Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sex and the City and the Teenaged Girl

I may be one of very few women in New York City who does not care about the Sex and the City movie opening. When pressed to rate my interest in seeing the movie on a scale of 1 to 100, I gave it a 13, meaning maybe I will watch it on cable when I'm home sick from work and everything else on tv requires concentration. Of course, I have watched the series on HBO, but without the intensity and interest that I have watched The Wire. If there were a movie about The Wire, I'd be there.

All of the media hype around the event just shows how very alone I am as women and girls across a spectrum of ages line up for tickets. Friday's Wall Street Journal article focused on the movie's appeal to teens who missed SATC on HBO, but have been watching a watered down version on TBS and want to go see the R rated movie, but are too young. Shelley Zalis CEO of a consumer research firm is quoted in the article "Sixteen is the new 20" despite the fact that the characters are now pushing 40 and even 50.

Teens in the article mention ordering the series up for marathons on HBO on Demand and debating which character they are most like. This makes a lot of sense to me-- given that most teens "aspire up," that is, they spend a lot of time thinking/fantasizing about what life will be as adults. With all the freedom and disposable income the women on SATC seem to have, they make easy fantasy figures. And with the emphasis on sex and relationships, the show can satisfy some natural teen curiosities.

Still though, I wonder, what it's like to be a 16 year old where the life you fantasize about is also the one that your 50 year old mother and neighbor dream about too, especially when most of the content is so materialistic. It's not SATC that is the problem, but the notion that both 16 and 50 can be the new 20 is permeating the rest of the culture. These are the trends that when multiplied across media and its sister marketing rob girls of their girlhood. Should 16 year olds and 50 year olds really aspire to the same things? And how does this play out in terms of each demographics expectations of what adulthood should look like? To me, this is what leads to women in their early 20's using anti wrinkling cream as a preventative tool, and women in their 50's using botox, so that the notion of what it means to look like a woman becomes more and more stereotypical.

And this doesn't event begin to touch that this is all based on white ideals of femininity or that the 20-something character added to the movie is black..another post perhaps?

Huff Post dialogue between a 50-something British Mom and her 20-something daughter on expectations for young women


Daisy said...

Great post!

And how does this play out in terms of each demographics expectations of what adulthood should look like?

I really, really dislike how the only women my age allowed on TV are model-thin and heavily-botoxed. Or maiden aunts dispensing old-lady women, the prototype was Aunt Bea on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW...

I wish we could see some older women on TV with lives of their own, not about chasing guys, relationships, etc... some of us got all of that stuff settled a long time ago. Not "bragging"--but really, it just seems like stuff we obsessed about in our 20s and 30s, not at age 50. I feel like I have entered a new phase of life that I have yet to see reflected on TV, with the possible exceptions of Glenn Close on DAMAGES and Edie Falco and Aida Turturro on THE SOPRANOS.

SEX AND THE CITY is Hollywood-menopause, and its just as negative for women as Hollywood-adolescence has been. Yuck.

That said, I do like Cynthia Nixon! :)

Patti Binder said...

Hi Daisy--

I agree entirely that are very few complex portrayal of women over 50 on tv. One of my favorities was the mother on Six Feet Under-- extreme, to be sure, but also complex and rich.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


givemespacetorock said...

I loved reading this post so much - I've been on such a rampage lately about the young women who view damaging shows like this one... and now a movie.

The glamourization of whiny, codependent behavior and excessive consumerism on this show kills me! I hate to say that it never occurred to me that teenagers are watching this show and aspiring to be these women, fixated on spending hundreds of dollars on shoes and living most of their lives SO DESPERATE to be perceived as "classy" and "attractive." It's sick and totally offensive to those who have to work hard to get where they are.

And I totally agree on the portrayal of older women on television being grossly limited to rich, white, fashion-obsessed and desperate for male approval. Is that what the young women who watch this show think adulthood really is?

Thank you for this.

givemespacetorock said...

I thought you'd be interested in this blog I read this morning on Venus: Sex and the purse, pumps and penthouse. It brought up a good point about the only woman of color in the movie being Carrie's personal assistant, doing everything for her...

Patti Binder said...


Thanks for the link! I will check it out!!


Carl Niedzielski said...

Dear Patti,

Great post, and the comments are great, too. I work at Girls Quest, and we are happy to be listed on this great blog--these are important issues.

Carl Niedzielski

Patti Binder said...


Thanks for stopping by and reading WGFG. Please let me know if you have upcoming events or postings for the blog- I'd love to promote the great work you do.