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 IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Liberal Democrats leader says efforts need to be focused on cracking down on the criminal gangs  

Nick Clegg: We should to go to war on drugs, not on addicts

Nick Clegg
East German border guards stand on a section of the Berlin wall in front of the Brandenburg gate on November 11, 1989  

Twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall fell, Hungary’s PM thinks it is Western capitalism that is in its death throes

Peter Popham
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes