“Sex and the City” is female wish fulfillment. But then again, “Iron Man” is male wish fulfillment. Women wish they could wear haute couture; men wish they could wear a flying robot suit. But such daydreams are just the candy shell of the Blow Pop. The bubblegum at the center isn’t that different from many of my favorite manly movies and television shows. The evil Emperor called Luke Skywalker’s faith in his friends his greatest weakness. But it was Skywalker’s greatest strength; the “Star Wars” movies are about friendships, loyalties, fighting monsters with people who will watch your back no matter what. Likewise, “Sex and the City” is a big wish: that we are not alone in our life’s adventure. You can’t choose your family. Romantic love is fleeting. Friends are forever.
This theme is seen time and time again in male culture. In movies like “The Lord of the Rings,” “Tombstone,” and “Gladiator,” and in television shows like “Entourage,” “The A-Team,” and “Star Trek.” Good war movies are almost always about brotherhood. And my favorite book of all the time, the bloody, melancholy cowboy epic Lonesome Dove, is about how only friendship can keep you alive in a savage frontier. “Sex and the City” is about sisterhood. This is what made the series a hit: Prior to “Sex and the City,” women were mothers or divorcees, hopeless single women with a married best friend or vice versa. Successful careerists too driven to maintain a relationship. “Sex and the City” presented women as a posse SWAT team: Samantha as Gandalf, Miranda as Spock, Charlotte as Frodo, and Carrie as Mr. T, the flamboyant, high-maintenance bone-breaker of “The A-Team.” The only other show equitable to “Sex and The City” is “The Golden Girls.”
However, the main difference here is I’ve watched “Sex and the City” a bunch of times, including the movie. I can quote “The Golden Girls.” I still can’t believe how subversive that show was. There are, generally, three female character types on the big and small screen: vixen (deadly or innocent). mom, and grandma. “The Golden Girls” came along and presented to the world four hilarious, horny old women who’d survived divorce, death, and decrepitude … and were having the time of their lives. The “Sex and the City” characters would be lucky to grow into Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia. Hell, I look forward to the day I can wear floral muumuus around my neighborhood. (I’m shooting for next Tuesday.)
But still, men hate “Sex and the City.” We hate it instinctively, the way we hate hot pink, or cottage cheese, or pedicures. It is a prejudice because on the surface, there really is a lot to loathe about Carrie Bradshaw and company. The conspicuous consumption posing as self-expression. Vapid, self-pitying conversations wrapped in a feminist bow. And the men! The men are all well-groomed nimrods who are 95 percent ground beef, 5 percent mischievous shrug and wink. Note to readers: don’t ever use the “Sex and the City” acronym as an adjective, as in “How SATC is THIS?”
But the truth is, “Sex and the City” isn’t about cosmos, “rabbits,” and brunch. That’s like saying “Star Trek” is just about the photon torpedoes. It’s not. “Star Trek” is about friends wearing costumes trying to make sense of the universe. And that’s exactly what “Sex and the City” is about. Substitute transporters for cabs, Manhattan for the Enterprise, and the bridge-and-tunnel crowd for Klingons.
Of course, everyone is talking about this cultural icon. “Sex and the City 2″ opens Friday, an event of monumental importance to future generations of drag queens. But men couldn’t care less. That night, America will turn into one giant Junior High School dance, a segregated affair with girls at the movies, and boys at the bar. Any man who says he loves “Sex and the City” has been brainwashed, the victim of pop culture Stockholm Syndrome. Sexual favors were denied. Eyelids were peeled back and taped in place. After months of indoctrination, he suddenly found himself counting calories, clucking disapprovingly at feet wearing shoes from last season, and declaring “I’m totally a Samantha!” Don’t believe him when he gushes about the HBO series; pity him. Dude needs to be deprogrammed. An afternoon of empty beer bottles, BB guns, and Iron Maiden should do the trick.
No man actually likes this show or its hit movie spin-offs. But that doesn’t mean we can’t understand its allure. Tolerate it. I’ve never been able to convince a woman I’m dating to watch “Dr. Who” with me, but she gets that I love it, and is happy to see me happy. I had a dude friend who once ranted about how much he hated the show because it was “sexist.” “Yeah,” I said, “but wouldn’t you say we’re winning in that department?” Samantha’s playthings are no different than the cheesecake stuffed bikini cartoons that populate any number of video games, movies, and TV shows. I don’t begrudge the entertainment industry its desire to titillate. And I don’t really believe culture influences the masses. I think it’s the other way around. Movies speak to our times. Reflect the fears and hopes of the moment. “Sex and the City” is insufferable fluff, but it is also a safe place where women can reaffirm what they want and believe — that four friends can have it all, including fruity martinis. One man’s trash is another woman’s treasure.