLs) – no I’m not doing it. You’re smart. Do you own damn legwork – and none of those elements are ever touched on in the critiques I’ve read. Know why I can tell 25 things, CAUSE I LOVE THE SHOW. See why it’s important to critique shit you actually consume. Cause it makes you a better consumer. You’re not sticking your head in the sand championing some fucked up shit about ten minute after it’s clear to anyone with -isms the shit is fucked up. And then you have to barnstorm the airwaves with blog post after blog post positioning your show as “good with some problematic elements” or prop it up by comparing it to some FAR WORSE show.

I don’t have to do that. My show has problematic elements. All shows have problematic elements. You don’t get any cookies from me for playing gotcha activism. If I gave out cookies (I don’t) it would be for people digging through their own closets for dark secrets and not opening up my hamper and telling me all the clothes in there are dirty. Really, dirty clothes in a hamper? I’m shocked!

Nobody tells you the awful, painful and embarrassing truth like someone who loves you, knows you deeply and is honest about their own flaws. I didn’t learn that shit from Liz Lemon, Bones, Olivia Benson or President Stands With Fists.

I learned that shit from Carrie Bradshaw.

Fuck off.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2010 8:22 am

    This just made my effing morning. Funny and true.

  2. June 13, 2010 10:45 am

    You know, it’s not like the show doesn’t spend time acknowledging class issues. I can’t remember what episode, but Charlotte points out that there’s a huge class disparity between Miranda and Steve, and states that Miranda’s problems with him are largely based on her own classist issues. I could never stand Charlotte, but at that moment I wanted to hug the hell out of her.

    Keep your Chris Noth though, I’ll take a Ron Livingston and Kyle MacLachlan. Berger could be a prat, but he was hot.

    SATC is really easy to take potshots at, and when I’m in a rotten mood that can be more therapeutic than an actual day at the shooting range, but I find it more fun to look for the feminism in the show. Wedged in there between the Prada handbags and Manolos is a real examination of the way women negotiate for power in relationships and life. I don’t think I’ll ever see the movies, for me the show ended perfectly and anything after is just rom-com chow chow.

  3. June 13, 2010 11:17 am

    Man, I loved that show SO HARD when I was in college. Got me through finals, midterms, breakups. It got to the point where my now-husband can recite all the key lines to this very day, because I would play it in my dorm room. And then I took A Women’s Studies Class. For some reason ripping apart SATC was more important to the instructor than, I don’t know, any other show on TV? Gah. Because clearly we wimmins did not REALIZE how DESTRUCTIVE our watching SATC was to the cause of FEMINISM. Ahem. That was too many capslocks. Anyway.

    A million times YES on the problems with the “this is a show written by gay men playing dressup” critique. Wtf. Yes, the show has many problems. That, that is not one of them. And you know, I never could–and still can’t–afford any of the shit they wore in the show. That never really bothered me… (re: the rampant consumerism critique). I can’t time travel with a hot alien, either. Hello, escapism.

    I haven’t watched either of the two films because I wanted to leave the characters where they ended in my head.

  4. June 13, 2010 5:02 pm

    You know, it’s not like the show doesn’t spend time acknowledging class issues. I can’t remember what episode, but Charlotte points out that there’s a huge class disparity between Miranda and Steve, and states that Miranda’s problems with him are largely based on her own classist issues. I could never stand Charlotte, but at that moment I wanted to hug the hell out of her.

    Yes. Carrie said, “Okay, we get it Marie Antoinette.” I also remember Steve’s golden/burnt orange corduroy suit. Yeah. Miranda did not get the class thing and how it kind of locked her into dating dudes like the “Hey, I’m not getting science lecture from a man doing crop rotation on his forehead” guy or Steve. I always adored Steve. He was a much nicer guy than Miranda could have hoped for.

  5. June 13, 2010 5:50 pm

    You know what I also love about the show? It wasn’t afraid to show that schlubby dudes that actually have something going for them aren’t bad mates. Steve, Harry, Berger, they’re not Nice Guys™, but they’re interesting guys, men with something to say and some self confidence. I get tired of shows that are either about rewarding schlubby uninteresting guys with hot women, or about pairing good looking but shallow guys with similarly good looking women. Aidan was a complete snore fest for me, I felt like he should have had a “no diving” sign hung around his neck for how shallow his character was. Nice to look at, good for a fun weekend, but don’t give him your real phone number. I never understood why Charlotte was so baffled about her attraction to Harry, because really…yum! Maybe I have a bias, I always fall for interesting but dorky looking men.

    Sorry, I’ve been a little man-crazy since spring.

  6. June 13, 2010 6:19 pm

    I never understood why Charlotte was so baffled about her attraction to Harry, because really…yum! Maybe I have a bias, I always fall for interesting but dorky looking men.

    Omg, Harry is my version of “McDreamy”

  7. June 13, 2010 7:27 pm

    I love Harry. I mean, my first JewCrush ™ was on Jeff Goldblum, but Harry is def in the running.

    They also handled Charlotte’s conversion surprisingly well, and I’m saying that as someone who converted Conservative. That scene with the rabbi? (Hello, I’m interested in joining the Jewish faith… / We’re not interested!) Hah! The scene where Harry eats pork? I have had this conversation. This *exact* conversation.

  8. June 13, 2010 8:25 pm

    In agreement with this – I almost never critique things I don’t like a lot because it’s painful to accurately critique things I hate.

    And I also love SATC, I wish they still had late night reruns on the CW (preceded by KOTH and followed by South Park) in my area. Now it’s just 2.5 Men. Problematic, but no fun.

  9. June 13, 2010 9:27 pm

    2.5 Men is a show I do not understand. I don’t understand why it’s still on the air when its lead (despite being a raised properly Sheen) acts a fool, roughs up women and can’t stay away from the sauce when it’s no good for him. He’s got to go.

  10. June 14, 2010 2:01 am

    My favorite dude on there had to be David Duchovny in the mental hospital. I mean, yes, he had issues, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be in a relationship! Plus he’s David fucking Duchovny.

  11. June 14, 2010 2:02 am

    Also, should I spend the 10 bucks to see it or just wait for the DVD? My money’s on waiting for the DVD.

  12. June 14, 2010 2:21 am

    Wait for the DVD. You’ll enjoy it more. It’s a realllly long film.

  13. June 16, 2010 1:20 am

    The main problem with the movie was this: I did not see Steve’s incredibly perfect ass EVEN ONCE. Traumatizing.

  14. June 16, 2010 3:46 pm

    Seriously, Chriso. I love me some Steve, gold corduroy suit and all.

  15. Leah permalink
    June 20, 2010 11:28 pm

    I just have to say that this post is *brilliant*.

    I, for one, am so sick of people dishing out these canned critiques of things. For me they seem more concerned with demonstrating that the person dishing them isn’t sexist, racist, etc. etc., than in engaging in any interesting discussion. I happen to not fucking like Sex and the City so I don’t watch it and I certainly don’t impose some canned critiques that would apply equally to all the shows I like to people who do like SitC who, being my intelligent friends, *already understand those things*. The critiques I have of the stuff I DO like, as you say, are so much more interesting, numerous, and nuanced. Oh, and, importantly, not entirely tedious to listen to and read. Because when you talk about something you love (without some tedious paranoia that you will be deemed x-ist for liking something, hence your “with some problematic elements” point) you generally find all sortsa shit in it that may not even explicitly be about xyz-ism YET has more interesting potential applications than anything that explicitly does!

  16. June 21, 2010 12:27 am

    @Leah. Thank you! I have a friend who adores, adores, adores Deadwood, a show I desperately want to love, but haven’t had a ton of time to watch. Her deconstruction of these sexist, bigoted, smack talking gritty douchebags is amazing. I know every plot point and story arc, because it’s been nearly as much fun listening to her call those janky ass cowboys out as it has been watching a few episodes. Man, that’s a rough patch of road, that Deadwood. I also want to make babies with Ian McShane!

    I tend to judge shows by their fanbase, moreso than the content. I mean let’s face it – who are you gonna spend more time with: the fans or the creators of a show? The former, most likely and if you’re lucky, maybe the latter. So it’s important for those fans not to be chuckleheads. I tend to be a lot more amenable to new shows than folks would probably give me credit for, but for the most part, fans who seem unable to acknowledge the aspects of their shows (particularly folks who position themselves as “allies”) which might be hurtful, offensive or problematic to others – despite not being viewed that way by them – really work my last nerve and I punish their shows for the ignorance displayed by their fans.

  17. Leah permalink
    June 23, 2010 1:18 am

    @SnarkysMachine I tend to judge non-reality TV shows on the presence of supernatural phenomenon (excluding vampires) + interesting human interaction. I’m not sure why – I don’t ask this from movies or books! In any case, I personally would love a show about genuine female friends who like, hunted ghosts and wore cool clothes. If “Sex in the City” was “Sex in the Haunted House” I would totally watch it!

    But yeah I totally agree with you.

  18. June 23, 2010 2:13 am

    If “Sex in the City” was “Sex in the Haunted House” I would totally watch it!

    I’d definitely watch a show like that too! I love the paranormal. Actually, give me characters, writing and plots I find interesting and I’ll watch a show about anything. Hell, I watch cops shows where all the cops do is bitch about paperwork and occasionally put a drunken individual in the “drunk tank”.

    That Barney Miller’s one helluva drug!

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