Reading Sex and the City

Article excerpt

Reading Sex and the City Kim Akass and Janet McCabe, Editors. London: I. B. Tauris, 2004.

This collection of seventeen essays about the HBO series Sex and the City offers insights for cultural historians, gender analysts, and film theorists, as well as entertaining descriptive tidbits for fans of Carrie Bradshaw, her three girlfriends, and their "boy toys." The essays explore social implications of connections among heterosexual women, with their gay and lesbian friends, and with their boyfriends, sometimes treated as love objects, sometimes as prey. Contributors delve into sexual mores evinced by the racy series and the impassioned critical responses it provoked, the role of costume m a setting of hyperfashionable Manhattan, and some literary and film contexts of this first-person narrative celebration of independence based on Candace BushnelPs 1996 creative nonfiction book. Akass and McCabe, from their vantage as film scholars at universities in Great Britain, conclude their thought-provoking collection with good-natured, loving tributes to the lures of New York City shopping, clubbing, and celebrity hunting, punctuated with a snapshot of the pair on the stoop of Carrie Bradshaw's Manhattan apartment at the end of their "Sex and the City" guided tour.

Joanna di Mattia's presentation of the series as a romantic quest narrative that opens the collection depicts "its female protagonists in the renegotiation of the classic romance fantasy" (17) of finding Mr. Right. While her reading exaggerates the importance of success in their quest for Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte, she enumerates the masculine archetypes they encounter, deconstructs the fairy-tale language of Carrie's compositions, and finally affirms the central role of female sexual pleasure that drives the four protagonists in their Manhattan playground. That theme of unabashed sharing of comic and gynelogical details of sex dominates the analysis of sexuality in Sex and the City by media arts professor Mandy Merck. She identifies the powerful appeal of the intimate insights -to include clinical details of sex between men and women, between women and women, and between men and menin the stories of the four women's numerous gay friends, whose views of fashionable cuisine, couture, and masculine good looks foreshadowed the popularity of the television series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Perhaps most illuminating for cultural historians and sociologists is the contribution of women's studies professor Astrid Henry. She identifies Sex and the City as documenting the influence of third-wave feminism in television dramas, placing it in the context of its second-wave predecessors, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude, Designing Women, and Murphy Brown, and pointing out the varieties of feminist perspectives represented by the primary community or family of the four friends: "No matter what has transpired over the course of an episode's half hour, Sex and the City routinely concludes with the four women together, laughing and talking, supporting each other" (67). …