May 15, 2008

Sex and the City Part 2: Feminism and Backlash

As the opening of Sex and the City gets closer I've noticed a bunch of articles asking whether you can be a feminist and still like Sex and the City. Give me a break. Of course you can be a feminist and like Sex and the City.

While some feminists may now want me to turn in my feminist card (and yes, we do have a's called a brain) I just want to take a step back. I understand that many feminists have trouble with the show's obsession with clothes, shoes, skinniness and men. I, too, couldn't understand how those women wore those shoes without falling over.

But honestly, I am so happy that we are even having this conversation. When was the last time a fictional film (and remember this is FICTION and FAKE) caused such a stir and encouraged a debate about feminism? Just the fact that people put the words Sex and the City and feminism in the same sentence makes me excited.

But the point is Sex and the City wouldn't exist without feminism. Sarah Jessica Parker herself sees Carrie on the same continuum with Erica (played by Jill Clayburgh) in the classic feminist flick An Unmarried Woman (a must-see); and to me, she also couldn't exist without Erica Jong's Isadora Wing of Fear of Flying.

The Guardian had some good points about the feminist messages in Sex and the City Can a Feminist Really Love Sex and the City?

And to dismiss the programme entirely on the basis of its shortcomings as a feminist text would also be to lose out on what it does deliver. Just to take the most headline-grabbing example, that includes some pretty frank discussion of sex, in which female sexual pleasure and agency is obviously considered a fundamental right, rather than a privilege. McCabe says, "The way they spoke, and the things they talked about, were revolutionary. And it was also a great study of female friendship.
And I think the relationship between the women and all the questions women have about how we fit into the culture is what sold the show and what makes women excited about seeing the film. (Remember it is the top requested film on Fandango)

From the NY Magazine cover story on Sarah Jessica Parker:
And despite the gobbling consumerism of its characters, the show has unsettling insights into women and money: the way bodies function as currency; the degree to which a woman alone can truly be autonomous of free; the marriage hunt as negotiation disguised as romance.
The Backlash
But since we are talking about women, sex, feminism and movies it was only a matter of time before the backlash started. For some reason (which I don't understand) the film premiered in London. But overexposure has set in and the knives are now out with still two weeks to go. The press made fun of the Sarah Jessica Parker's hat at the premiere, and then I did a double take when I saw the cover of Time Out NY (to the left) which had duct tape over the four women's mouths with the headline: No Sex! Enough Already- we love 'em, but it's just too much.

I'm sorry, isn't doing press a requirement for all movies these days? Is it these women's fault that there is such overwhelming and unprecedented interest in their film? The culture demands that they appear everywhere yet it criticizes them for being everywhere. Robert Downey Jr. was everywhere promoting Iron Man and there was never a picture on a cover of a magazine with his mouth covered in duct tape? That picture is beyond unacceptable and blatantly sexist.

And now the LA Times has a story this morning entitled Sex and the City movie may lack wide appeal which talks about whether there are enough women in this county over 30 interested in seeing this movie to make it a hit. (News flash to the studios- there are a lot of women in this country over 30, we have money and we go to the movies.)

Some box office prognosticators are predicting that it could make as much as $40 million on its opening weekend, others see it more in the $20 million range. Let's keep in mind that only one film starring a woman made more than $40 million on its opening weekend -- Angelina Jolie in the first Tomb Raider movie. That was an action movie (that appealed to boys more than women). Next is Charlie's Angels, another action flick that grossed $40 million. The Reese Witherspoon starrer Sweet Home Alabama has the highest grossing numbers at $35 million for a romantic comedy.

Let's not let this growing backlash put this film in a no win situation. It's not going to make as much money as an action film because it's not an action film. I also would love for Hollywood to take a pause and look at the numbers for this film beyond the first three days to see if women are coming out during the first week in larger numbers than usual.

We started off the movie season two weeks ago with the NY Times discussing the lack of films coming out this summer that have any women in significant roles. I find it very easy to be reconcile my feminism my love for movies on this one. This film needs all of our support. This feminist for one will be there supporting Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. Hope you join me.