Joan Smith: Ignore the critics – 'Sex and the City' is still a hit

Lapping up a formula that needles men and cheers women

Share
Related Topics

They're back – and once again hostile reviews miss the point. On Thursday evening, the stars of the new Sex and the City movie appeared at the premiere in Leicester Square, arms entwined and as glamorous as ever. I loved Sarah Jessica Parker's very modern strapless frock, which was the perfect foil for Kim Cattrall's classic goddess dress. The actresses have always used clothes to express their on-screen characters and Parker's Carrie still comes across as chic and playful, a woman who doesn't care if she makes fashion mistakes.

It's more than a decade since Sex and the City began attracting huge TV audiences, delighting generations of women: Seventies feminists who saw the stars as living out the precepts they'd struggled for, and their daughters who suddenly found a language for their own aspirations and anxieties. The characters explicitly set out to have sex like men, and the inclusion of an "older woman" – in those days, anyone in her forties was heading for cardigan-land – made ground-breaking television. Cattrall's Samantha embodied the most liberated version of feminism, even if her struggle with breast cancer towards the end of the series felt like a punishment for the freedom she'd enjoyed.

There were always false notes in the series, but that's inevitable in a show that ran for so many episodes. The new film, unimaginatively entitled Sex and the City 2, is getting even worse reviews than its predecessor, but that's unlikely to damage its prospects at the box office. For the record, I saw the first film twice: once to write about it and the second time with my boyfriend, who loved it.

We don't watch Sex and the City for plot, unexpected twists or subtle characterisation; it's more like catching up with old friends, giving their clothes the once-over and plunging back into the giddy world of talking about sex and relationships.

That, I suspect, is why the new film has left New York behind for Abu Dhabi, sending the four women on a trip without their various husbands and children.

Married Carrie is less interesting than her single counterpart; the scenes in the first movie of her friends rallying round after Mr Big jilted her were far more engrossing than the wedding with which it ended. Not long ago, a friend of mine returned to London after the end of a relationship and we met in a bar where we hugged in front of startled strangers; it was spontaneous, but also a pure Sex and the City moment.

What the show has to struggle with is our appetite for more of the same and the producers' covert conservatism which demands that the characters have "real lives". Charlotte (Kristin Davis) was always the most conventional of the four, and in the new film she's been landed with two kids and a permanent anxiety that her husband will leave her for the nanny. The first movie ended with Carrie looking on approvingly as a younger generation of sassy New Yorkers stepped out for an evening on the town, signalling that the baton was being handed on to younger women, but that isn't what the audience wants.

The idea that the women have reached an age where, with the exception of Samantha, they have to settle for domesticity is a failure of nerve, and I wonder if it's linked to catty reviews which repeat unthinking prejudices about age. "No doubt they will be applauded in some quarters for their fashion bravery," a fashion writer observed in The Times last week, apparently surprised that "women over 40" can manage to look glam and unable to resist a snide remark about Parker's "knobbly knees".

Who cares? Sex and the City gets things wrong but it's still a fantasy of empowerment. You'll have to excuse me now – I'm off to see the movie.

www.politicalblonde.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little