After six seasons and ninety-four episodes, Sex and the City ended its run in February 2005. But like a case of genital herpes, the show refuses to go away. DVDs of all six seasons line the walls of every video store in the country while HBO continues to beams encore episodes into millions of homes. TBS even paid one million per episode for the syndication rights to a bowdlerized version suitable for the ever declining standards of basic cable. Added to that are the two movies, the first in 2008 and the second which opens in theaters today.
Sex and the City is a magnum opus, one of the seminal works of our age. Anyone who has watched every episodeall 47 hoursand both moviesan additional 4.85 hourswill have witnessed a work of genius in what is indisputably the greatest (and longest) misogynist masterwork ever to be captured on film.
HBO has produced some great dramas over the years but nothing can match the novel of ideas that is Sex . What is truly remarkable, though, is the way the series mirrors the work of Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger . In 1905, Weininger published Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character) in which he argued that all people are composed of a mixture of the male and the female substance. Wikipedia provides a useful summary of the Austrians view: The male aspect is active, productive, conscious and moral/logical while the female aspect is passive, unproductive, unconscious and amoral/alogical.
Someday, feminist scholars will produce dissertations that clarify and outline how the series embodied the philosophy of Weiniger. The best I can do for now is point out the connection. Here, for example, is a representative passage from Sex and Character :
Woman is neither high-minded nor low-minded, strong-minded nor weak-minded. She is the opposite of all these. Mind cannot be predicated of her at all; she is mindless. That, however, does not imply weak-mindedness in the ordinary sense of the term, the absence of the capacity to get her bearings in ordinary everyday life. Cunning, calculation, cleverness, are much more usual and constant in the woman than in the man, if there be a personal selfish end in view. A woman is never so stupid as a man can be.
But has woman no meaning at all? Has she no general purpose in the scheme of the world? Has she not a destiny; and, in spite of all her senselessness and emptiness, a significance in the universe?
Has she a mission, or is her existence an accident and an absurdity?
In order to understand her meaning, it is necessary to start from a phenomenon which, although old and well recognized, has never received its proper meed of consideration. It is from nothing more nor less than the deep, her only vital interest, the interest that sexual unions shall take place; the wish that as much of it as possible shall occur, in all cases, places, and times.
. . . After mature consideration of the most varied types of women and with due regard to the special classes besides those which I have discussed, I am of opinion that the only positively general female characteristic is that of matchmaking, that is, her uniform willingness to further the idea of sexual union.
That last line sums up the entire theme of Sex and the City. The four main characters on the show are relatively wealthy, have successful careers, and live in one of the most interesting cities on earth. Yet their lives revolve around copulating, as frequently as possible with whoever is available and willing.
The nudity (usually brief) and obscene language (always raunchy) are enough to make the more prurient viewers reach for their inhaler. But the most shocking aspect of the show is how female sexuality is almost completely divorced from reality. Thats the show, said Marge Simpson on an episode of The Simpsons , about four women acting like gay guys. While Marge may be guilty of perpetuating a stereotype, she does have a point: nothing about Sex resembles how most woman view sex .
Take, for example, Samantha Jones . Here is how the shows website describes the most promiscuous member of the group:
Samantha embraces her uninhibited sexuality with a diverse (and large) group of lovers, from wrestling coaches to power bachelors to a studly farmer. Forget wedding dreams; Samantha takes lust over love any night, and shes proud of it. Once, she even experimented with lesbian love, but when her girlfriend demanded more intimacy, Samantha knew it wasnt going to work out.
Samantha is, of course, the extreme end of the spectrum. But she is often portrayed as the exemplar of sexual liberation, the type of woman the others would be if they could shake free from what is left of their inhibitions.
Samantha is difficult to like and impossible to respect. But that is in keeping with the intention of the misogynistic brilliance of the shows writers. The women are supposed to be despised because they are despicable. The men of The Sopranos may be immoral and violent but they are portrayed as having a twisted sense of honor, respect, and purpose. The woman of Sex , on the other hand, are portrayed as being worth less than their their absurdly expensive designer shoes. The show strips them of their dignity and presents them as archetypes in order that we may mock them. In doing so the series implies that all women are just as worthless as these single New Yorkers. The subtext is that beneath the Prada handbags and Jimmy Choo shoes, women are all the same: passive, unproductive, unconscious, amoral, and illogical.
That a minstrel show caricaturing women could succeed for over a decade is astounding; that such a misogynist worldview could be embraced by our culture is disheartening. While its obvious why Sex would appeal to caddish men , its hard to fathom why intelligent females would be drawn to Weiningers women.