All The Pretty Purses; or, Sex and the Asbestos

This weekend, while at a wedding in Myrtle Beach, while tubing in the hotel pool’s Lazy River, I thought long and not so hard about Sex and the City. My friend Robert commented on my previous post that he feels the series promotes an unhealthy obsession with materialism and reinforces a cult of acquisition. Maybe. I was never on my high school’s debate team — I chose instead, being shy, to non-combatively construct a replica of The Eiffel Tower out of marshmellows for French Club — so I freeze up a little around ad hominem or ad feminam or ad anything, really. (I wasn’t in Latin Cub, either.)

The only real indisputable is that SATC strikes a chord with a large number of women. The show is everywhere, including LaGuardia Airport, where you can eat at Mex and The City. Trolling Craigslist ETC jobs yesterday, I came across an ad (this is the one “ad” I’m good at recognizing) for a Sex and The City Tour Bus Guide. This posting was sandwiched between “Wanted: Head-Lice Removal Clinician” and “Be a Part-Time Phone Reader to my Father with a Brain Tumor.”

When I was a travel agent on The Upper West Side, I worked across the street from Tom’s Diner and next to The Original Soup Man. Which put me, several times a week, in the direct path of The Seinfeld Tour. Visitors would stand in line, upwards of an hour, in the sweltering summer heat, to pay $8 for a cup of lobster bisque ladled out not by the Soup Nazi himself but a tired Columbia student. And then they had to eat their soup on a BUS. It looked like an open casting call for Epcot’s World Showcase. Once I saw a couple, in what appeared to be matching bunads, feed each other. I couldn’t understand all the Kramer hoopla, yet everyone looked pretty thrilled.

I’m not sure what compels us to follow the food trails of syndicated shows. I got snap-happy on a trolly in front of the Golden Girls’ House, which the Golden Girls never actually filmed in, seeing as to how it was merely a facade used in the credits.

Golden Girls was one of my favorite shows growing up — still is. It featured sassy, sexual, and independent older women redefining retirement. And even though it was markedly different from Sex and the City, and arguably better written, it hit on a winning formula for a female quadriad. You need the carnal one; the caustic one; the simple one; and of course, the wise advisor. But the true formula? Women who become each other’s family.

My gripe with Anthony Lane’s review of the SATC movie centers on his dismissal of the sisterhood that accompanies the flagrant, and yes, slightly sickening, display of purchasing power. What about the scenes where we see the girls give Carrie’s depression its respectful distance, nursing her without coercion, letting her be? The point isn’t that Miranda is a lawyer and unrealistically takes off work to go to Mexico with Carrie; the point is that she makes it happen, that this friendship is so important to her that she allows it to supersede industry.

Which brings me back to the Sex and the City Tour, on which, among other things, you can “shop at The Pleasure Chest where Charlotte bought her ‘Rabbit” and “have a cupcake at the bakery where Miranda stuffed cupcakes into her mouth.”

My friend Michelle calls SATC “girl candy.” Sure, it’s not recommended by the dentist critics, but there’s a childlike rapture — the same rapture that 3 years old have in front of bins of gummy worms. But despite the pink frilly fantasy of weddings and wardrobe, and the far-fetchedness of consistently brilliant comebacks, I am moved by these women. Even if Carrie spends $40,000 on shoes and then can’t afford an apartment, I still identify with her.

If you go the SATC Tour website and read the reviews, you’ll figure out pretty quickly that women take the tour with other women. And not just out-of-town women, like the sun-bathers I saw this weekend at Myrtle Beach listening to Top Shelf, drinking Miller Lite, and wearing homemade tee-shirts that said SUN-CAROLINA. Mothers take their daughters; daughters take their mothers; gaggles of girls gorge themselves on cupcakes and giggle through their teeny-tiny Cosmo straws. On the surface, it sounds incredibly dumb. Would I go? HELL yes. Would my best friend, who’s about to start the PHD program in school counseling at Columbia, go with me? You bet. How about my lesbian poet friend who only wears penny loafers? Yep.

I love love love Go Fug Yourself and only wish more critics would ridicule aviary Carrie:

but even my veil feather gets ruffled when Anthony Lane writes, in response to the sequence where Big reveals the closet he built for Carrie, that “the creepiest aspect… was the sound that rose from the audience as he displayed the finished closet: gasps, fluttering moans, and, beside me, two women applauding.” These women weren’t just clapping for a closet; they were clapping for a character who happens to appreciate fashion the way others appreciate art. If all materialism is bad, where does that leave us with high-end designers?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a SATC fan who thinks the show is a gritty, objective, natural portrayal of urban women. But their kinship is real.

Please comment — how do you feel about the show or the movie?

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One response to “All The Pretty Purses; or, Sex and the Asbestos

  1. Sex and the City seems to have a polarizing effect on both men and women… people either love the movie or they hate it

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