The wrong sex

August 7, 2008

 

After seeing the Sex and The City movie and being overwhelmed by excess clothes, real estate and drinking, one scene stood out as honest and real. Remember when Miranda bravely bared her soul to her three best friends by saying that she and Steve were trapped in a sex drought? Now, you’d think that was the uncomfortable bit, but what followed was the true train-crash moment. Instead of those allegedly loyal mates concurring and sharing their own similar experiences, they reeled in horror and boasted of how this had NEVER happened to them. For Samantha, it goes without saying that she wouldn’t stand for such a situation. But those other two perfectly primped princesses were incredibly disloyal. Since Charlotte hasn’t had to work since marrying first husband Trey, she probably has plenty of time to co-ordinate her underwear with her needs. But for Carrie to coyishly describe her encounters with Big and his extraordinary boudouir creativity was downright rude. It seemed obvious that Miranda had been wronged…but perhaps not.

The theme of the media’s portayal of marital sex has come under scrutiny by the US Parent’s Television Council. The same group who fuelled the fire over Janet Jackson’s nipplegate commissioned a a report titled “Happily Never After: How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity Over Marital Intimacy”. The report found that primeteme tv has elevated illicit affairs and devalued the trysts between those who’ve exchanged vows. Their concern is that the excitement of fictional character’s affairs and constant references to boring sex between committed partners is undermining ths institution of marriage. They want the rapturous screentime devoted to immoral sexual relations limited and the image of married sex to be made more racy. According to them, then it will more accurately mimic what’s going on in the bedrooms of the married world.

So, according to the PTC report, it was Miranda who was misrepresenting those of us in the audience and the cut to the scene where Big has filled Carrie’s apartment with candles before man-handling her on the balcony is truly a moment of factually-driven empowerment that will last way after those two ever utter ‘I Do’.

In 2004, US television channel TBS delivered Sex and the City to those households not blessed with HBO. However, due to the strict censorship guidelines for a mainstream broadcast, the risqué language and sex scenes had to be re-voiced or edited out. Apparently this resulted in a show that included more Charlotte, the same amount of Carrie (who hardly cursed and was never naked), a less caustic Miranda and hardly any Samantha. Take a look at the TBS promo to see what could have happened if SATC had started on network television.

Now that mega broadcasters NBC and CBS have embraced the uber woman with Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia, both networks are dealing with satisfying the desires of the SATC audience while being strategically draped in many layers of beautiful clothes.

The mythology behind these shows both being commissioned at the same time goes a little like this. Candance Bushnell (the original Carrie and real-life columnist who started SATC) phoned Darren Starr, the guy who launched her onto the small screen, to say that her latest book Lipstick Jungle was being turned into a new TV show. There was an uncomfortable pause before Darren admitted to already having his own new female-centric show happening. So now we have two shows inspired by one and I can’t help but wonder, will either survive?

Channel 7 in Australia have bought Lipstick Jungle and no air date has been set. The pilot opens with the mandatory aerial shot of New York City and quickly introduces us to the trio of gal pals lead by statuesque Brooke Shields. Five minutes into the episode, Victory, the fashion designer, has received a bad review after launching her new autumn line. Her response? ‘This business is hard, I need a cupcake.’ Re-visiting the first series of Sex and The City delivers equally cringe-worthy moments (remember the staged vox-pops and Carrie talking straight to camera?) and Lipstick Jungle MUST get better, because NBC has ordered a further six episodes to make a full 13 week season in the wake of the writer’s strike.

Like the US, Cashmere Mafia has aired here first, and was the 9th most watched program last Wednesday night. Although I spent the entire pilot willing Lucy Liu to break out some Charlie’s Angels moves in pursuit of her promotion, the overall package appears much closer to a grown up version of SATC. Miranda Otto is mesmerizing as the jilted woman. The men in their lives are good people. And even though I have very little idea what any of them actually do for work, it is something to aspire to in that only-in-tv-land kind of way. As yet, only seven episodes exist with no mention of a return to production, so enjoy it while it lasts.

The one major improvement common to both clones is in the wardrobe department. SATC’s wardrobe diva Patricia Field made an incredible name for herself and has a store in Manhattan and an online boutiquewith a few random designs, but who could fit into SJP’s clothes or would want to? Various web links identify items worn on both Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia, with many able to be sourced in mainstream stores. Which is good because if we have to give up sex, we may as well shop.

Much has been said about both shows and it is unclear whether either will be embraced long term. Although it is a little disturbing that the one written by a woman included that cupcake line.

A few weeks ago certain passionate Sex and the City fans in this office had a chat that became a heated discussion that ended in a stand-up argument about what point in time the SATC movie is set in. The crux of the conversation centered on whether time has passed since we last saw Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, Charlotte and their entourage. Will the big screen be filled with Carrie calling out John’s name (no wonder she used a pet name) in ecstasy as they consummate their escape from Paris and re-commitment? Or, as the main opponent foresaw, will it reflect that years have passed like in our lives? Can it only work if the four women are back to struggling with single status or will they bring glamour to facing a mid-life crisis?

Either way, the transition from TV to feature is always going to be a tough one, and with SATC there are particular challenges. In the comfort of your own home you can laugh with superiority, cringe with familiarity and jot down sex tips from their choreographed onscreen copulations. Won’t it feel dirty witnessing similar scenes whilst sitting next to a stranger licking hot buttered popcorn off your fingers? And after six jam-packed seasons that explored everything from going up the butt to going overseas, what could possibly be left for these four fashion icons to tackle in 90 minutes in a darkened theatre?

Surely everyone who’s been desperately hanging out for a well-earned reunion over brunch at Pastis has already checked out the poster.

satc-poster.jpg

At first glance it’s all good. The glittering pink lettering, the great dress, a strutting confident grown-up Carrie, compared to that ballet-skirted girl who first greeted us on the streets of NYC in 1998. However, look again and you’ll be struck cold by that byline. Shudder. We’ve sympathised with the SATC writers who were forced week after week to balance realistic dialogue with the ‘I often wonder’ headline that Carrie would pound into her sad Mac (the only laptop that is part of the American Treasures collection at the Smithsonian Institute).

Let’s hope that this was a last-minute thing – that the production team had been struggling with changing schedules, precious talent, bad light, late nights in the edit suite and that Michael Patrick King didn’t get time for approval.

I fear the most heart-wrenching break up in SATC history could be on its way.