Sex and the City Journal: Rightbloggers at the Movies
[Editor's note: After penning the popular "The Official Village Voice Election-Season Guide to the Right-Wing Blogosphere," Roy Edroso has made dissecting those blogs into a weekly feature that appears here every Monday. ]
The Sex and The City movie that premiered last week was the popcult objet du jour, and loosed a Tourette's spasm of web commentary. Some was highbrow ("style-conscious mise en scene"), some lowbrow ("Sarah Jessica Parker Looks Like a Horse"). Most of it was pleasantly mindless. Writers normally devoted to other agenda, from science bloggers to the proprietor of "Binge Eating Disorder Help," put aside their hobbyhorses for a moment to divert readers with the harmless subject.
Well, most of them did. A SATC review featuring a photo of "Cynthia Nixon (right) w/Lesbian Partner" alerted us that we'd stumbled into the land of the rightbloggers, where blockbuster movies are not mere entertainments, but fronts in the culture war.
In her epic "Hags And The City" tirade, TV commentator Debbie Schlussel told readers that the "sleazy and low-class" central characters "look like female impersonators in drag," are "pigs in skirts" and, worst of all, serve as "Delphic oracles to far too many American women."
While the Oracle at Delphi spoke for Apollo, apparently Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte speak for "America's feminists and the phony mainstream media" who, Schlussel said, give their message "the kosher seal of approval," thereby covering an extra theological base.
But what is their message? Schlussel didn't focus long enough to inform us, but some clues could be gleaned from her ravings. "Because they dined in glamorous places, wore trapezoid shaped clothes and $1,000 fancy high heels," wrote Schlussel, "this somehow made their low-brow, savage behavior, 'classy.'" So perhaps the message is that the rich can get away with things that the rest of us can't. Schlussel also said that the inclusion of Jennifer Hudson in the film was meant to "answer the complaints over the years by Black America, that there were no Black women in this fashionable pay cable TV gang of hos." Add tokenism to the film's sins. Finally, "If you've ever called men pigs or chauvinists or decried their alleged collective behavior toward women, but yet you like this movie, you're a hypocrite." SATC is an affront to feminism! Schlussel's argument seems based on race, gender, and class issues normally addressed by Women's Studies professors. We hope this doesn't get around or Schlussel may never appear on Fox News again.
"That sleazy yet hallowed HBO television series 'Sex and the City' is now in theaters as a feature film," wrote longtime culture scold Brent Bozell at Human Events, "and the cultural elites are having a religious experience." Apparently having failed to score a ticket to this Black Mass, Bozell attacked the original series for its failure to promote marriage: "What this feminist phenomenon didn't have and didn't need, apparently, was a woman who would choose to marry young... The series could have been called 'Sex and the Skittish' for all the phobias about the boredom and lost independence of married life." As if that weren't bad enough, SATC also turned girls into sluts, as Bozell showed with an ABC News story about a 14-year-old who, influenced by the show, had sex and Cosmos till she saw the error of her ways and became Mormon. The precocious teen said, "It wasn't Sex and the City's fault," but Bozell corrected her: "Hollywood can certainly argue that it didn't make the naughty people act on their naughty impulses. It merely told them it would be glamorous and liberating to do so." Personal responsibility, it would seem, stops at the cineplex's edge.
Kay S. Hymowitz of the City Journal did see the film, and seemed to have enjoyed it, but yet retained an annoying (for her and for us) feeling that the right message wasn't being promoted. For Hymowitz, it was actually the series that spoke truth to promiscuity: "In the opening credits of the TV show, the pleased-as-punch, fashion-forward Carrie gets splashed by a New York City bus — symbolizing the characters' inevitable comeuppance in each episode," she wrote. "In the movie, though, there is no splashing." We hoped at first that last word was a misprint, but alas, Hymowitz was lamenting the film's four-way happy ending: "Lacking the urbane and witty realism that made the series television gold," she wrote, "Sex and the City is simultaneously sentimental love story and starry-eyed liberation fantasy." Love and liberation! Well, there's always the director's cut DVD.
National Review Kathryn J. Lopez didn't mind the happy ending, but was concerned for the souls of the audience with whom she shared a midnight show of SATC: "They're delighted — cheering — when nice-girl Charlotte tells [Mr. Big] off, curses the day he was born, hits him with her shopping bags," she reported. "Mr. Big was one of the last people in the City who needed to be told off." Worse came after the showing: "'Oh my God, but he's soooo cute,'" said one "gal... referring to the decision of Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) to leave the (soooo cute) guy who loves her because she loves herself more. The next thing I heard was, 'F*** you, b**ch' as a group of girls were annoyed someone else got the first cab." Lopez worried that the swooning, swearing girls were missing the film's "cultural lessons." But like Debbie Schlussel, she wasn't clear about what those were: after writing that "Sex encourages lust for the designer labels and 'booty calls'" and "the self-conscious lesson Carrie sends us off with is to feel free 'to write your own rules,'" she concluded that "the deeper message of the film is that it's not hooking up but true love and marriage and children they want."
Maybe she just enjoyed the film, but couldn't leave it at that: for her, SATC was "an important cultural contribution" that had to be stuffed into her preconceptions like a size-6 foot into a size-5 shoe. Perhaps sensing this, Lopez later elaborated on her review, providing a reading list of conservative authors ("Michael and Harriet McManus do a good job of presenting the practical drawbacks of cohabitation") that probably actually tell the story she wanted SATC to tell — and will tell if she has anything to say about it. "We all have a role to play in cultural renewal," she wrote. "Even Sarah Jessica Parker, even if she doesn't know it."
In conservative paradise, you won't have to see movies at all: just read the morality lectures based on them, and be culturally renewed. Coming next: Kung Fu Panda presages a religious awakening in China, The Strangers argues for strict interpretation of the Second Amendment, and the new Indiana Jones movie teaches a valuable lesson about the evils of Communism. (Oops — they beat us to it.)