I have a confession to make. I am a straight, twenty year old male, and I have seen every episode of the phenomenally successful HBO TV series Sex and the City, and its two subsequent films. Public admittance of this would have me riddled with abuse and verbal putdowns, most notably orbiting around the homosexual side of the name-calling coin, but the following article attempts to contradict such widespread misconceptions and near-sighted observations. I am aware of the acquired taste and particularity surrounding the show, but hear me out.
I suppose I started watching ‘SATC’ due to a lapse in any new additions to my TV DVD shelf, and my sister having the complete ‘shoebox’ collection sitting idly on hers. I’ve always been in awe of shows produced by HBO, a US company unafraid of addressing taboo or crossing any television-related boundaries (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Curb Your Enthusiasm being prime examples and an assortment of my favourite shows). And hey, if Jonathan Ross loves it, then why wouldn’t I? Sex and the City held my minimal attention during regular channel surfing and I had always been interested in understanding how and why it was so successful amongst women, and why most male audiences shy away from it as much as they do (aside from the fact that it is primarily targeted toward females). So, being a self-described and open-minded ‘chancer’ on all things film and TV, I began my education in Sex and the City, starting obviously with season one and working upwards to the shows’ final season (six).
As it was early 2008 when this exploration started, the first film was still to hit cinemas, with a UK release date of 28th May. So I knew I had to plough through the series in order to catch the film on the big screen, an opportunity I try my best to take advantage of as much as possible. My first impressions of the show weren’t particularly surprising given my knowledge of it’s critical appreciation; I found it to be pretty entertaining, funny, and mature, with much more of an emphasis on the characterisation and relationships between the four leading ladies than the fashion of which it has become (somewhat pessimistically) known for. Yes, there is a certain degree of prominence surrounding the clothes, shoes and jewellery featured, but It isn’t as in your face as its depiction in the consequent films and is easily missed and overlooked by the less fashion-aware viewer (i.e. me). Don’t get me wrong; while it is predominantly a female-orientated show with plenty of relationship traumas and feminine angst, I discovered that there really is no need for the men of the world to detest it so. It isn’t amazing, but it is enjoyable enough.
Okay, so watching a show consisting of four women sitting around New York City, bitching about men and intercourse doesn’t sound so appealing, Sex and the City does however contain some incredibly witty and knowing writing, with each well-rounded character reeling off comedic one-liners on a consistent level, contrasting with many so-called American comedies which succeed in being anything but. There are also some strong performances from the four protagonists, with Cynthia Nixon’s portrayal of Miranda Hobbs being my personal favourite, maybe because she is the most neurotic and pessimistically realistic of the group, character traits which I can’t help but connect with.
It shares with other of my favourite shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer some of my favourite aspects of television; an accurate understanding and development of the central characters which aren’t shunned in favour of the subject matter. Shows like these contain easy to engage with characters that make it easy to empathise with; characters who stick with audiences through demonstrations of their traits and flaws, developing a personal relationship with the viewers. This is, in my opinion, the key to the success of Television shows in particular, and it’s part of the reason why some shows fail to resonate with me. Sex and the City however is a harmless example which albeit does have flaws (the unrealistic fairytale qualities and unrelenting upper-class placement) but is nevertheless palatable entertainment which, given a degree of tolerance and open mindedness, just may appeal to a wider spectrum of fans that it already has. I’m not saying everyone should go out of their way to watch it, in truth it’s not to everyone’s tastes, but maybe if it wasn’t so stereotypically gender biased in its representation then it would contrast with the general consensus amongst males, who write it off too easily as merely a girl’s show. It isn’t.
On the contrary, the first feature film based on the show, which follows four years after its final season, is a colossal disappointment, focusing and exploiting all the bad aspects which let the TV show down. At over 2hrs 30mins, the film is incredibly overlong and overstuffed with as much genre clichés, product placement and iconic indulgences as possible, with each of the four leading characters becoming uninteresting versions of who they once were.
The director crams in far too much material and sub-plots, rendering the film without a particularly cohesive storyline to cling to, along with some pointlessly annoying new characters and a truly embarrassing screenplay. The film detracts from what made the show a success in the first place, stripping away the humorous focus on sex (and all its friends) and replacing it with an overly saccharine focus on the trials and tribulations of love, which is laid on pretty thick throughout (particularly with the character of Louise from St. Louis, played to annoying effect by Jennifer Hudson). The film also unfortunately shifts away from New York City to an overly drawn-out visit to Mexico, which is the films weakest section.
Also, the film boils down to a pretty pointless existence, as it essentially unfastens the narrative ribbons tied by the season six finale only to retie them back again come the films conclusion, which is a pretty cheap and unoriginal approach to a feature film adaptation. Basically (and like with so many television-to-film adaptations) the big screen transition just doesn’t work and the film is far too overly excessive and distracting to gauge any genuine interest. Whatever promise there once was is squandered and the film turns out to be a poor, overly pretentious and pointless excursion for these characters, which deserved to be left well enough alone.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1997-2003 [TV [Programme] Mutant Enemy, USA: 20th Century Fox Television.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm, 2000-Present [TV Programme] USA: HBO Films.
- Sex and the City, 1998-2004 [TV Programme] Darren Star Productions, USA: Home Box Office.
- Six Feet Under, 2001-2005 [TV Programme] Home Box Office, USA.
- The Sopranos, 1999-2007 [TV Programme] Home Box Office, USA.