No sex please, we've "found love"


Sex in the City

Directed by Michael Patrick King

With Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall

In cinemas

Sex in the City was first shown as a TV series on HBO in 1998 about four women friends living in New York. It revolved around the central character of Carrie Bradshaw, whose newspaper columns about love, friendship and sex often were based on and analysed episodes in the women's lives.

The series ended with all four, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) and Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) having "found love", according to the producers.

But had they? The notion that the show could end on a happy note because they had "found love" was a real let-down, after the women's questioning of moral and social values in the six years the show ran.

One can regard the movie-length version of Sex in the City as simply a way of making more money from the brand name. Carrie still works as a writer, Miranda as a lawyer, Charlotte as a stay-at-home mother and Samantha manages the career of her hot, much younger lover and actor, Smith Jared. Some of the film's appeal can be explained from the loyal following and strong sense of characters from the TV series.

I watched the entire television series and initially found the women's characters and their moral quandaries engaging. However, the conservatism of Carrie (with her pathetic search for the perfect partner) and Charlotte (seeking happiness through an ideal family life) outweigh the impact of any outrageous sexual behaviour by Samantha, or Miranda's career woman character. Samantha is "out there" and Miranda is cold. The series were frustrating because Hollywood values continually won out. The moral quandaries in the film are no real brain or heart-twisters either.

Sex in the City as a film and a TV series is an ambiguous creature: highly flawed and problematic — in the lavish lifestyles of its characters, who somehow, other than Miranda do not seem to work much for a living; the rampant consumerism exhibited by the women, their teetering high heels and fashion-victim looks.

The film continues this theme. There are as many cringe moments, not just from the fashion, but also from the twee dialogue (and the many urges to give the characters some good proper feminist advice), as there were in the TV series.

One of the film's appeals though is its ambiguity towards social norms, such as attitudes towards marriage, relationships between older women and younger men, gender roles in terms of looking after children, and infidelity. Its frank discussions about women, sex and orgasms were a hallmark of the TV show and there are some glimpses of that in the film, but very blunted. There is more emphasis on fidelity and monogamy; and the word "sex" even needs to be disguised with euphemisms.

The fact that Sex in the City can be considered as a contender in pushing any social boundaries is indicative of how morally conservative Western society and its media products have become from the 1990s onwards.