Sex and the City; a Modern Day Twist to Pride and Prejudice

I must admit, it wasn’t my first time attempting at watching the series. I had caught glimpses of Carrie’s monologues while back in Iran at my parents’ place where they own a TV set up to satellite that still broadcasts episodes of Friends. More than once had I heard her rants on what relationships, as I was preparing a salad or marinating my fried with mayo before popping the bowl into the microwave. My mother’s kitchen has only three walls. The fourth is a set of cabinets that allows full exposure to the going-ons in the living room where the television sits facing the apartment’s most important room, the kitchen.

I had no interest in watching the show, subjectively I’ll blame my dislike for Sarah Jessica Parker. I also didn’t find those accidental exposures to the show appealing enough to make me want to delve into it. I couldn’t even give it the guilty pleasure pass, the fashion was just off. I would stick to my doses of Gossip Girl and 90210, although not intellectually challenging, or believable plots, they did maintain better common sense and their fashion sense was right up my alley.

My beau is spending a good twenty days in Barcelona on a business trip and I, although flooded with books that need to be read by the 25th, find myself hating this particular weekend. I blame the weather. Once again the sky’s curtain has been drawn, leaving Heidelberg with a gloomy September Saturday.
After some laundry, some Khaled Hossini reading and some deep hair conditioning and testing the purple hairdryer that came in the mail today, only to confirm that it was a procrastinating kind of day, I decided to take non-productivity further and watch something totally irrelevant to my exam or research.

And so I watched the pilot episode of “Sex and the City”. I had always convinced myself that the reason I haven’t found the show’s appeal was my lack of proper exposure to its story-line. All I had heard were quotes from my girlfriends when a particular situation called for it (usually in relevance to the men in our lives). And so I watched two episodes and the 2008 film version of the “hit” show.
I am not going to exclaim my disgust in how the writers have portrayed women, categorizing them in two main groups, “single and pathetic” and “taken and boastful”. Or worse yet, hopeless romantics and skeptical man-haters. I will also detain myself from accusing them of trying to pass their portrayals as modern day feminist approaches to depicting successful women, because at the end of the day, all fickle women want is to get married and pop out babies.
I could also go on for paragraphs finding parallels in the show and Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice, risking the spite of Victorian literature readers for comparing such superficiality with classical literary art. But let’s face it, Lizzy and Jane portrayed more intelligence and independence than any of the show’s characters. Sex and the City’s cast could have all auditioned having Lydia Bennet in mind and still gotten the part.

What I do wish to criticise in this post is the audience, and proceed to narrow the target of my attack to those intelligent, educated young women in their twenties who hold the show as their dating bible. Many a time have I received invitations to Sex and the City marathons (those nights in when you stuff your face with junk food, washed down with wine and watch episode after episode until the last of the viewers has fallen asleep), all of which I have politely declined until I no longer received any and only got updates from Facebook statuses stating the initiation of the “girls’ night”. I was never offended. I have also read messages from friends, smart, well-educated women, updating me on their post break-up remedies, where an episode of the series and a lot of long bathes, green tea and red wine was involved. Even if one is not a viewer of the show, they would not be totally lost upon hearing the popular culture reference as a casual judgment of character was passed with a “She’s a Samantha” or “I think of myself as a Carrie”.
I get that we are talking about popular media and Hollywood here and blue comedy sells. That is comprehensible when the audience goes into the viewing experience with the clear notion of having the show as pure entertainment and nothing more. I will, however, exclude those Cultural Studies researchers focusing on pop culture who treat the HBO show as fieldwork. (I am so grateful for the network’s replacement with Lena Dunham’s well-scripted show “Girls”. That itself deserves an entire post.) I am amazed at how a career driven woman relates to Carrie, a desperate single woman for the majority of the show (I had to read a little about it for the sake of authority of this post) who steps into a relationship with a man who is clearly mortified of the idea of commitment, stays with him for a decade, suffocating her desire to settle down the traditional way, and gets left at the alter right after his explicit doubts the night before the wedding, witnesses his lack of decisiveness as he tells her he made a mistake to question marrying her (this is getting too long a description, but I’m livid), breaks up with him trying to convince herself that he wasn’t ready or whatever it is that we women tell ourselves when a man is clearly being an indecisive jerk, and goes back to marrying him towards the end of the film. So this intelligent, independent friend of mine has watched the show, and considering the fact that she is in her late 20s she had just stepped into her teenage years when the series first aired, being exposed to the idea that THIS is the norm. That men don’t know what they want and those who do, don’t want to settle down. That women have to accept that and make it work. That they should simply “settle”. And so she did. My friend settled for a boy who, was not able to give her the security of a strong relationship that she expected and deserved, telling her he wasn’t ready. And her, instead of taking that explicit confession as a cue to “peace out” remained in an exhausting relationship where a break-up happened several times too many. Her justification was “it’s like a subplot from Sex and the City, our relationship is”. No, it was THE plot from the show, but her version was not a crowd-pleaser, not even a heart breaker. Towards the third and fourth break up she wouldn’t even be upset. It was a mere, time-waster.

I don’t want to judge and I am no saint myself. I’ve had my share of men who didn’t know what they wanted or couldn’t decide when they wanted it, or preferred to “have both God and dates (the fruit and not the flirtatious meeting)” (the Persian equivalent of have their cake and eat it), yet I refused to let them rob me years of my life. I was crowned “fastidious” and accused of “giving up too easily”. My scrupulous approach proved to my benefit after all. It did earn me what I deserved. And not the “let’s see how it goes” Mr Big, but an “I know what I want and I want it with you”, a man with a big heart.

Rant Over.

PS: Roadtrip Diaries Part II will be published shortly. I shall not abandon those of my readers asking for more pictures and adventure descriptions… I remain committed.

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