Friday, May 28th, 2010

Why Everyone Hates The New 'Sex and the City' Movie

The grand dames of SATCAs a mostly disinterested observer I've found the overwhelming backlash against the new Sex and the City movie to be somewhat surprising. After all, it's not as if there's any radical departure from the series' formula that fans might find upsetting: The show always trafficked in the most grotesque stereotypes of shallow femininity; what made it so culturally noteworthy was the willingness of women to not only buy into its overt misogyny but embrace it. Even the show's greatest detractors would grudgingly admit an odd fascination with it. And yet we seem to have reached a moment where a growing number of former fans find themselves disgusted with its underlying philosophy and aesthetic. What accounts for the sudden revulsion?

My theory is that the radical aversion to the current installment of Sex and the City says something about the way we look at elderly women in modern American society. We would prefer that, if we must indeed be subject to their representation in popular culture, they be confined to small supporting roles in which they play spinster older sisters or embittered, loveless career women. The idea that we are not only supposed to pretend that the shriveled harridans we see on the screen might still engage in the act of sexual intercourse but that we are supposed to celebrate their enjoyment of such defies both credulity and good taste.

When "Sex and the City" premiered nearly a decade and a half ago it was still possible for viewers to convince themselves that these characters (and the actresses who played them) were vibrant and youthful enough that their carnal antics were both gratifying and arousing. All these years later the four protagonists, drained of their fecundity and more than halfway on the journey that brings every once-vibrant flower to its inevitable arid dessication, would be far more convincing as lesbian aunts or surprisingly spry grandmothers. Our visceral disdain for the most recent Sex and the City makes blatantly obvious our youth-oriented society's unspoken bias against females who are no longer credible as potential breeders. To paraphrase Andrea Dworkin, nobody wants to think about old ladies fucking.

Now that we've identified the problem, is there any real solution? Is there some way we can combat these terrible attitudes about demonstrable sexuality in the aged and infirm? I would urge some kind of campaign in which we sought to reassure the great mass of Americans who find themselves physically sickened by the thought that someone who is a year or two away from collecting Social Security might enjoy a quick romp under the sheets after a leisurely day of shuffleboard and canasta that they have nothing to fear from antediluvian sexuality, but I'm fairly certain that it would be a losing effort. Our prejudices against the concept of the lust of the older woman are too deeply ingrained-probably for biological reasons-for us to change them. I am afraid that the ladies of Sex and the City will have to take a pass on these kind of roles for at least another three years or so until they enter Betty White territory and their desires are something we can laugh at rather than recoil from.

Of course, another possibility is that the movie just sucks, but I'll be fucked vertically with a javelin before I'll go to a theater to see for myself. I mean, get real.

108 Comments / Post A Comment

dado (#102)

I don't know, I found Helen Roper oddly sensual.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

She understood the universal sexiness of the muu muu.

keisertroll (#1,117)

My theory: Not enough yellowface Mickey Rooney.

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

Have to disagree. Mona from Who's the Boss was hawt.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

You should have seen Katherine Helmond a few years earlier on Soap…

HiredGoons (#603)

Ha, I saw Judith Light outside Macy's last summer.

@HG: That sounds like the sort of consumerist Damascene conversion story that's perfectly in line with the SATC ethos.

Barbara Walters could still get it.

deepomega (#1,720)

Look, I'm not opposed to Olds fucking (that includes you, Balk, and you, majority of the commentariat). I just think that there should be a license required after age, say, 35. Every five years you have to get your bone on in front of a neutral panel of judges. If the majority of them are aroused by your performance, you get to keep slapping your junk around for another five years.

HiredGoons (#603)



"I got jury duty!"


*(high five/Icing)

Maevemealone (#968)

You push that age to 40 RIGHT NOW!


johnpseudonym (#1,452)

@maevemealone – bless your heart!

deepomega (#1,720)

I almost wrote 30, but decided that there are probably some 30 year olds with a gasp of life left in them, so why not be generous.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

@Deep: when I turn 38 next month, you're gonna find yourself ICED for every year of my age.

I can assure you I look much hotter fucking at 35 than I did at 25.
Sexual peak, and all…

Your sexual peak? Wait till you're 45, foxy mama!

roboloki (#1,724)

i find the "logan's run" flavor of this thread disturbing.

Baroness (#273)

@HiredGoons: I got a jury duty summonstoday. Fuck. I'd rather be Iced.

He's obviously guilty, Your Honor! May I go now?

Art Yucko (#1,321)

@robo: Hey, my hand crystal IS BLINKING, TOO! Time for Carousel, whee!

deepomega (#1,720)

@Art: When I turn 24 in six months, I will ICE you for each year you are older than me. Then I'll wake up the next morning with a very mild hangover, because Youth.

@omega: If you were coming to the Commenters Bawl, you would be so under the table, m'dear. Mark my words!

deepomega (#1,720)

Well, clearly! I do not have the benefit of having soaked my liver in the finest rums for upwards of 3 decades! It'd be unfair!

permafrost (#2,735)

SERIOUSLY. Time doesn't slow down for anyone. Or even better:

"Time rushes towards us with its hospital tray of infinitely varied narcotics, even while it is preparing us for its inevitably fatal operation."
Tennessee Williams "The Rose Tattoo"

permafrost (#2,735)

(that should have been @roboloki)

HiredGoons (#603)

In all honesty I think it has to do with feelings towards post-recession conspicuous consumption and self-centeredness.

Maevemealone (#968)

And hatred of/incompetance in regards to children.

Yes, it is the economy.

oudemia (#177)

I think you're right. But Balk's right, too. I have no intention of seeing this movie (it seems gross), and it's doing yeoman's service in providing a subject for vicious takedowns (one of my favorite genres), but amid these vicious takedowns, whose overall perspective on the film is surely correct, I'm finding a lot of contempt for the sexuality of non-nubile women, which, pinko feminist that I am, puts me off. It was a drag to read Ebert (Ebert!) ranting about what a horrible "slut" Samantha is. Really? We're supposed to hate sluts now? Or just 50+yo sluts? The presumed prima facie risibility of desire for or in anyone over 35 is also the currency of all the "cougar" bullshit and that's tiresome as well. So, bleah, the movie sucks, the entire project almost always been retrograde, but fucking people (consensually!) is not wrong — even when olds do it.

hungrybee (#2,091)

Economy, yes. Also, the previously one-note characters have become half-note characters, and therefore even more insulting.

(As for me, I really hate the puns. Please make them stop.)

HiredGoons (#603)

@oudemia: fucking people is most certainly not wrong; and if it is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Mar (#2,357)

They're not old, they're middle-aged.

Aatom (#74)

My thought exactly. Excess doesn't play well during a recession.

Also, I suspect the movie just sucks as well, but as a gay I think I'm legally obligated to see it for some reason.

HiredGoons (#603)

you're not! join us…

conklin (#364)

I've only seen maybe a dozen episodes of the series, but I didn't really mind it. I enjoyed it sort of the same way I enjoy Seinfeld: let's watch horrible, shallow people sometimes go about their meaningless lives (but more often just talk about their meaningless lives). That it was less self aware than Seinfeld only made it truer. And darker. I suppose that's not what most fans took from it.

That said, I'll be right behind Balk on the javelin line, waiting my turn safely outside of the "splash zone" perimeter.

djfreshie (#875)

Fair, but there are simply ginormous differences between SATC and Seinfeld that you can't really ignore, and that you sort of point out:

Seinfeld was funny in a self-deprecating way. The self-awareness is hugely important with regard to the entertainment value of the show. Like Curb, but less awkward inducing. The protagonists or whatnot ARE likeable. George is a loser, but he's not annoyingly so, and a lot of what he says and does is both hilarious and we relate to a lot of it. Annoying – At least not to the people who enjoy the show (most of the plaints I've heard from people who hate seinfeld simply cite that they dislike the characters. Fine.)

Meanwhile SATC is not a predominantly self-deprecating show. The characters are clearly intended to be sympathetic. The whole Carrie as narrator, writing her doogie-howser journal entries moral-learning BS, et cetera. Sure there are elements of caricature, in Samantha and Kristen Davis whateverhernameis. But the writing insists that the viewers are meant to relate to these women on a level that is not self-deprecating. So where Seinfeld is all "Haha, that's so me, and I'm soooo lame" SATC is all "Yeah, that's so me, and you know what, it's OKAY that I set aside time to admire shoes and over-analyze ridiculous shit in my sex life and whatnot, and be vapid sluts without any discernible life skills or insight." And so, fuck that, because that's not a good message for anyone. It's the female entourage: all fantasy, no insight to anything, just packed to the hilt with unlikeable human beings nobody should aspire to be like.

Baboleen (#1,430)

I agree. I looked at SATC the same way as a new series. I'm no prude, but I can say that I engaged in Samantha type promiscuity (when and only when I was drunk) and had a hard time looking at myself in the mirror for a long time after. I tried to justify it with the idea that what is ok for a man is also ok for a woman. I generalized everything about it. For ME it was a type of denial. I think very differntly now.

At least with Sienfeld, the audience was ALWAYS made aware of the unintended consequences of the characters' actions.

djfreshie (#875)


Babo, the trick is to only have sex sober. Then you can look in the mirror while having sex and feel good about it.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

Lovey Howell was backing it up for both the Skipper *and* Gilligan.

I dunno, Sue Ann Nivens was about the same age or even slightly older than these ladies when she was chasing Lou Grant around the newsroom and she rocked it.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@kitten: She was the only believable older nympho on TV, chasing sailors and all.

Ooh, you are Agent 99!

permafrost (#2,735)

@scroll_lock: Blanche on Golden Girls? Or was she not frequent enough.

blueprint (#2,019)

The protagonists of S&C are nothing more than banal attention whores whose sole purpose in life is to occupy the eye of self-manufactured drama hurricanes.

As someone who's always (genuinely) loved women, to see my female peers aspire to such depths is unbelievably disappointing. I can only liken it to black, middle class parents seeing their child derail their life in an attempt to be more like Gucci Mane.

I think the backlash stems from women living/attempting to live that life, and realizing just how shitty it really is.

Vulpes (#946)

As someone weaned on the glorious Golden Girls, I don't think it's (entirely, necessarily, for all) about the thought of old women fucking that is making such a big backlash at SatC2. I mean, really, they're not THAT old, and the reviews I've seen really aren't attacking it for having people fucking.

It's the complete narcissism and self-indulgence, the lack of any true emotion or energy, the now-slightly-retrograde conspicuous consumption that seems to be turning people off. Also, I think the audience has gotten older, and now see that the show they loved isn't quite what they thought it was.

buzzorhowl (#992)

Yeah, seriously; I feel like the continued popularity of Golden Girls destroys Balk's entire thesis. I mean, yeah, Golden Girls was a comedy, but isn't Sex And The City supposed to be kind of comedic as well? This theory just doesn't seem plausible to me.

LondonLee (#922)

I used to watch the show all the time and really, in it's early days especially, this movie (and the one before it) are a travesty of what it used to be about.

I've nothing against olds fucking (I'm old myself!), I think the problem is the girls are mostly all "settled" now so they have nothing left of interest to say about them and have resorted to the worst kind of chick-lit porn.

LolCait (#460)

I think I get it, Alex.

Finally, someone!

neel (#239)

Disagree. I got no qualms with hot old babes:

It's just terrible.

HiredGoons (#603)

Also: 'elderly' had me cracking up.

How 'bout "antediluvian"?!

HiredGoons (#603)

I need a towel.

Wanna get high?

(Goons, you better have gotten this!)

carig (#4,986)

I agree that the age factor is a huge part of the backlash. I liked the tv show – some seasons more than others – and I didn't really like the first movie. I was expecting the sequel to be awful, but I surprisingly liked it more than the first movie. It was too long, yes, but it felt more like an episode of the show – which is all I would ever want out of a movie based on a tv show. Leaving the theater yesterday, we heard a bunch of 20-year-old sorority girls complaining about how they hated they movie because the characters dressed too young. But there's a scene in the movie in which Samantha and Miley Cyrus show up on the red carpet in the same dress – and honestly, Samantha wore it better. I think the movie is pretty self-aware of all the criticisms it would (and has) received, and it addresses them in the context of the movie. But hell, maybe I just took one too many ivy league film studies classes.

saythatscool (#101)

Yeah, that last line told me everything.

As you know, I did my grad work at Fucksamatta U, and the film classes were sublime. No fluffer jokes!

kneetoe (#1,881)

BL: How are their graduate programs?

sbma44 (#2,565)

The Balkian hypothesis seems like it has merit. But it's also worth considering whether a few years of distance from the series and movie may have simply given fans the chance to finally realize that the show's writing is some of the most godawful, cloying trash that's ever been filmed.

MarkNYC (#394)

I think it might have something to do with the tone-deaf nature of having four outrageously wealthy people jet off to Abu Dhabi in the middle of the worst recession almost ever.

Maybe Carrie could have to take a job as a waitress because the writing assignments dry up. Or Miranda could be downsized, and forced to sit through those humiliating "how to find a job" seminars the Dept. of Labor makes you sit through when you file for unemployment. And Charlotte could be swindled by Bernie Madoff.

I don't have any problem with the women having sex. I just wish there was more nudity.

City_Dater (#2,500)

@MarkNYC: Yes, this.
Whatever empowerment through female friendship message the show itself ever had is gone. The conspicuous consumption and shallow New York-is-5th-Ave-and-nothing-else attitude was always boring, and now it's especially out of step.

Bittersweet (#765)

Yep. When the biggest issues the ladies face seem to be "My toddler got paint on my designer dress!" and "Big won't go clubbing with me!" you know you're just done.

MarkNYC (#394)

I think the trick is to do a crossover. Cloverfield meets SATC 2. A monster arises out of New York Harbor and destroys the Meatpacking District. Only token minorities and poor people live.

And by "poor people", I mean Brooklyn.

My aversion is: Sarah Jessica Parker's head is too big for her gamey little bod.

But Alex darling, prejudices against the concept of the lust in or for the older woman are not deeply ingrained. That is pregnant women.

kneetoe (#1,881)

BL: We need more very old pregnant ladies to really figure this out.

I think you're right, Alex.

To solve the problem, they should do a "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd"-style prequel next: Hire four young, hot actresses to play the gals in their college years, and tell the story of how they met in the midst of a topless sorority pillow-fight party!

I think this idea could really reinvigorate the series. Who do I call about this?

saythatscool (#101)

Didn't Bushnell just write this book? It was Carrie's diaries as a teen or something. It had a Bell Jar reference in the title.

Dammit! She stole the idea from me!

Does the book have a topless pillow fight in it?

HiredGoons (#603)

2nd Theory: the movie is a great big piece of crap.

oudemia (#177)

Yes, this is the essential ur-theory, I think.

hman (#53)

I think it's because – besides careers/kids/marriages – nothing about them as individuals has changed at all in the intervening ten years.

They are all so incredibly shallow, even the "smart" one, whatshername. And their apartments are book-free.

carig (#4,986)

Carrie was actually reading Nancy Mitford in one scene in the movie.

At least not Unity!

oudemia (#177)

Actually, I would go see the movie if it had Carrie reading Unity Mitford.

It's quite possible the prop department just got their Mitfords mixed up.

barnhouse (#1,326)

I would also see it if she shot herself in the noggin like Unity.

libmas (#231)

I dunno. The internet seems fond of Helen Mirren. But I do think it worth noting that Balk has a friend in Garrison Keillor, who has celebrated sexual desire among the olds for some time now. I've got a tape in which he sings:

These days it seems that love and sex
Are here one minute, gone the next
It's a race and only younger folks can run.

Us old folks we just sit and smile
We know it takes us quite a while
But time sure flies when you're having fun.

skahammer (#587)

Seems like there's a perfectly apt Keillorism for everything. I wonder what he thinks BP should do after Top Kill.

cherrispryte (#444)

I don't think it's the "old ladies fucking" that is freaking people out. I think the show itself is starting to age, and in an attempt to combat that, it's gotten even more ridiculous. SATC premiered when the internet was still pretty much a baby, oversharing was still new, and anal sex was so shocking it required cigarettes to even be discussed. Times have changed. The franchise's pathetic attempts to keep up have just taken it further away from reality (which it never really was) and into a scary place where the characters are cartoonish at best.

Also – racism and misogyny. Insane amounts of racism and misogyny.

HiredGoons (#603)

The one thing I do like about this film: it allows me to be snarky without a single ounce of remorse.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Sex and the City is a topic about which I know little, but doesn't the movie take place away from the City? Seems like a strange choice, given, like, the title.

HelloTitty (#830)

It's not so much that these women are too old to fuck, but that they act and are presented as MUCH younger than they actually are. It's pathetic when people don't act their damn age, male or female.

I will not admit to an odd fascination with it.

Erik Maza (#4,544)

it can't possibly suck more than anything else at the theater. at least not here in south beach. when i went to the theater yesterday, i just wanted to catch a late night show, but id already seen the secret in their eyes and the tina fey movie. i was left with robin hood, shrek 3, and that queen latifah movie. i mean, im 23, and and they all looked more infantile than satc. so i went into the satc show BY MYSELF – can you imagine the horror? – but it was too early, and after 15 minutes of regal cinema "first looks" i walked out. it was probably as good as the movie will get, but people should really back off; they're talking about it like it's an Auschwitz documentary. good grief.

Urbania (#94)

It's not the years, it's the mileage.

Hotdog down a hallway, etc.

BadUncle (#153)

On the plus side, maybe this movie will convince all those hopelessly naive, would-be publishing women at midwestern universities that New York City makes you old. And then, they won't move here and rents will go down and everyone will get a puppy. Yay.

Wrapitup (#975)

I completely disagree with your theory, Alex. You're basically saying the movie may not suck per se and so its producers and writers are not the ones at fault here. You're blaming society for being fundamentally ageist and misogynist which, don't get me wrong, it is. But you're not acknowledging that the movie is fundamentally racist and filled with class snobbery. You're coming at this from an ethnocentric and class-centric, even quasi-Jezebel-commenter place where you're not noticing that the entire movie is about the sexual and material demands of upper middle-class and wealthy white women. In today's America, any content producer ignores those pesky minorities and those boring poors at his/her peril. Many cultural commentators still don't get that gays, minorities and foreigners are no more just cutesy little garnishes in the American cultural landscape that a writer/producer/studio head can toss in or out of content based on whims or fears of appearing non-PC. And neither do they get that most of us in this country aren't really rich and we never were. We don't live on wealth, we live on 90s-era frantic borrowing. And finally they don't grasp that little things like geographic realities matter. You can't pretend that Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates is an Aladdin dream world where you get to be a princess because you're a girl and you're fabulous. And you can't make a movie in 2010 that fetishizes Arabs for their sexual attractiveness for the voyeuristic pleasure of white people and expect everyone to be happy. That was the job of late 90s gay porn, not a major Hollywood release in the 21st century.

This review sums it up. But a representative of the dastardly patriarchy aka a straight white guy wrote it. So what does he know about the sufferings and pains of the poor women? How dare he?

"King seems to be posing the rhetorical question: Can a gay-wedding scene staged by a gay director still be homophobic and offensive? I think I'm voting for yes"

And here, in a nutshell, is why this movie sucks goat balls:

"In perhaps the movie's most telling moment, Samantha responds to the Abu Dhabi invitation by exclaiming: "Two years of bad business and this bullshit economy — I'm done! I need to go somewhere rich!" "Sex and the City" and its women are artifacts of the gone-but-not-forgotten economic boom, and the fictional Abu Dhabi of "SATC2" — which is either Morocco or a studio soundstage — has nothing to do with the real Middle East and everything to do with a consumerist-masturbation fantasy where the '90s never ended."

And there you have it. Yay for sisterhood! You can join if your skin is light enough and your husband's wallet is big enough. It's called women's empowerment. It's about what you can afford, not what you actually do with your life and your time.

(psssst! I think Balk's post might've been just slightly tongue-in-cheek?)

Aatom (#74)

Quasi-Jezebel indeed.

Wrapitup (#975)

Really? Hmm. Well, if so: sorry, Balk.

Fredrick (#268)


I find that, also, in text messages, one's intentions can be radically misread with even one wrong word choice. What a world.

Emma Smith (#5,216)

"ELDERLY"? You use that word when writing about the sexuality of women in their 40's and 50's? How old are you Balk? 24?
You lost me in the first sentence when you admitted you are a "…mostly disinterested observer". That much is clear from the rest of your article, which is as far off as the film itself.

katiebakes (#32)

I strongly agree with this comment.

carpetblogger (#306)


bureaucrette (#367)


I just came here to say, retirement communities are dens of iniquity. Them bitches are LOOSE.

permafrost (#2,735)

Hmm…personally I don't care how old the characters are, there are so many other reasons that this movie will be (is) repellent. Just viewing the trailers made me cringe.

HiredGoons (#603)

we can start with the acting.

missdelite (#625)

Ok, fine then.

How about we keep Davis and replace SJP, Cattrall and Nixon with Raquel Welch (69!), Diahann Carroll (74!) and Julianne Moore (49!).

What say you then?

My point: The current lineup is unappealing from a cinematic POV – not because they're older than the average featured actress – but because they're not hot. Cattrall had sex appeal during the show's run, but sadly, the botox has taken over. (And yes, I know the replacements mentioned above have had extensive work done, but I've seen them on talk shows, and they've still got it "goin' on".)

Also consider: Diane Lane (45), Mariska Hargitay (46), Melina Kanakaredes (43) = muy caliente!

Billy Tarter (#5,229)

Interesting take on the controversy, completely different from the racism angle. Very well-written. I referenced this article in my write-up on Here's the link:

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

People hate it because they are sexist. Nobody complains about the tons of crap out there in movie theaters with such vitriol. I personally don't like it because I never cared for SATC. So what? I'm a straight guy! Why should I like it??!?! But at least I'm not ranting and raving like some about the film.

Personally, I will say so many blogs are "complaining" because they are just "meta enabling." Gotta pump up those page-views and this summer movie season has sucked hard so far!

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

Oh, just realized this was more about former fans now hating SATC. So what I said is like not 100% applicable. But let's get real: People get older and we are in a recession. So looking at anyone being a glamazon while friends down tuna and coffee for a meal doesn't sit well.

John Rambow (#4,804)

Or, oh my God, Jessica Mitford's American Way of Death.

John Rambow (#4,804)

OK, my over-enthusiastic post was slotted for the Mitford discussion. Obviously. But there it isn't. What is that REPLY button for, anyway?

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