I have a confession to make. I used to watch Sex and the City with my wife, back when it was on HBO. While I would like to say that my reasons for doing so were purely prurient (i.e. there were not many television programs that I could watch with the full consent -- nay, the encouragement of my wife – where near A-list actresses would nude up and engage in all manner of sexual adventure. Also, it is fun to hear women talk dirty), I have to admit that there was more to it than that. Like any good television program, Sex and the City had the singular virtue of making you care about its characters. By the end of it all, it was important to millions of viewers whether or not true love would win out, and Carrie would end up with Big. And occasionally, just occasionally, the show managed to transcend its genre and portray moments of true pathos (Moon River never sounded quite so bittersweet as it did in Big’s empty apartment, did it?).
Apropos of my sordid confession above, I recently engaged in a fascinating discussion with my lovely wife and one of her friends about the virtues of Sex and the City (this arose in response to a comment from one of my wife’s male co-workers, who was maligning his wife for planning to see the film as a group female outing, complete with dressing up as one’s favorite SATC character). It was contended that one of the reasons for Sex and the City’s incredible popularity among women is that not only do women identify themselves as "being" a Carrie, a Miranda, a Charlotte, or a Samantha (like some sort of exclusively feminine Myers-Briggs test – "hi, I’m a Carrie/Miranda, with a touch of Samantha"), but that collectively the SATC women are really just one woman. Apparently every woman has the neuroses of Carrie, the intellect of Miranda, the raw sexuality of Samantha, and the goodness and sincere belief in true love of Charlotte.
While my sense is that there is some truth to this theory, I don’t think that fully explains the popularity of the show. Sex and the City didn’t simply act as a mirror for millions of women, wherein they could see themselves in the characters. SATC also created its own zeitgeist, and blazed a path for women to follow. While I am sure there were women in New York City who swilled cosmopolitans, wore Manolos, relentlessly bed-hopped, and generally acted fabulous at all times prior to the show (the show is, after all, based upon the real-life experiences of author Candace Bushnell), you didn’t see packs of women in places like Des Moines doing the same (in fact, prior to SATC, no one in Des Moines even knew what a cosmopolitan was).
I contend that women love Sex and the City because it showed them – in stark, bordering upon caricatured archetypes – women in their early 30s being fabulous. And that, coupled with the ability to identify with those archetypes, made every woman who watched the show feel fabulous themselves. It didn’t matter if you wore a size 2, lived in an amazing apartment in the most amazing city in the world, and could attract a dozen men with the wave of your little finger. Just order up a cosmo, strap on your Jimmie Choos, and get together with your best girlfriends (who are, like the SATC characters, your family), and you will be fabulous.
I think that provides all the explanation that one needs for the "stunning, $56+ million opening weekend" for the Sex and the City movie, which is the largest opening ever for an R-rated comedy. And, heading off the inevitable, I did not contribute to this total, JJV – although I do understand that there is some terrific scene with Kim Cattrall as a naked sushi platter.