Sex and the City: the Eroticism of Enervation
Goodman Carter, in a spirit of essentially healthy curiosity, asked me some weeks ago if I considered the Sex and the City movie to be an expression on par with 1995's Showgirls of the "disease of heterosexuality." I was excited by his notion, but I only said, "I'm not sure; I'll check it out."

And I did.

Sex and the City is indeed about that act that is at the center of heterosexual women's lives, and their attempts to deal with its consequences. Like Showgirls and most pornography, Sex and the City uses sex to make an important point about the nature of reality. These movies, like no other art, truly show life to be a Schopenhauerian circuit of meaningless desires.

Yet, Sex and the City makes this point in a unique way. Showgirls, like the average porn movie, invites viewers to identify with its protagonists' lustful needs. The stark and brutal meaninglessness of these needs only makes the identification more thrilling for the viewer.

On the other hand, Sex and the City invites viewers to immediately distance themselves from the characters, indeed, to pity them without lust. It invites viewers to opt out of the circuit of desire, of life, altogether. It is the pornography of languid impotence--a porn movie that focuses on the pleasures of going soft. Watching Sex and the City was like being high on horse tranquilizers for hours, or years.

To understand this movie, imagine the following scenario. You read a phrase like,"this Bella Vista All Wood set is very dramatic, with a beautiful Cognac finish and Ash Burl accents which add depth and richness to the collection." You might think to yourself, "Who cares about this?" Or, "I pity the person who cares about this." But then, perhaps, you will notice a certain good and heavy feeling begin to grow inside you.

It is such a right and comfortable feeling, to pity and not to care. Bret Easton Ellis made a career of it. And now, Sex and the City has harnessed that same power

The plot of Sex and the City concerns the attempts of four heterosexual women to find, in their biological destiny, a respite from the futile merry-go-round of existence. I read in a guide for couples once that every woman is a little girl inside. No matter how outwardly "successful" or "independent" the woman is, said the publication, in her heart she is always merely seeking praise for her female beauty from her all-powerful father--a role that the man in her life must take on. This explains the behavior of the four main characters in Sex and the City as they alternately look to their sexual relationships for validation, indulge in their own needs by buying items that will enhance their sexual desirability, and--using both humor and tears--commiserate with one another about their enslaved lot.

It is a testament to the artistic boldness of Sex and the City writer/director Michael Patrick King that the women's "jokes" about their state of addiction are considerably more tragic than their tears.

However, as many reviewers have pointed out, the real pleasure of this movie is in its portrayal of the "gilded cage" that entraps the women, and, in a larger sense, all of us. Sex and the City is a sequence of lavish set-pieces: a "dream wedding"; a "Mexican getaway"; a glamorous fashion show; a little girl's room, fit for a princess; roses, torn when passion is scorned; love trouble on Valentine's Day, and a bittersweet New Years' Eve, during which white snow falls over Manhattan while a lilting Celtic soprano performs "Auld Lang Syne"; and many more.

It is in this way that Sex and the City bears a direct correlation to sedative drugs and furniture catalogs, to the pornography that enervates rather than arouses, to Schopenhauer's idea of asceticism, the ultimate denial of Will. The women's flat dialog is like the ad copy that accompanies the majestically-realized cliches of advertising, inviting you to relax into the passion that you can--thank God!--no longer feel.

Rating: 4.5 stars


Posted by xerxes on Thu, 10 Jul 2008 23:11:10 -0400 -- permanent link

The Gallery at LPR
158 Bleecker St., New York, NY
Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

All content c. 2008-2009 by the respective authors.

Site design c. 2009 by sweet sweet design