Friday, May 30, 2008
Irresistible, Hilarious and Horrific
Last Wednesday afternoon, I went along to the Cineworld multiplex here in Dublin to book two tickets for an evening screening of the "Sex & The City" movie. Two things surprised me. The first was that the film was on in 5 screens, there are 17 in Cineworld Dublin. The second was that all screenings were either sold out or front row only. This should not really have surprised me, as even though this is the summer of hype when it comes to summer movies, "Sex & the City" is perhaps the most hyped of all. More so than "Indiana Jones" because while "Sex &The City" has it's fans and history, it is still it's first cinema adaptation. It has become an event, it will be an experience you are guaranteed to not love but adore. A long one at that, as it is 2 and a half hours long. That's like watching 5 episodes back to back. I loved "Sex & the City" when it was on TV. I didn't realise how much I loved it or, like a scraggy old dog, question why I loved it so much until I read Sinead Gleeson's article entitled "Sex and the So What?" on her Sigla website. In the article Sinead says that she couldn't care less about the film and, how as a woman she refuses to be tied in to the whole pop culture that the show had become by the time the series was concluding on television and now is being revisited in cinemas. Sinead's opinions are well stated and the article is one that that has got plenty of people posting their own opinions. Most, though not all, agree about the depiction of a Manhattan and it's inhabitants that the TV show created. I didn't like the TV series of "Sex &The City" when it was first screened but grew to love it. I hated the way the characters would stop the story and spoke to camera and viewer. It was all too Woody Allen. I felt it tried too hard to impress. I loved the fact that different people I know liked one character; usually Miranda, and didn't like another; usually Carrie. It was the men in the 4 main women's lives that I usually wasn't overtly fond of. It took me until the last series to like Steve Brady, I never really cared if John or Mr. Big came back into Carrie's life or not. Anyone who would let an Aidan or Berger go, was some kind of fool in my eyes. I always found Harry annoying and while Stanford was ok he was too whiny and prissy for me. But it was these characters that made the main female characters seem a little bit real as I always thought that all four of the female characters are stereotypes and we never like stereotypes. When I was growing up as a country child who never left Kilkenny much in the 1970's and 1980's my favourite shows were "Charlie's Angels", "Hart to Hart" "Dallas" and "Dynasty". All these shows were American, glamourous, colourful and, to me, very exciting. They might as well have been made on Mars. They were other worldly. Back then and unlike nowadays, there were very few millionaires in Ireland. In the America of the 1980's, at least on television in Denver and in Houston there were many. I was not the only child to watch these shows so in the 1990's when even a poor waitress like Rachel Green and her friends could have gorgeous apartments in Greenwich Village and more so when the women of "Sex & The City" came along we were given a new image of success and wealth. For the first time Irish people in their 30's, even 20's, could have a glamourous, gorgeous lifestyle. "Sex & the City" was a fantasy land with a little bit of reality. As the show progressed it was put on a pedestal by magazines like Britain's "Heat" and "OK". Young women were told on a weekly basic to invite the girls around, drink wine and watch the show. As "Sex & The City" was something that could be viewed as a single episode or as a series it was perfect entertainment for the 1990's. It was something you could dip in and out of, if you missed a show our friends, the internet or magazines could tell us all we needed to know. Only a fool would think that the four main characters were always lovely, always perfect. They were all snobby and elitist in their own ways. Back in 2004 Kim Akass and Janet McCabe, both film studies lecturers edited a book of articles and essays on "Sex & The City" called "Reading Sex & the City" This is an academic text written by people who are loud and proud fans of the show. It is highly entertaining and it was in reading Sinead's article that I remembered reading it. In the book they acknowledge that the show is of it's time, the relationships that the women have with each other and the many men in their lives and how, less so, they have connections with their families, Miranda was a case in particular. What I loved also was the concept of Samantha as a "gay man". I think why I loved the show so much is because I watched it at a time when I was fairly unhappy in my own life, when it was easier to stay in on a Friday night than face a bar where you don't even drink. It made me want to go to Manhattan and love it and I did. It still makes me hope that there must be gay men in Dublin who want to simply go on a date. Some of the women's encounters reminded me of how I met guys over the years in Dublin or episodes my friends have had. These, looking back was what made living in a city exciting and silly and fun and strange. What always came across to me was the way the 4 women met up and dissected their experiences. For many years now I have known my friends Tom and John, each Saturday we used to meet up, have lunch, go to a movie, have dinner, go for a drink and whatever happened to us in between we would chat about. Watching "Sex & the City" this was played out for me again, except in my own living room. Tom has since moved away and I don't see John as often but they are still two of my dearest friends. I think this was how thousands of friends related the show to their own lives over the years. Britain and Ireland became wealthier in the 1990's and just like it wouldn't be possible to meet our friends every weekend, the fantasy of 4 people meeting every week in a jungle the size of Manhattan was ready made for the romantic viewer. In one bookshop I worked in Candace Bushnell, the author of the original book came in one day and I got her to sign the only copy of "Sex & the City" in the shop. She wrote "To David, Drink Cosmos! Candace". Drink cosmos! If only she had known, I would be on the floor after two! The original book is very different to the show, a long way from the marketing of it's film adaptation in 2008. The re-issue of the book has a rather dull cream white cover, very different to the Neon lights of the accompanying movie tie in book. On the back of the earlier book jacket is a quote by Bret Easton Ellis; "Irresistible, hilarious and horrific, stylishly written... Candace Bushnell has captured the big, black truth". That was back in 1996, a time was Bret wasn't out as a bisexual man and a time when Candace would have had no idea what a marvel and monster in equal measures her Carrie had become.