Sex and the City
to www.marxmail.org on
Back in 1994 Candace Bushnell began writing a column in
Arthur Carter's weekly NY Observer called "Sex and the City". Since
Carter's upscale salmon-colored publication was being given away for free on
NYC's Upper East Side at the time, I would pick it up to satisfy my
unquenchable reading addiction. I was also curious to see where Carter was
going with his NYC paper, which seemed to be modeled on his Litchfield County
Times--an outlet for coverage on antique auctions, debutante balls, yacht races
and other WASP foibles in
I was puzzled at the time why Arthur Carter would also be the publisher of the Nation Magazine, a journal that I had a strong identification with in the late 1980s and even sent donations to from time to time. Of course, it is much clearer to me in hindsight that Carter was part of a process to shift the magazine to the right, where it now sits as a kind of Kerberos of liberal orthodoxy.
I remember Bushnell's column leaving me cold at the time. It
was a hodge-podge of fictionalized references to the nightlife of Eurotrash, investment bankers, models and freelance writers
that she had access to. Her columns left me cold because I had some familiarity
with this world as well and what I saw left much to be desired. Escorted by an
old friend from
Bushnell's columns were transformed eventually into the highly acclaimed HBO series, which had its final episode last week. Co-Producer Sarah Jessica Parker played Carrie Bradshaw, who is loosely modeled on Bushnell. The three other lead characters were single females who like her were on a nonstop hunt for sexy men, great restaurants and drop-dead designer clothing. You never find any reference to the other NYC in this show. The stars never take subways, they are never confronted by homeless people and they never worry about AIDS. In other words, their NYC has about as much connection to the real thing as a Woody Allen movie, or its antecedent in another troubled time, the movies of Fred Astaire.
I would also have to confess that I became a big fan of this show over the past few months. I will explain why momentarily.
For people who had been watching the show for a long time, especially women who identified with the four co-stars, the final episode was a major event. People gathered together to watch it. The New York Times reported:
What better way to mark the end of "Sex and the City" than a ménage à 50?
One party that
captured the spirit and meaning of the show could be found inside a loft on
They got slightly drunk on wine and pomegranate-red Cosmopolitans, laughed at the same moments and cried through the ending. Some hooted and others clucked when the main character, a sex columnist named Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), decided to abandon her boyfriend in Paris and return to New York with a recurring love interest, known, until last night, only as Mr. Big (played by Chris Noth).
The show's final punch line - that Mr. Big's name is John - drew shrieks all around.
As people trickled into the cavernous white loft, they marveled how, over its six years, a show that began with jokes about oral sex and orgasms had become such a part of their lives.
"It's a sad night
for us," said Jalande James, 29, who organized
the party at the rented loft as part of Just Us Girls, a social network for
women in New York. "We've lived with it for so long. When I moved here
In Preston Sturges's "Sullivan's Travels", a screwball comedy made in 1941, the eponymous lead character is a Hollywood director who has become highly successful making comedies, but who is frustrated with the studio's refusal to allow him to make serious films about the working class. In other words, Sullivan appears to be a fictionalized representation of Sturges himself. Sullivan decides to go on the road disguised as an unemployed worker in order to learn about the working class firsthand. In a string of comic mishaps, he learns that workers are somewhat different than the idealized notion he had of them. In the stunning climax of this classic film, they show one of Sullivan's comedies to an audience of chain gang prisoners. They laugh until they cry. This becomes an epiphany to Sullivan, who realizes that the gift of laughter is precious and that it helps us get through life.
That is my reaction to "Sex and the City". In a time of deepening social and economic crisis, war and environmental despoliation, you need to laugh in order to keep from crying, as the title to a great Harry Edison jazz record once put it.
"Sex and the City" is one of the few laugh out loud comedies you can enjoy anywhere. With the collapse of Woody Allen, there are very few adult entertainments out there. Comedy has become cruder and more misanthropic, with the films of the Farrelly brothers setting the standard. As escapist fare, it ranks with the stories of P.J. Wodehouse that depicted a world of dotty English aristocrats having about as much relationship to reality as the glittery world of "Sex and the City".
Here's a summary of a typical week's episode. If you think that you might enjoy this sort of thing--not everybody's cup of tea I would be the first to admit--you can find all of the episodes in your local DVD/Video shops.
The girls are invited to the unlikely wedding of Carrie's supposedly gay friend, flamboyant lounge singer Bobby Fine to society lady Bitsy Von Muffling. Stunned by the news, Carrie thinks about what it takes to make a relationship work. She asks: When it comes to saying 'I do,' is a relationship a relationship without the zsa zsa zsu (aka: that special something that gives you butterflies in the stomach)?
On the way out to the
At Bobby and Bitsy's wedding, the girls find themselves moved by the
mutual love of the bride and groom. It appears Bobby and Bitsy do have the zsa zsa zsu.
Sex and the City website: http://www.hbo.com/city/