Thursday, June 5, 2008

Point/Counterpoint: Sex and the City

So, you won't believe what I did this past weekend. I saw Sex and the City. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I had some goals. 1) To see what the fuss is about and 2) to do a point/counterpoint with a friend via our blogs.

Let me start by saying that I had never seen more than 15 minutes total of the show. So, I knew very little going in. That said, the movie was actually pretty good. It was funny and charming and dramatic. It did a good job of giving me enough information to know what was going on, without having to watch the TV show.

BUT, there were quite a few things that pissed me off. Rather than lay them out here, I will start the back and forth with EDP now, and see if they don't come up then.

EDP: Admit it. You thought it would suck, and suck hard. I'm delighted that you liked parts of it, though. Let's start with what you thought the movie got right.

For me, it synthesized everything that made the show work: Fashion, whip-smart dialogue, and some real insight into modern relationships and what we want vs. what we get. You first.

Sghoul: Actually, the parts that I didn't like were pretty much what worried me about the movie before I went in.

What worked? It was fairly funny and clever. It had good heart string moments. It moved quickly with a snappy pace. And I really liked the character of St. Louise.

Also, for you guys out there, it turns out that women actually like dick and fart jokes. I mean, there is a scene that seems like it is right out of a Farley Brothers movie.

EDP: I got teary a couple of times. The scene on the bridge with Steve and Miranda killed me. As did the New Year's Eve scene with the mournful "Auld Lang Sine." Tears! I knew I was being manipulated, but I didn't really care. I've always felt that there were two kinds of women who liked this movie: Those who saw it as a modern fairy tale with moments of real truth and insight, and those who saw it as the Bible for single, sexually active women. Like the women to my left. The moment when you looked around and saw a sea of giddy women was absolutely hilarious.

Sghoul: Ah, the crowd. I think THAT is one of my biggest peeves about this movie. It was a solid movie. But women walked out of there like it was some kind of life event. If I go to Star Wars with a plastic lightsaber, I am a sad loser type. But if you go to SatC with some giant flower on your shirt, you're an empowered woman!

I think there are more women that fall into your later group...and that bugs me. Because the main 4 characters don't seem like real people to me. They seem like one sided caricatures. The Uptight Bitch, the Bubbleheaded Optimist, The Nympho, and Fashion Clown. I almost felt like this movie was a parody...but I know it isn't. And that makes me a sad think that there are women who want to emulate these shallow, and frankly stupid people.

EDP: I think you know the hyperventilating women in our row annoyed the living crap out of me. But just because they're stupid doesn't mean the characters are! Now, this is based on my years of watching the TV show, but the characters evolved a lot during SATC's run. Miranda, especially.
She was a cynical ballbuster in the beginning, but she opened her heart to, of all people, a bartender. The fact that she re-hardened was, to me, a realistic depiction of a marriage in which one person is the go-getter (in this case, the woman) and the other is laid back. It is very easy to let the love life go, which is what happened to them. I don' t think of them as stereotypes so much as archetypes.

Sghoul: Ah, see, no fair trying to make up for characters shortcomings by referencing outside material. Would it have been fair of me to defend the children in the Narnia movie by saying that they were much better in the books?

Regardless of how she grew in the series, in the movie she was largely one dimensional. And, honestly, they may have done this purposely so that when the character steps outside that box (like when the redhead goes to the bridge) it is heavy. But that is just a trick. It is similar to my relationship theory about setting the expectations low in the beginning. By having her basically turn into a real person, the watcher thinks it's awesome, but all that really happened was that they finished fleshing out the character.

EDP: Now, you said Louise was your favorite character, but she did nothing for me. She was sweet and all, but she seemed to exist mainly to give the film some diversity and youth. I was appalled that she left Manhattan to go back to St. Louis for some tool who told her she wasn't "the one."

Did you buy the whole thing about Carrie's wedding? The more I thought about it, the more horrified I was that he bailed at the last minute. I know she pushed the big ceremony and that he didn't really want it, but that was some cruel shit. It gave the movie a great subplot, but I'm not sure how I feel about them getting back together in the end. I don't think their offenses were equal.

Sghoul: I may have been snowed. I liked her because she seemed like a real human being. She liked fashion, but wasn't ruled by it. She didn't have an apparently limitless amount of money. Keep in mind, what you didn't like about her is silly, when you realize that she moved half way across the country "for love", which is pretty damn retarded when you think about it.

The wedding? Well, I saw it differently. The night before, he called her...obviously with cold feet. And she promised him "just you and me".
Which was a lie. It was NEVER about him. On top of that, why the fuck didn't she call him in the morning to check on him? I mean, who goes all the way to the wedding and doesn't communicate with the other person?! And when he DID call her (after spending the whole morning calling her constantly) she didn't talk to him...she just dropped the phone and ran out. If she had spent 5 minutes finding out what was up, he probably would have come back.

When it comes down to it, none of those women (with the exception of maybe the redhead) should be in a long term committed relationship or have kids. They are all too into themselves and their friends. I mean, the bubblehead...why the HELL did she bring her stupid daughter to every get together? I mean, all these ladies do is drink and talk about sex...why bring a 4 year old to that?

EDP: She RENTS handbags, practically wept at the sight of her own Louis Vuitton and isn't ruled by fashion? Were we watching the same movie? Look, I never said it was smart to move to a city for love, but it's equally dumb to leave arguably the most exciting city in the country to settle down with your last serious boyfriend. If he'd said "I'm not ready" or "Let's take some time apart," that would be fine. But when a guy says "You're not the one," um, I don't exactly see a white picket fence.

Things are nuts the day of your wedding, so it's EASY to not have a conversation beforehand. Especially if someone's stupid kid, you know, takes your cell phone. And remember, he said, "I can't do this." What was she supposed to say to that?! She's in Vivanne Westwood about to walk down the aisle, and he can't even get out of the car? That's lame. All she knew was that he WASN'T effing coming. And then when she confronted him on the street, he just kept saying "I'm sorry." Not, "I still want to marry you, just not this way."

Sghoul: Well, she dressed pretty normally for someone ruled by fashion. Unlike her boss who wears the weirdest crap, just to sit around the house.

It's not easy when the night before the man calls and says he is having second thoughts? She even said "I knew you were going to do this." You did? And you never thought to call? You know why? Because IT WAS NEVER ABOUT HIM. Hell, she pulled in right next to him, and didn't notice. She was too busy playing with her friends.

BTW, when a chick is hitting you with flowers in a rage, there is no reason to say much of anything, because she isn't listening.

EDP: One man's weird is another man's fashion. And that, my friend, is fashion. Carrie wore a lot of crazy stuff during SATC, but it was always interesting -- even when it was seriously "WTF?"

It was her wedding day, and she was in a car with her best friends! Of course she was distracted! Is it so bad that she wanted to feel like a princess for one stinking day? It's not like she had been badgering him about having a dream wedding until the idea was introduced. I'll allow that the groom can get edged out of his own wedding ceremony, which is a shame. But remember, this was Carrie's first wedding. At 40. That's kind of a big deal. Should she have called him? Yeah, probably. But that didn't make it OK for him to stay on the curb like an idiot. Man up.

I liked almost everything about the movie except Louise and Charlotte's storyline. Charlotte had a long, painful search for true love, and I wanted to be happier for her for getting everything she wanted. Instead, I was just annoyed. But maybe that's because I don't have a Park Avenue apartment.

Curious about how you thought men came off in this flick.

Sghoul: I just found it excessive. And it feels shallow to have someone spending SO much money on something like that. Also, men don't really HAVE fashion. If you'll notice even the gay guys clothes were fairly normal.

You aren't going to change my mind on the wedding. Women need to get it out of their heads that the wedding is all about them. She PROMISED that it was just him and her. Her saying that pulled him from the ledge. Then she lied. So, he left. They had a deal: This is about just us. If so, I will come, if not, I go. SHE made that deal. And then dropped it.

I mean, seriously, aside from sex, what had she done for him for the entire movie? He buys her a dream penthouse, a closet that is better than most NYC apartments, says yes to marrying her...all to make her happy. And she can't bother to do ANYTHING for him. Not one damn thing.

Yeah, I don't like Charlotte's character or plotline at all. Or her character. Living on pudding cups for several days in Mexico is stupid. But, she was the only character that wasn't actively doing her best to screw up everything she had.

The men? They weren't real characters in the movie. They were just set pieces. They seemed to exist just to add drama as opposed to being real people. The redhead's husband was the only interesting one.

EDP: Is the fashion any more excessive than the whiz-bang gadgetry in your average action movie? You can't extricate the fashion from SATC. It's almost a character on its own. Not to reduce everything to a stereotype, but many women like designer clothes. It's the movie's job to give us that over-the-top fantasy.

Again, I'm throwing in stuff from the show, but Carrie put up with a lot of shit from Big over the years. And she never once ASKED him for that fancy stuff. All she really wanted was him, because she can take care of herself. I'm not saying that she shouldn't have been grateful (she was), but she has given him plenty over the years: companionship and true friendship when no one else was there, a shoulder to (kinda) cry on and her heart. I mean, she took care of the man after he had a heart attack.
I know a movie has to stand on its own, but understand that this is the context for their relationship. He was FINALLY doing the right things.

So maybe the men weren't three-dimensional ... but they were nice to look at. I'm thinking specifically of Dante's shower scene. Yow! I like how they played with the stereotype of the objectified, beautiful woman and turned it on its head.

Sghoul: True, but an action movie for the sake of action would get panned by critics. And BAD action isn't even liked by action fans. But it seems that if you put the right name on fashion women will like it, regardless.

Maybe...just MAYBE if what you say about Big is true...MAYBE she shouldn't have been in a relationship with him to begin with. If it took him 10 years to get it right...well, she's pretty stupid.

All that scene proves is that women are no longer allowed to give men crap for being pigs. Ya'll are just as bad...worse actually, because when boobs show up guys movies, the audience rarely hoots and moans.

EDP: Are you kidding? I thought that outfit Carrie wore with the knee-high argyle socks was wacky as hell. But it was interesting and daring, almost like she was in on the joke.

A lot can change in 10 years. But I can't argue about their track record. The bottom line is that the audience wants to see Carrie with Big, just like the audience wants to see Superman with Lois Lane. It's the payoff for all those years of off-and-on, but I have mixed feelings about the way that played out. Which makes it more real.

Men don't hoot at boobs because it's become standard. Yawn. SATC was one of the first TV shows to turn the tables and reduce certain male characters to pieces of tail. I wasn't cheering, but I understand -- to a point -- why the audience did. We like to look, too, and I don't think that's exactly a secret.

Sghoul: You don't get to pick and choose. Either objectifying is bad or it isn't.

Basically this show has all of the things in it that women complain about in men's shows: crass humor, sexual objectification, nudity...but instead of being a bad thing, it's a celebration.

I find it funny that Kim Catrell has been on both sides of that fence, from SatC to Porky's.

EDP: Uh, you're talking to someone who dug "Superbad" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Crude doesn't bother me as long as it's funny.

OK, let's talk best/worst moments:

Best: I'd say it's a tie between the bridge scene and the New Year's montage.
Worst: I'm a mom, but you know how I feel about kids. So I agree that having Charlotte's daughter at a pre-wedding sleepover was a drag.

Sghoul: Best: While I did like the bridge scene...I preferred the moment that red realizes she is making the same excuses her husband is...expecting people to forgive HER but not forgiving him.
Worst: Almost anything big nose Kate wore.

EDP: See, that's another thing. Why not celebrate a heroine who is not stereotypically pretty?

Sghoul: I will, if I actually find them attractive. I LOVE me some Janine Garafalo. I just don't think SJP is attractive. But she is playing a character who is supposed to be.

EDP: I see her as playing a character who is a modern, sexually confident woman. I think her attractiveness stems from her sophistication. True, SJP is not Heidi Klum, but I love that she hasn't had any surgery and has become an icon WITH her quirky looks.

Sghoul: Well, she's mostly become an icon with women. I don't know any men aside from Matthew Broderick that like her. And, honestly the part that is least attractive is her weight. The scene where she doesn't eat for 2 days...she should have died.

EDP: I can't argue that she is quite skinny, but it appears natural. She doesn't look like she's starving; just very wee.

Despite your criticisms, I think we both agree that the movie was good overall. I'd give it an A-minus, as its head and shoulders above the usual "chick flick" crapola. You know, my husband actually wants to see this. Eventually.

Sghoul: Well, it doesn't look natural to me. Very women that skinny look natural to me, since the human body rarley wants to be so emaciated. Heck, I know for a fact she didn't used to be that skinny (Square Pegs).

Yes, good overall. A solid B for me. And yes, better than the average chick flick. Guys, take your woman to see this. It doesn't suck, and it has more female nudity than the last 10 movies I saw put together. Not including porn of course.


T.H. Elliott said...

I've watched most of the show with Holly. The bartender was my favorite character. I haven't seen the movie, but I can tell you I hate all the female characters, and I hate BIG.

They are all pretty much shallow, self centered, bitchy, whiny, etc.

And my God, the fashion is horrible. The stuff she wears and lusts after look like jokes. They aren't fashion, they are crappy ass designer shit that someone parades around so they can do runways.

lessthan12parsecs said...

I wanted to watch this show but every time I turned it on, I had flashbacks...

My grandmother would make me watch Golden Girls with her. When I read this piece, it reminded me way too much of the horrors I had faced all those years ago.

Since you have already braved the dangerous "chick flick" waters, I will be expecting a full report on the DVD release. Just the "hot nude scene" time codes so I won't have to bleach my eyes watching the whole thing.

EDP said...

Ah, "The Golden Girls." Some people say it's the spiritual parent of SaTC, and I confess having watched (and enjoyed) that show. But since your handle is lessthan12parsecs, that's proof that you have good taste in films! ;-)

The Irredeemable Shag said...

I haven't really watched the show much, and certainly haven't seen the movie. But my hats off to SGhoul for seeing the film and having such a well thought out discussion. Most men would have simply said, "I liked the naked parts". Then again, we all know that SGhoul is just one "Will & Grace" marathon away from turning. :P

And for the record, the Charlotte girl is a real cutie.

The Irredeemable Shag

Steagus said...

This link basically sums up my take on fashion:

and by extension my thoughts on this show - shallow.