As 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.