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Men Beware: It's a SATC Column
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
In honor of Women's History Month, I'm going to write about that great television program of stunning feminism called Sex and the City.
Just kidding (about the feminist part, that is).
I have the first three seasons on DVD, and I've been watching them over and over again. I didn't have HBO when the show was running from 1998 to 2004. I started getting into it when I visited my father's cousin in Puerto Rico in 2005. Yeah, that was almost ten years ago, but it takes me a long time to appreciate pop culture. In ten years, I will probably think Lady Gaga is cool and finally understand Lorde. Anyway, little by little, I acquired the DVDs, and of course when the movies came out, I went to see them.
The series was both lauded and lambasted. There are some episodes and situations that I found silly, but there were some situations that brought up some really pertinent facts: does size really count? The storyline between Samantha and James brought up the fact that while he really loved her and was thoughtful and kind and had enough money/connections to keep Samantha entertained, the one thing that seemed to matter to Samantha was his penis: it was too small. For her, that was the dealbreaker. I'm sure men who saw that episode, or heard about it were furious. He has everything going for him, except he has a small penis, and he's not worthy? Well, for Sam, yes. And that's how women feel when they have everything going for them, but they have small breasts. Or they're short. Or they are not perfectly beautiful. If men objectify women, women do it too, and this series was probably the first to point that out. So men don't like being objectified? Tough noogies.
Another thing that the series was slammed for was consumer fetishism. Carrie makes probably the least amount of money of the four women, yet shops, shops, shops. So sue her. Women like looking at pretty things, but so do men. Thing is, women can BUY those things. Men just try to pick them up at bars or the health club. But the whole spending too much while not making enough was certainly addressed. Why do we think that next pair of shoes/pants/eyelash curler will validate us? It's something I've wondered for several years. And there's a reason why I don't have credit cards anymore.
It also addressed looks. Anytime something gets on television, especially in a show that isn't a reality series, everything gets toned down or sidestepped. In one episode, Miranda is yelled at by a portly casino patron to get her “fat ass” out of the way. It is explained that the reason she had a fat ass was she just had a baby. Carrie asks the casino patron what HIS excuse was: “ya havin' triplets?” The fact that Miranda didn't seem obviously fat, but the casino guy was, was just another indication about how men can be forgiven for certain things, but if a woman isn't perfectly proportioned, or if she's 10 pounds over her ideal weight, she's fat. Or rather, FAT. In the first SATC movie, Samantha developed a bit of a pooch because she was overeating to keep from cheating with her hot neighbor. I'd KILL if my stomach looked like that, because to me, she wasn't really “fat.” But I don't let my stomach hang out all over the place. My shirts come down far enough to cover it, because I have some taste, and I don't want to nauseate an unsuspecting public (I'm nauseated enough, believe me.) Yet, Sam's 15 pound weight gain was treated as if it were cancer. As someone who recently lost 15 pounds, if that's ALL I had to lose, I'd be happy. I still have a ways to go. But the only way you see really fat people on television is on The Biggest Loser, or some other losing weight reality show. Well, okay, maybe on Mike and Molly.
But it was probably the first show (in recent years) that featured four women as the central characters. Of course, the Golden Girls were probably the first “fabulous four” when it came to women on television. It also talked about sex in a way that wasn't shown before on television. Licky-face guy (the one who couldn't kiss) the man into anal sex (a.k.a. “up the butt guy”) the dirty-talking guy, the guy who liked yelling “whore, slut, etc.” while having sex, skid-marks guy (a.k.a. Steve) and of course, funky spunk guy. The show also dealt with how women feel about each other, feelings of inadequacy concerning body image and career, farting in bed in front of your boyfriend, and getting just the right outfit or pair of shoes for that special date.
Silly? Oh yes, there were some episodes when I didn't exactly cringe, but wondered what the big deal was. Then, there were the episodes that really hit home. “The Freak Show” was probably one of the best ones in season two. Carrie ends up dating a souless, money-grubbing filmmaker, a rich guy who steals cheap books, and ends up with someone who seems normal, except for a Tweety Bird tattoo (which of course, around here, NOT having a tattoo is NOT normal) and starts looking for flaws. The guy comes back, catching her trying to get what she suspects is his box of “freakdom,” only to have him open it up, revealing Boy Scout badges. He's upset and asks her to leave.
And yes, it seems like the ladies did hook up at an incredibly fast rate. However, it's a television show. Television time is not the same as real-life time. I've read articles about young girls who planned to move to New York right after they graduated college, and have a SATC life. Only it didn't happen. Because the SATC life isn't real. It's a fantasy, and that's why so many women enjoyed the show. The women DID have jobs—it's not like they didn't. True, I thought they obsessed about men a little too much, but in a way, I couldn't really blame them. They seemed to have great jobs, great social lives, great friends, fabulous clothes and accessories; the only thing that was missing was a great guy. The icing on the cake, so to speak. And everyone did end up with someone. Maybe the guys weren't exactly what the ladies were expecting, but I give kudos to the producers for picking men who weren't model-perfect (except for Smith Jerrod, who was about as perfect as it gets). They were nice guys who were nice looking. Smith was probably the one man who did look like a model, but if you saw the movie, you know that Samantha eventually left him. “Because I love me more.” A bitchy statement? Perhaps. But it also was a reminder that ultimately, you have to learn how to take care of yourself first. And it's important to have friends, because if it doesn't work out with your guy, you need someone to help you through the breakup.
Consumer fetishism aside, I get a kick out of this series. It showed the choices that today's women have, and the difficulties of those decisions. The women's movement has opened up possibilities for women. Many still have to decide between climbing the career ladder or raising a family. Is it possible to do both? Maybe, but it's still hard. Is it possible to have sex with a bunch of different men? Yes, but you'll still be labeled a slut. Can you have a great job and great career? Sure, but realize that it will piss some people off, and maybe frighten a few as well. The series explored these issues and many others. Perhaps not perfectly, but it's a television show after all. It's fantasy; it's entertainment. If you couldn't afford to visit New York City, you can always tune into reruns or watch the DVDs, and see the backdrop of the town amid Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha's struggles to find happiness, love and Sex and the City.