by Latoya Peterson
Y’all knew we had to do it, eventually. Sex and the City is an event, and though none of the Racialicious staffers have seen the movie yet, we got enough tips and articles sent in we decided to do a post. (Carmen and I are both opting to catch the film on DVD.)
In the July 2008 issue of Marie Claire, Willie Garson (who played Stanford Blatch) said this about his character:
I didn’t audition for the role of Stanford at all the way he’s played in the show. I just read it as a guy who happened to be homosexual. Then when we went to shoot the pilot, I remember Darren shouting at me, “Gayer!” You know, to the point where it felt really kind of artificial to me. But people loved it.
The Women Themselves
Dodai from Jezebel breaks down why the movie was all kinds of wrong:
To be honest, I was a fan of the TV show when it first aired. A female writer living in New York and dealing with messy relationships? Of course I could relate. Of course I was attracted to the glitter, the nightlife, the search for love and the dating psychodramas. And what the show did really well was to tell those modern urban love legends: The Guy With The Funky Spunk, The Guy Who Died Before The Second Date, The Time The Writer Fell On The Runway, The Time Your Friend Had A Brazilian Lesbian Lover For Like A Week. But the movie made me want to cut myself. It was a showcase for how hollow and soulless these characters were. Do they have hobbies, aside from shopping? Interests? Do they read anything beyond Page Six? They are just rich bitches who don’t even have the decency to be over-the-top, and therefore amusing, like Absolutely Fabulous. I was seriously offended when Charlotte wouldn’t eat anything except packaged chocolate pudding on their trip because “It’s Mexico.” I was also offended by Miranda’s rudeness to her nanny and Samantha’s “Honey, we can pay people to do the stuff we don’t want to do” attitude. Then it dawned on me: These women are assholes. [...]
While the SATC TV show often presented silly conundrums easily solved and then post-mortemed over cocktails; SATC the movie insists that the audience empathize with these fools. Carrie cares more about herself and her elaborate gown than her groom, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her? I always thought Big was a smug cad who dyed his gray hair black, so I didn’t care if she ended up with him or not. Samantha breaks up with Smith by saying “I love you, but I love me more,” and that’s supposed to be empowering? Is getting a lapdog really a happy ending for a 50-year-old? I found myself hating every single one of them: Idiotic, superficial Carrie; stuck-up, naggy perfectionist Charlotte; cold, ruthless Miranda and bitter, narcissisitic Samantha. The worst part is that these women have spawned a new generation of materialistic empty-headed women: When Carrie thanks Jennifer Hudson’s character, Louise (rightfully called a magical negro by Moe’s sister) for bringing her back to life, Louise replies, “And you bought me my first Louise[sic] Vuitton.” Because the only thing more important than soul-searching is having a thousand-dollar bag that will be out of style in three to six months.
The BBF (Black Best Friend):
This piece from the Root examines a phenomenon we are all familiar with:
In August 2007, Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times first coined the term BBF — black best friend — in the article “Buddy system; They’re wise, loyal and often sassy. Black Best Friends help white heroines, but do they limit black actresses?” One unnamed source joked that celluloid BBFs should form a support group to save “woefully helpless white girls.”
Here are the specs on the BBF: “They are gorgeous, independent, loyal and successful. They live or work with their friend but are not really around all that much except for well-timed moments when the heroine needs a dining companion or is in crisis. BBFs basically have very little going on, so they are largely available for such moments. And even though they are single or lack solid consistent relationships, BBFs are experts in the ways of the world, using that knowledge to comfort, warn or scold their BFF.”
Of Hudson’s “bossy” Louise, one article said the character had “an uncanny ability to help her boss get her life back in order.”
It’s no wonder most women of a certain hue never got into SATC. Instead many tuned in to Mara Brock Akil’s Girlfriends, often rightly referred to as the black Sex and the City. Airing for eight seasons, Girlfriends followed the careers, sex lives and friendships of four (then three) women trying to make it big in the big city. Sound familiar? Except this time the chicks looked like us. And to be fair, just as SATC lacked main black characters, GFs lacked white ones—sans Toni’s lovah Dr. Todd Garrett. Sound familiar?
NYT Looks for a Different Kind of Fan
The New York Times did a piece seeking out women who were fans of the show from different economic, social, and racial backgrounds:
“I think the ‘Sex and the City’ women do portray the single life in New York City for the most part,” said Alkia Thompson, a 36-year-old single woman who lives in Harlem and plans to see the movie Friday night. “ ‘Sex and the City’ is my little fantasy. When I watch it, it gives me a chance to get away from everyday life. I can escape into their world.
“I mean, who can afford Jimmy Choos? I can’t even afford one pair! But the way New York City is changing now, you’re going to need a lot of money to live here. I don’t mind changes like this, but I don’t like the fact that people are being pushed out.”
Sung ea Parke, a 33-year-old married Korean immigrant who works in a dry cleaner in Jackson Heights, Queens, said her existence could hardly be more different than the lives of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and especially Samantha, a devotee of no-commitment sex.
“I’ve never experienced that kind of lifestyle, but the drama of the show is very interesting and very funny,” she said. “I’ve seen every show. I understand that kind of life, but I cannot live it. I am married.” [...]
Like most of the women who talked about the series, Ms. Marshall said the friendships among the women and the relationship problems they had with men were what had pulled her in. And like many others, she said she overlooked the fact that the series featured few immigrants or minorities.
“Race,” she said, “is not a factor. It’s a girl thing.”
Another Black Perspective on Sex and The City
On the Spout Blog, Steven Boone talks to three black women about Sex and the City. The article opens:
The most idiotic comment I’ve heard in reference to Sex and the City is, “Who wants to watch a bunch of old ladies having sex? Yuck.” (uttered by a 23 year old co-worker who looked like Wally Cleaver). The second most idiotic comment I’ve heard in reference to Sex and the City is, “That show’s just for rich white chicks.” What rot! There are armies of black women who adore the show and were doing cartwheels in anticipation of the movie. But there is some ambivalence, some trouble among the ranks…
The three women quoted – Annette Lathan, Janelle McNeil, and Susan Lyerly – range in age from 19 to 40 and are in a variety of occupations.
The show completely changed the way I dress. Best I’ve ever looked in my life. Rich white people knew about stuff like Manolo Blahniks but I didn’t know about it ’til Sex and the City. Inside I feel like that hot, skinny blonde chick. Inside I’m Carrie, but the world doesn’t see that. – Susan Lyerly
I appreciate the show or what it was and don’t try to make it more than it was. In a way, the people behind he show were being small-minded. But what about other minorities? I don’t know why black people would complain so much, because at least Miranda had a black boyfriend at one point. [...]
New York City, for all its gays and liberation, is still segregated. What bothers me more is how we’re portrayed sometimes in these shows. There was one episode where the girls were waiting on line at a club and a black woman was there, all loud and cursing. The producers must have been, like, “Be black, be loud and curse.” – Susan Lyerly
Girlfriends? That was LA. And it was a terrible show. Sex and the City is a great show. Girlfriends was, on some level, the black Sex and the City, but it was fake, a sitcom with a laugh track, where Sex and the City was real. The girls on Girlfriends didn’t even act like real black women. They were white women dipped in chocolate. [Editor raises an eyebrow here- LDP] The question isn’t, “Why not more black shows?” The question is, “Why not more real?” – Susan Lyerly
To me, they should show African-American women like that also. Why can’t it be us also? African-American women have that style, too. They should have given Jennifer Hudson a role as a professional woman, same as them, instead of being a secretary for Carrie. – Janelle McNeil
The problem I have is that they always portray white people to be like that and always portray young black people to be hood and like we’ll never amount to anything, never go far in life, but that’s not true. Even though my generation seems like it’s not going far, there are a lot of people around my age who really are trying to get into the same positions as those white people. I feel that America as a society, as a whole, shouldn’t just down black people because there are very intelligent black people out there, and the images that they show to these little kids is that white people are always the ones who are going to amount to something, they’re the ones who will make all the money. – Janelle McNeil
[A]s far as making unusual strides for black women, The L Word was the show to watch. – Annette Lathan
Reader Naomi C saw the film and sent in this interesting little tidbit:
In a scene from the new “Sex and the City” movie, Miranda scouts out an apartment in Chinatown. She explains to her Ukrainian maid how Chinatown is the new up-and-coming area. Then she sees a white man with a baby walking down the street, exclaims “See! There’s a white man with a baby! Follow him! Let’s see where he’s going!”
I didn’t find much humor in the gentrification displayed there.
A View from Across the Pond
Lemn Sissay, poet and artist at The South Bank centre, is quoted in the Guardian with an apt observation on how television operates:
Like everyone else I had to watch the programme – it had the word ‘sex’ in the title and I am a guy – and to be frank I enjoyed the sex, the women and the city, New York. They’re all gorgeous. But if Sex and the City is as honest about women as it is about race then by watching I was entering the sticky realms of fantasy. Let’s not pretend it was anything else.
Every black American male or female, knew from the start that like the other international hit, Friends, Sex and the City was just not about them. By exclusion from one of the most cosmopolitan and racially mixed cities of the world, the message was abundantly clear – this one is not for you.
Jeez, you cannot get more cosmopolitan than Manhattan: Hispanic, Asian and black people make up more than 50 per cent of the population of the city. You can’t step on a passer-by without having to apologise in four languages.
The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with a show about white girls and their inner city lives – black folks have had their inner city lives portrayed throughout TV’s short history. If there were too many black people in the show it couldn’t be called Sex and the City anyway. It’d have to be called Sex in the Inner City or Sex in the Urban Environment or Sex on the Streets. Yawn.
Asians in the City
Angry Asian Man did a list exploring how many Asians had screentime during the film:
1. Charlotte’s cute adopted daughter from China, Lily, played by Alexandra and Parker Fong (twins). The gals teach her to say “sex.” I guess it had to happen sooner or later.
2. Carrie and Mr. Big’s realtor. An older lady wearing lots of makeup.
3. Woman having wild sex with Samantha’s neighbor. Very, very naked.
4. Man with an extremely impressive resume interviewing for the job of Carrie’s assistant… wearing bright pink heels. Goes from overqualified to emasculated in about nine seconds.
5. Dude with a ponytail, serving Samantha a drink. Seen at a distance. No lines.
UPDATE: Okay, I totally forgot about the Sikh man driving the cab. Also, there were a handful of scattered Asians roaming around the scene in Chinatown. Of course! Gentrification of the lower east side and all. And that’s it. Those are all the Asians in “the City.” Just like real life, right?
Some Black Fashionista Perspectives
The Fashion Bomb put up a quick piece on the movie. Claire asked her readers ” Were you happy with the ‘sister’ representation???” The commenters verdict? Hated it!
I agree with Anonymous 11.15a. It’s like Patricia Field just sent her to Sears with $200 and a product placement deal with Bag, Borrow, or Steal. Against the backdrop of all the other sartorial wondrousness, Poor St.Louise faded into the background. No pretty dresses, no edgy coats or tops for poor Louise. Just those damned bags. *sigh* I was so looking forward to some non-skinny fashion, too. Oh well.
this is funny because I paid no attention to her until my friend was like what the hell is up with JHUD look then it dawned on me THE BLACK GIRL FROM ST LOUIS=A HOT ASS MESS what is the world coming to must we be misrepresented all the time? I mean bad enough they exclude us from everything but when they do find it in their heart(or lack there of) to include us they represent who we are totally not…oh well I guess until we define who we are others will continue to do it for us….
YSL was one of the greats, he will be missed.
I personally thought they could’ve done ‘better by’ Jennifer Hudson. The film is all about fantasy. The journalist who can afford Manolo Blahnik’s, Christian Dior Dresses, and Chanel bags. So why on earth did they feel the need to ‘keep it real’ with the assistant? They could’ve pushed the envelope with her and really draped some labels on her. Miranda was wearing a Chanel scarf….when, in the series, was she ever so fashionable and label conscious as to wear a Chanel scarf for a walk in the park??
Basically, they did a disservice to Jhud. Maybe ALT should’ve put his LV case down and taken some pain to really style her.
Ridiculous Marketing Tie In
Fabsugar reports on some new trinket to buy:
At Patricia Field online, you can purchase this Custom Carrie Nameplate Necklace ($189). Choose from silver or gold, add a diamond or two, and decide between small, medium, or large font. Look at you, following in Carrie’s (Manolo Blahnik) footsteps!
Or you could say fuck the diamonds and just buy one at the mall.
(Thanks to Xavier, Jasmine, Naomi C and Tze Ming Mok for the tips.)
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
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Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.
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