Sex and the City: The Great Cinematic Divide - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sex and the City: The Great Cinematic Divide

'Sex and The City,' Actresses Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis , Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall (Photo: MGN/HBO) 'Sex and The City,' Actresses Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis , Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall (Photo: MGN/HBO)

06/02/2008

Any review of Sex and the City: The Movie will amount to nothing but girl talk. But, wait! I'm a guy. So, what am I doing? Most guys wouldn't give a penny for the words about to be read here, so why am I writing it?

Sex and the City is being propped up as a potential blockbuster. It's going to compete with ultra-masculine alternatives like Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, two films, as a boy, I should be reviewing instead.

It can be reasonably assumed that in thousands of multiplexes across the country, thousands of people will gather. A majority of them will of course be male persons on summer vacation, either from high school or college, weekenders, or simply anyone older who perhaps grew up with Harrison Ford, now taken with nostalgia.

A significant number, perhaps not in parity, will be female. They'll range in age between early 20s to mid and late 40s, those who are old enough to have watched the hit HBO comedy series. They'll join their testosterone-pumped counterparts at the concession stand, but, at the start of their films, there will be a parting of the ways.

All the men will scurry into the theater holding The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and all the women will strut into the plex playing Sex and the City. From above, it would look like the parting of the Red Sea, men on one side and women on the other, narrowly nothing in between.

Any movie executive, or theater manager, worth his salt, would have recognized this breakdown of demographics long ago. Clearly, there are movies that have a very specific target audience, movies that have no appeal to any other, except a specific group of people.

Those target audiences can be divided by geography or sometimes ethnicity, most often by age group. Some controversial films have come along and have been polarizing for people with particular interests, such as The Passion of the Christ (2004) or Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004).

But, in general, most movies that get a wide release, or that are released in more than 1,000 theaters across the nation, or even the mega 4,260 theater release of Indiana Jones, are large films that most often have appeal for more than just one target audience. They strive to be unifying and not divisive, much like the American presidential candidates this year.

Yet, Indiana Jones is an action-adventure film about an archaeologist with a whip and a fedora who is a modern-day treasure hunter. But he always has noble intentions, fighting evil forces and dodging danger and certain doom, be it in booby traps, or be it in foreign enemies. And, he always manages to rescue the women, children, and old men. It's every little boy's fantasy.

But, I'm sure plenty of women would also find the latest Indiana Jones appealing, and, interestingly, no one would find female crossover strange or bizarre. With Sex and the City: The Movie, you have a film about the lives and loves of four New York City women of a certain age. They ogle and admire men, talk about their intimacies and such superficialities as fashion with at times fervent passion.

Instead of whips, the women's weapons of choice are cocktails and high-heeled shoes. No doubt, it is a chick flick, and of the men I've asked on the Delmarva peninsula, none would be caught dead going to that film. Perhaps, some boyfriends, hoping to get lucky later that night, might allow themselves to be dragged to the movie with their significant others.

However, Sex and the City is more than just a chick flick. There have been various, so-called, chick flicks, released this year and in year's past, that have not gotten the fanfare that this film has gotten. No other chick flick even within recent memory has gotten the anticipation, the buzz, and even the press coverage as this. From a half-dozen or more magazine covers to even a full-hour on Oprah, the press has arguably surpassed that of Indiana Jones.

No, this is not just a chick flick. It's a phenomenon. According to WBOC news reporter Weija Jiang, women showed up in droves on its Friday opening in limousines and dressed in Sex and the City memorabilia in Salisbury. If that's not an indication of its cultural effect, I don't know what is.

Still, it remains a phenomenon destined to discriminate and exclude half the population. When the film's star, Sarah Jessica Parker, appeared on the May 29 broadcast of The Charlie Rose Show on PBS, she said in her tour, promoting the film, that she's noticed no gap and believes the movie will reach a broad audience of not just women.

Weija Jiang reported that so far that didn't seem to be pandering out in Salisbury. Parker also told Charlie Rose that during the Manhattan premiere, which took place at Radio City Music Hall to a crowd of nearly three thousand, she observed a cross-section. Parker even added that Eli Manning, New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl 2008 MVP, came to the premiere by himself because he liked the show. She emphasized if a manly man like Manning can appreciate the film, any man could.

The fact will probably bear out, though, that very, very few men will see this movie, and I believe that will ultimately be a shame. This is not about forcing people to watch or like something that they're not interested to put hard-earned time or money toward. No. This is about perception and culture, or rather mis-perception and mis-culture.

The release of Sex and the City right on the heels of Indiana Jones is almost a perfect case study of that misculture, in that we can see clearly how the culture has become so fragmented, causing a somewhat great cinematic divide, where if you analyzed the box office, it's split nearly in half. The results of the box office would represent a bout of men versus women, each in their own corner.

Yes, the Sex and the City film has unearthed some theater-going sexism. I'm not saying that all men are sexist, nor am I saying no man will, be he hetereosexual or not, but this whole notion of a "chick flick" and the instant, negative connotation that most men ascribe to it may be bogus, or some sexist leftover that needs to be tossed.

In Sex and the City: The Movie, when guys say they wouldn't see it because it's a "chick flick," I have to stop and question what has them really opposed. It was funny, but, there was an article in Entertainment Weekly magazine in May that talked about how a lot of the male-centered comedies have their protagonists acting quite effeminate.

One of the films mentioned was The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Now, if you ask any man if he's seen that film, the overwhelming response would be yes. But, do they know that the 2005 film was also a chick flick? Like Sex and the City, it's a romantic comedy. It stars a character in search of love, in a manner that seems devoid of much masculinity. Yet, three years later, loads of men still talk about how much they loved it.

But, if you ask them about Sex and the City, they turn their noses, almost in disgust, certainly in revolt, and logically it makes no sense. They rave about a guy acting like a girl trying to fall in love, but protest a girl acting like a girl trying to fall in love. Some guys nitpick, but it's the same difference, except in Sex and the City, you get four beautiful women, dressed sexy and actually having sex. Yet, straight men reject that. Why?

Sadly, sexism at the box office is not a surprise or a new thing. Even in this post-feminist, post-Juno, and post-Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign, one would think any misperceptions, reservations, or prejudices men might have against a female-driven vehicle would no longer persist. Yet, clearly it does.

Sex and the City: The Movie stands as an anomaly. Men fight it, or else they run from it. Why? The film and the TV series are smart, funny, sexy, well acted, well produced, interesting and insightful pieces. If that's a chick flick, a film only intended for women, then, as a man, sign me up for the gender re-assignment surgery now!

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