Intrepid Girl Reporter

Monday, 4/7: also, not a recommendation
April 7, 2008, 9:32 am
Filed under: books

The Program kids convened this weekend to “conference.”* We had a sort of informal book swap, where I picked up a copy of the original Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell’s collection of essays that inspired the series.

I have a number of problems with this book.

“Sex and the City,” the television show, was (still is, I suppose) wildly popular among the vast majority of college girls I knew. My personal theory is that this is because it forms a sort of urban fairy tale and feeds a desire for escapism. No one seems to agree with me. Girls say, “I’m just like Samantha/Carrie/Charlotte.” (No one ever seems to want to be Miranda, which, paradoxically, might make her the most realistic.) The book presents the same sort of characters and settings and stories. They’re not bad stories; they weren’t bad in the show, either. They’re entertaining, decently written (in both cases), often funny. But they’re not about me, and they’re not about anyone I know, either.

I think what lies at the heart of my issue with this life Bushnell presents is the fact that these stories are too old for me. There’s a line in the book where a man, taking the unnamed narrator to dinner, says, “I was thinking we could just go to some neighborhood place,” and she looks at him and says, “I don’t think so.” These women go to places that people who live outside of big cities would find “hip” and glamorous – dark bars, loud clubs. They’re terrified of never having babies or getting married, and they can afford to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on shoes and purses.

Do some women, at 22, have that sort of money? Undoubtedly. Do some women really understand the design ethics that go into these expensive goods, what makes the “best” restaurants different, at my age? Again, I am sure. But the characters on the show have lived much longer than we have. They have the background information to spend this money, to make these decisions, to eventually become disillusioned with what they have. We don’t. So we follow these examples in a very shallow, superficial way, aspiring to what – for women who still have a lot of experience to gain and a lot of living to do – is ultimately hollow. What kind of map for women, making their way into what is still a very difficult world, does this provide? Do you REALLY know the difference between a Louboutin and a Blahnik? And, at this point in your life, do you need to?

I like these stories – as fairy tales. I even like them as stories of real people, albeit not the everyday. But what I don’t like is this image of womanhood presented, and embraced, as universal. I don’t know which character I’m most like, and I’m okay with that.

Also, Bushnell got on my bad side almost immediately by referencing Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, claiming that the kept man and the kept woman embrace love at the end. That’s the movie. The movie is fantastic, but it is not the same as the book. In the book, the man isn’t kept, and the woman escapes to Brazil. The book and the movie should be regarded as two separate entities, each with their own merits and flaws, and each telling what amounts to a different story. And, as in the rest of the book, the story she presents – much truer than the ones she tells, I think – isn’t the one that exists.



3 Comments so far
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Insightful! I can’t give up on our generation anymore. Thanks, IGR!

Comment by grayshifter

All very interesting. Is it irony that my old roommate, Erika, liked Miranda the best? I think not.

Comment by Soccer

I completely agree with you. A lot of people I knew obsessed over it and it was so escapist since none of them had any sort of experience to really appreciate or live this kind of life. It just gave college aged girls a reason to sleep around while claiming empowerment without offering them the real life experience they would have once they hit their 30s.

Also everyone knows Louboutins are French and have the red leather sole and Manolo Blahniks are Spanish and most often stiletto 😛 Just kidding

Comment by LaVitaRaggiante

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