“Sex” Sells

Amy Julian

Image courtesy of Gardi Arroyo. Colored by John Kane and Ben Whelan.

With the release of one of the biggest-touted blockbusters of the spring coming to DVD this Tuesday comes an even bigger backlash against consumerism, overly-assertive women, and loose, frank conversation about men and sex.

Sex and the City the movie is scheduled for its release on September 23, with deluxe versions of the film also available. It’s tough to say whether or not people will still be riding Carrie-fever after taking in true art such as The Dark Knight. In a time when people don’t have money to burn, are people willing to shell out the twenty-plus bucks on a bunch of forty-somethings spending God knows how much for a pair of shoes?

“Sex and the City” grew into a larger-than-life phenomenon after its debut on cable television in 1998 and gained a strong fan base. Winning numerous Emmys and Golden Globes, the show was a controversial and successful attempt at opening up the discussion of sex, men, and marriage, that pushed the envelope enough so that people got interested. Shows like “Lipstick Jungle” (also based on best-selling novel by “Sex and the City” inspiration Candace Bushnell) and “Cashmere Mafia” seek to do the same thing for women that “Sex and the City” did. Even new shows like “Gossip Girl” capitalize on this controversy and end up getting sky-high ratings because of it.

Sex became the topic of conversation and people began talking about extremely personal and once-taboo issues. Women now had the confidence (well, at least the precedence) to talk about female lubrication problems, where they fantasized about doing the deed, and how many men they slept with this past week. Even issues around infertility and unplanned pregnancy arose, putting SATC’s Charlotte and Miranda (respectively) in situations that many women could relate to. Samantha challenged the idea that only men can be promiscuous and spawned a whole generation of cougars and sexually assertive and aggressive women. Talking about sex over your double-latte became acceptable. That “Large Italian blend with extra whipped cream” became the double-entendre screaming for attention. Talking about your last trip to the salon was replaced with talking about your last trip to the bedroom. Even today’s watered-down versions of SATC go above and beyond to push the sexual envelope and create controversy.

But it’s tough to say whether these shows have the same impact as “Sex and the City.” The times we are living in now are not only more open and candid about sexuality and discussions about contraception, abortion, and other pertinent issues in today’s day and age, but also in a time where consumers, people in general, have come to see the grave inconceivability of living a life like Carrie Bradshaw. In time, now more than ever, Carrie’s $500 pair of Manola Blahniks would cost us about two weeks’ worth of groceries. It’s interesting to consider the economy was on the upswing when “Sex and the City” was at its peak; people bought into the idea that if you had the money to spend, you should splurge on a closet full of shoes. Trying to push that idea on people now, in “Cashmere Mafia” and the like, could be the reason why many of these shows are experiencing declines in Nielsen Ratings. If Carrie lived in 2008, rather than ten years earlier, those $700 Blahnik’s she bought would be costing her about $881, considering the inflation trends over the past decade.

It was crude, capitalistic, and unapologetic about both, but I’m not criticizing “Sex and the City” by any means. Actually, I remember sneaking into my sisters’ rooms on Sunday night with a bowl of popcorn watching Samantha bed another guy, Charlotte talk about infertility woes, Miranda struggle with working-mother status, and Carrie being the drama magnet (albeit fabulously dressed drama magnet) she always seemed to be. I can say now, that upon watching reruns of the show (the uncensored ones not aired on TBS) I can understand why my mom got a bit nervous with me watching it. The jokes about sex, male anatomy, and the liberal use of the F-bomb flew right over my head. I was just content watching something and sharing a girly-moment with my sisters. It was what lay deeper that struck a chord in many women. The loyalty amongst the women in SATC and their unwavering dedication to one another despite the presence of men, marriage, and moves to Brooklyn set SATC miles apart from the trite, shallow shows of today. Going through issues together, as companions and sisters, showed that you don’t need to be blood to be family. The strength of the ladies’ bond was undeniable and, I would venture to guess, allowed other women to be OK with getting closer to their own friends. It opened up the door for more dialogue between women about personal issues and allowed them to have a partner-in-crime or empathetic ear that they may not have had otherwise. “Sex and the City,” beneath its hardcore and softcore nuances, was about four women who relied on each other to get through the unpredictability and instability of life.

So was the “Sex and the City” craze because of the sex, the friendship, or the fabulous clothing and seemingly never-ending budget? It’s tough to say. Undeniably, though, its existence in the lives of many was (and perhaps still is) fulfilling the need for an escape. And many will line up to fulfill that need for escape into witty dialogue, fancy shoes, and buck-naked men on Tuesday when the “Sex and the City” DVD is released.

Amy Julian can be reached at [email protected]