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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Me and Sex and the City: A Love-Hate Relationship

A Brief History

I haven’t been to a screening yet of Sex and the City: The Movie and it’s not just because I haven’t been invited, but because I would never miss the opportunity to see this on the big screen with a throngs of frenzied women and the ingenious ways in which they snuck cosmos into the theater (and because my girlfriend is making me). But the truth of the matter is that my arm doesn’t need to get twisted for me to see this film; in fact, I’ve been eagerly anticipating seeing a filmed version of this television show ever since it went off the air four years ago. I definitely could use a dose of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte as much as anybody. I’m not afraid to say that I’m a man who enjoys watching Sex and the City and have enjoyed it for quite a long time.

You see, when Sex and the City first aired on HBO in 1998 I was just a fifteen year old, slightly awkward (okay, extremely awkward) kid who was astounded that I would suddenly have the ability to watch a show where women would talk candidly about sex. I was sure they’d add a little plot in there as well, but I was definitely persuaded to watch by the idea of watching four ravishing women discuss the finer points of something I knew nothing about. For a fifteen year old struggling to understand the fairer sex, it seemed like watching this show couldn’t help but hasten my growth to being a better and more understanding man. At the very least, I figured I would learn a few inside pointers about the inner workings of the minds and bodies of females.

The thing that surprised me after watching the first few episodes was that while sex was indeed the predominant conversation between the women, there was this nugget about the nature of female friendship that would later grow to be the backbone of the show. It surprises me every time I go back to those first few episodes, how shrewd the creators were to craft the story of the show not around sex, per se, but around the idea of four female friends. I would go on to watch every single episode during the show’s run multiple times and have since seen every episode more than twice each on DVD; it was always something that I felt comfortable throwing on before going to sleep at night, something light and fanciful that would also allow me to see some great location shots of my city, New York.

As I got older, my relationship with the show changed and by the time the finale came along, my view on the girls and the nature of the show itself had been turned on its head – and I’ll get into that in greater detail later – but my prevailing emotion when I watched Carrie Bradshaw walk down a busy Manhattan street, talking on the phone to Mr. Big and wearing a ridiculous dress was one of utter deflation: it can’t really be over, could it? For the truth of the matter was that despite all my issues with the show, it was such a constant during the single greatest period of growth in my life (ages 15-21) and one of the most interesting periods in American history (both pre- and post-9/11); whatever your feelings or my feelings about Sex and the City, it was a landmark show both personally and collectively.

Betraying Itself

But there are a lot of profound problems with the show, starting with its betrayal of its own premise: it purports to be about four single thirty-somethings who don’t necessarily eschew relationships in general, but find that they don’t need a man to prove their worth. At the end of the series, each woman has settled down with wealthy or handsome men (and in Carrie’s case, both). Sure, maybe these gals didn’t love their beaus because of their wealth or their looks, but they sure were wealthy or they sure were good looking. The central thesis of the show is thus deflated by the final bow, which essentially says: sure, you can be happy on your own but it is better to have someone who can buy you shoes instead of buying them yourself. It’s a problem that Carrie spends so much time in the last few episodes being flown to Paris and put up in a hotel room, none of which she is paying for. And it’s a problem that while in Paris, there are so many scenes of her by herself looking miserable, desperate for the companionship of her boyfriend when we’ve been told throughout the six seasons of the show that it’s perfectly okay to be alone in a big city.

Therein is the central betrayal of the show’s original conceit; when Sex and the City first aired, Carrie Bradshaw was an independent, self-made woman. She didn’t make a ton of money writing her column, but she was able to pay rent and support her very expensive shoe habit and sure, she supplemented her income by allowing handsome men to take her out on dates. But you can see in the beginning episodes of the show that it wants badly to be a modern feminist take on life for women in the Big Apple; they can have the same freedom as a man does by not only leaving the morning after, but paying their own cab fare home. It’s nice to see them all have happy endings, sure, but it would have been more in keeping with the show’s theme if the four gals just had each other in the end; if, in fact, their friendships were the relationships that lasted. Instead, the last shots in the finale have them all going their separate ways with their separate men.

Samantha the Fantasy

While Camille Paglia might see the show as a feminist proclamation, I’m sure even she would take umbrage with Samantha belying her very nature to settle down with a handsome boy-toy. The argument is that Smith, her boyfriend, nurses her through a very scary breast cancer ordeal and warms her heart to the point where she will become monogamous; but that would mean accepting that these characters are human beings and not constructions used to make a point. I would say that, yes, these characters have a lot of human qualities to them but when a real-world problem like money or cancer threatens their lives or livelihood, it is hard to swallow because so much of the show is pure fantasy.

That is not to say that fantasy is a bad thing, but you don’t want to read a fairy tale and have the unicorn die of leprosy; no, you want the unicorn to fly, or whatever it is that unicorns do. The point being: Samantha’s character is a fantastical extrapolation of what a woman’s life could potentially be if she eschewed relationships with men in favor of casual sex. She also happens to be a world-class PR gal that is as much a tiger in the boardroom as she is in the bedroom. Is it possible this kind of woman exists? Yes, of course. But Samantha is designed as a character for a television show and isn’t a real person and what she was designed for was to be the logical conclusion of a life built around freedom and drive (both career-wise and sexual). She is like the female Gordon Gekko, except she would be more apt to say, “sex…is good.”

The bottom line is that to have that character settle down, no matter what the reason, takes away the fantasy that the show has created. It takes that option away from the multitudes of women who watched the show and thought to themselves, “wow, I wish I could be more like Samantha,” and instead reduces them to saying, “wow, I wish I had a boyfriend like Samantha’s.”

Miranda Rights

Whenever anybody asks me who my favorite Sex and the City character is, I’m always met with shock by men and women alike when I say, “obviously Miranda.” The men and the women both gasp when I say this because she’s not the most conventionally attractive of the four women, which of course is subjective, and also because she appears to some as the most cold or career-oriented. Perhaps it has to do with my being raised by a single mother, but I find Miranda to not only be my favorite character on the show, but the only character of the four ladies that I feel is a human being.

Perhaps the most touching episode in the show’s entire run is the one in which Miranda’s mother passes away. Of course her three friends make the funeral all about themselves in varying ways (Carrie answers the phone early in the morning and babbles about herself for two minutes before thinking to ask, “what’s up with you?” This, of course, is typical of her.) But there is the scene in the dressing room when Miranda has to buy a black bra for her mother’s funeral and she is so befuddled and angry and upset when the store clerk suggests a different bra size Miranda breaks down crying. It is the single most human moment in the entire show because not only is this one of the few times when Miranda’s strong façade gives way to something more fragile inside, but because it is believable. Cynthia Nixon does such a great job of portraying this character that there are hints early on in the show’s run that Miranda’s tough skin belies her tender heart.

There are scenes throughout the show where Miranda rants and raves and pushes Steve and other men away for fear of being vulnerable, of allowing people in too close, of giving people the opportunity to hurt her; but what is beautiful about her is that once she lets you in, she lets you all the way in – as evidenced by her caring for Steve’s mother in the final season. She loves this man so much that she is willing to take care of his mother, who is suffering from dementia, washing her and taking care of her like a baby even though she has one of her own and her husband is child-like. She doesn’t complain about the fact that she has three people to take care and nobody to really take care of her, she just accepts this as part of the life she chose.

If Samantha is the “fantasy,” then what Miranda represents is the care-giver, the one who is reliable and steadfast, the one who doesn’t run away just because things get tough. She signed up to be with Steve through thick and thin and as a result, she takes care of kids, dogs, parents, moves to Brooklyn and still makes time for her friends and her job. Miranda isn’t a fantasy, though; she is representative of most women who want to have it all – the career, the family, the friends, the house – and make it work because to not have those things to care for and take care of would be too much to bear. And that is why I love Miranda.

Charlotte’s Web

To me, Charlotte is probably the most one-note character of the whole gang and I’m not sure if it’s just the way she is written or the way in which Kristin Davis plays the character, but there is very little growth from Charlotte. If anything else, Charlotte regresses throughout the series, becoming more shrill as the episodes wear on. Charlotte is representative of the woman who has a fantasy: big house, summer house in Bridgehampton, hunky hubby, perfect Anglo child, etc. Sure, this gets subverted somewhat when she meets Harry, a bald (gasp!) Jew (double gasp!) and falls in love, but it doesn’t change the person that she is, it merely changes who she is with. Charlotte, of course, is the virginal (please), conservative WASP who always believes the glass if half-full and tries to keep a good head on her shoulders despite living in the big, bad city.

The one scene in which Charlotte bares her body and soul to the audience (and to herself) is when she stands before her first husband Trey (Kyle MacLachlan), naked. He has erectile issues and doesn’t really think too much about it, hoping to bathe his bride in material objects to mask his own failures as a husband. Charlotte finally breaks out of her shell and shows him her naked body and says that this is who she is, that she’s a sexual creature and her husband would have to accept that. And he does accept that, for that episode.

The problem with that scene – and it’s a touching one – is that we’re expecting this to be a big breakthrough for Charlotte, that she’ll finally realize that she is, in fact, a sexual being just like her friends. But in the next episode, she reverts back to the uptight princess that she always was. It’s only when she meets Harry that she accepts her sexual nature and even then, it’s kind of a strange message to send to the audience that a woman can only accept her own sexuality through a man. Charlotte, of course, has many sexual encounters through the course of the show but it takes one man to show her that there’s nothing wrong with herself.

And then…of course, she marries Harry and we no longer see them as sexual people. They revert into sitcom clichés of what married life is like (he walks around naked and leaves a mess everywhere!) and perhaps this is more truthful, but immediately Charlotte becomes a homemaker who wants nothing but to have children. And while it’s true that Charlotte has wanted children since the beginning of the show, it’s a shame that she is never allowed to fully explore herself the way the other characters do.

The best example of this is when Charlotte has a miscarriage and is unable to leave the house because she is in such a state of depression. She then watches the E! True Hollywood Storyof Elizabeth Taylor and is miraculously cured of all her ills, which not only trivializes losing a pregnancy but also makes the character of Charlotte seem woefully naïve. Sure her naivety is part of the Sex and the City universe and is responsible for a lot of the joy of watching the show, but it would have been nice if the writers let her be a real person.

Carrie, I Can’t Help But Wonder…

Clearly, I saved the most important – and most galling – character for last and I want to be clear about this when I write it, so I’m going to be quite blunt: Carrie Bradshaw is the worst human being ever. Hyperbole? Sure, but there’s a lot of truth to that statement and it has very little to do with how much Carrie has affected women all over New York City (I swear if I see one more dress with a bushy tail on it…) and everything to do with how she treats her friends on the show.

I’m not sure if this was Sarah Jessica-Parker’s intention when she created the character of Carrie Bradshaw, but my overarching feeling when I look back on all of the episodes is that she is a selfish, self-centered opportunist with no regard for anybody else. She is the worst kind of “independent” woman, who loses herself in every relationship she becomes involved in and loses touch with all of her friends every time she enters into one of those relationships. Not only that, but every time her friends have a real problem (whether it’s Miranda’s mother dying, Steve having testicular cancer, Charlotte getting divorced or married), she trumps them by telling them about whatever ridiculous sexual escapade she has gotten involved with. It’s always, “yeah, that’s sad you’re getting divorced Charlotte, but the really important news is that I had the best orgasm ever!”

More than that, Carrie further belittles all of her friends’ problems by writing about them in her column. Of course, she writes about herself as well but I wonder why her friends stick around when she continually makes judgments about them and their lovers in the newspaper. She claims to be trying to help and lend an ear when her friends want to vent, but then she takes that information and splashes it in black and white print for all to see.

One of the things that really upset me most about Carrie was towards the end of the show’s run, when she is dating the Russian artist Aleksandr Petrovsky. Carrie has just found out that Samantha has breast cancer and is shaken up by it (of course, it’s all about her) and Aleksandr tells her that he once had a friend who died of breast cancer. This causes Carrie to become irrationally angry that he would think to bare his soul about a close friend of his who died because it affects her and makes her think maybe her friend might be in danger. She wanted him to tell her that everything would be fine, which would be impossible for him to do without being a doctor or knowing the situation, and gets pissy with him when he even suggests that breast cancer is dangerous and he has experience, knowing somebody who fought the battle and lost. What this episode proves is that 1) Carrie is self-absorbed, but we knew that and 2) she doesn’t want a real relationship that is based on honesty and communication. No, she wants a relationship that is based on her partner constantly doting on her and telling her that the world is full of nothing but rainbows and lollipops. I wonder if the situation was reversed if anyone would take comfort in the empty assurances Carrie gives herself, that everything will be fine even though she doesn’t know that for a fact.

It’s a problem that Carrie is a materialist too, but that is more of a societal issue because women look up to her and see her as something of an icon or role model and it’s even touched upon in the episode where Samantha does the PR for the rich girl’s Bat Mitzvah. Carrie and her girls are sitting and having lunch in a chic restaurant and they are sent a bottle of champagne by these thirteen year olds, who then come over and declare that Carrie is “fucking fabulous.” It’s an interesting moment for the show because in the years to come, that is exactly what a lot of young women watching the show think about Carrie and they try to emulate her style and her attitude. It’s amazing that some of the show’s most ardent supporters are women under the age of majority. I suppose it’s not the show’s fault, but if I were the producers I would wonder why my show about thirty-something women – and especially my main character – appeals so strongly to teenage girls.

New York City

One of the most intriguing relationships on the show is the one that the girls have with the city it is set in. What is intriguing to me – a lifelong New Yorker – about this is that it looks nothing like the city I live in. Sure, sometimes it looks like a better one, a more beautiful one, but more often than not it is frustrating to see Carrie’s apartment which is supposed to be uptown even though it is clearly shot in the West Village. What this shows me is that the show has little regard for people who actually live in New York because the show is not for them; instead, the show is for everyone who doesn’t live in New York.

Once again, the show is packaging a fantasy to those who don’t know any better, telling them that New York City is a rough and tumble place where magical things can happen. Sure, this might be true, but it’s no more true in my wonderful city than it is in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, etc. But the show doesn’t say that you should appreciate the places you are, it tells you that if you really want to make it, you should move to New York because that’s where the fabulous restaurants, clubs and men are. And now I have to deal with “Sex and the City Tours” in my neighborhood, so thanks a lot guys.


So the movie is coming out this weekend and believe it or not, I’m really stoked to see it and if you’ve gotten the impression that I hate the show from the previous two thousand words, then you’d be wrong. The fact that this show is able to stir such emotions in me is a credit to how well done it is. Sure, I think it shoots itself in the foot often and deflates its own ideas, but the character are still compelling after all these years and I still can’t wait to see what happens in the upcoming movie.

That being said, I think the mere fact that they are making a movie at all is kind of ridiculous. The show ends on such a perfect note – albeit one that I’ve said betrays the nature of the program – and gives the characters the happy ending that the fans so desperately wanted for them that in order to craft a plot for a movie, it would almost certainly involve creating false issues. In other words, the girls all got their happy ending, so we’re going to tear that apart so we can give you a new happy ending.

One thing that really struck me as odd from watching the preview (and this is a potential spoiler I suppose, even though I haven’t seen the film) is that it seems as though one of the plot strands will involve Steve cheating on Miranda. Now, anybody who has ever watched the show will find that possibility absurd on its face; this is something that Steve would simply never do. The television show spent years focusing on the fact that Steve is so utterly devoted to Miranda, willing to do anything in order to be with her and now we’re going to have a ridiculous subplot where Steve does something antithetical to his very nature? Ugh, no thank you, Michael Patrick King.

Also it looks like we’re in store for a Carrie/Big wedding disaster, which is odd because Carrie broke out in hives and had an anxiety attack just putting on a wedding dress in an episode of the show. Sure, you could say that was because she was going to marry the wrong guy, but she tells her friends (and us) that it was because her body was rejecting the very idea of marriage; plus, she was willing to stay with Aidan forever, just wanted to put off the marriage. So regardless of whether or not her marriage works out, I’m supposed to believe that this woman is even entertaining the idea of marriage?

I Do

Regardless of all my ranting, I will be there on opening night, hoping to be surprised and delighted like everyone else. It’s a captivating time capsule of almost a decade of life in New York City, one of the first television shows that even made mention of 9/11 soon after the fact when Carrie says she wants to spend some money downtown because the city needs it. I cherish those memories because while I was going through strange changes in my life and while the world was going through difficult times, this was a show that helped us all remember to throw caution to the wind once in a while and have a drink. Of course, it always helped that it made me laugh about everything from pubic hair management mishaps to the raw food movement.

While the show doesn’t have the same import for me that it once did, it’s always nice to revisit old friends. I might have grown up and realized that my friends aren’t what I originally thought they were, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been there for each other during some difficult times and we’re still together after all these years. My relationship to Sex and the City,as infuriating as it might be, is probably one of the healthiest ones I’ve ever had.

– Noah Forrest
May 27, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 25 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon