Is there a double standard for 'Sex and the City'?

Along with millions of other Americans, I am looking forward to seeing Sex and the City: The Movie this weekend. I am a dude, in case that fact needs pointing out. And — get this! — my girlfriend isn’t even forcing me to see it. Now, I don’t think any of this is particularly newsworthy. But judging by some of the articles I’ve read about SATC this week, you’d think I discovered life on Mars or something. There’s a weirdly ubiquitous meme out there that SATC is a "women’s movie" that will somehow face special box-office challenges for that reason — the assumption being that no men, or at least no straight men, could have the slightest interest in seeing this film. Why is this weird? Because I don’t think anyone would ever dream of raising similar questions about a movie where the main characters are all male. Huffington Post columnist Melissa Silverstein wrote a great column about this yesterday. Last year’s Wild Hogs, she noted, was correctly seen as mass-appeal entertainment for moviegoers of all genders, even though it was all about four aging guys. And do you remember anyone ever wringing their hands over whether traditionally "male" action flicks like Transformers could get women into multiplexes? There are plenty of other legit reasons to wonder about SATC‘s box-office prospects — it’s rated R, it’s really long, it’s about a very specific mileu of wealthy urban professionals, etc. But the gender thing just strikes me as fishy.

Meanwhile, you’ve got commentators like Best Week Ever‘s Paul F. Tompkins and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. They’re both generally smart, enlightened folks, but last night Tompkins dropped by Olbermann’s show so they could snicker their way through a "Sex and the City survival guide for men." (Check it out below.) The premise, of course, was that no so-called real man would ever want to see a movie about three-dimensional, adult female characters. (The TV show also featured plenty of well-rounded, interesting male characters over the years, by the by — Steve, Aidan, Trey — but we can ignore that inconvenient fact.) Quipped Tompkins: "If you’re with a woman who is insisting that you go see this movie, I think it’s time to maybe date someone else. Because men are not meant to see this movie with women." Way to police those restrictive gender roles, bro! Olbermann replied to this bon mot by quoting a Family Guy gag which referred to the SATC quartet as "three hookers and their mom" — classy. Are we in junior high here? Or perhaps the early 1950s?

None of this is a comment on the content of the movie — which, for all I know, could end up being terrible. But at least I’m comfortable enough to find out for myself. Anyone else scratching their heads at the assumptions surrounding men and Sex?

Comments (86 total) Add your comment
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  • Tom Brazelton

    I think the knee jerk reaction is to make fun of SatC for it’s focus on the fairer sex. But the larger issue is romantic comedies in general and how they’ve failed to attract men in recent years specifically BECAUSE of the effect Sex and the City has had on the culture. Men are an accessory in their universe. Something to obtain along with The Job, The Shoes, The Happiness, etc. I’m not saying action movies aren’t guilty of doing the same thing to women. But romantic comedies USED to be about uniting the sexes and since Sex in the City, there has been significantly less romance in romantic comedies.

  • Andrew Wickliffe

    Oh, please, Family Guy making it to MSNBC makes it all worth it.
    Now if Olbermann would refer to Creationists as more mentally impaired than the mentally handicapped…

  • Eric Friedmann

    I’m married to a Jewish woman…so sex is not that much of an issue anymore!

  • Gender Socialization is BS

    Amen, Simon!

  • Patty A

    While I know there’s a lot riding on SaTC’s box office success, I’ve been more concerned about the distinct hostility some men seem to have towards this movie. It’s not just the MSNBC clip – I’ve read multiple reviews (inevitably by men) snickering at the anticipation for this film and wondering why anyone would be interested in seeing a movie about 40-somethings and their sex lives. Are they saying we as women aren’t interesting or worth any value after a certain age? Or that we aren’t allowed to experience the same fanboy joy and excitement they have over a movie like Star Wars?
    And don’t even get me started about the “fanboy” reaction on sites like Ain’t It Cool. One review on the website actually had the headline “Massawyrm Has SEX AND THE CITY And Leaves It Bleeding And Crying On The Mattress!” Must they evoke rape imagery towards a series that helped women embrace (and feel empowered by) their sexuality? Ugh, it’s infuriating.

  • orville

    It’s a silly assumption. I’m sure that the studios weren’t wondering whether or not I’d love Iron Man (which I thought was one of the coolest movies ever), so why should they worry about whether my boyfriend would love Sex and the City? He does, by the way–and did far before I ever met him. He saw it as sort of an instruction guide to women. He even drinks Cosmos.

  • TheOtherOne

    Don’t know about the mainstream assumptions, but I (a female) personally never cared for Sex and the City. But my ex-boyfriend watched it ALL THE TIME. Wouldn’t be surprised if he saw it in the theater. I doubt I’ll ever see it.

  • Lise

    It IS infuriating and insulting. I’m a woman who loves to go to superhero/sci fi/action movies, etc… AND love Sex and the City. Why can’t men do both too? Or, more to the point, why can’t the media understand that men can do both?

  • Homerox

    Following off of Tom B’s comment…I don’t think most men have an aversion to women in starring roles in movies, but it might be that they have an aversion to THESE women (or these TYPES, as Tom points out) who at first glance seem incredibly shallow and materialistic. Never watched the show, so I’m sure there are more facets to the characters than these, but because of this strong negative first impression (as well as the sneaking feeling that after the movie I’d feel like I just watched a 2+ hour long commercial for whatever fashions and accessories Madison Ave. wants to push this summer), I know I’d have no interest in checking this out.

  • Nose

    I agree that discounting men all together is a bit of a mistake, and manly men like Olbermann probably do watch the show but are too afraid to admit it. I’m going to make a sweeping generalization here, but if this movie/tv show had different actresses in it, men would be more inclined to watch. Most guys I talk to don’t find the actors attractive, and for my guy friends, that would be a big draw. If Jessica Alba or someone like that were on the show or in the movie, guys would be all over it. I’m sure that’s not true of all guys, of course, just seems to be the consensus among those I talk to.

  • GingerCat

    Considering I’m a single, thirtysomething woman who lives in a big city, you’d think I’d be all about this movie. But I’m not–I’ve reached my limit just with the total media saturation this flick has received. I won’t be seeing it in the theater and probably not on DVD. I’m tired of the materialism and shoe obsession, too, and resent the way it seems to have influenced real-life young women in that regard. So how can I blame any men for not wanting to see this, when I don’t either?
    Also, I consider myself a feminist, but I think the “three hookers and their mom” line is kind of funny. So sue me.

  • GingerCat

    Also, Kristin Davis is about 1000 times more beautiful than Jessica Alba will ever be, so if Nose is correct, I dispair at the terrible taste of men.

  • Anonymous

    It’s pretty cool that this issue was written about. Being a more consious male goes hand in had with being a more open minded male. A result of this, not the incentive to this, is that most men will get more tail – gay or straight. Or if not tail, a deeper connection with whoever you’re sharing your life with.

  • dan jones

    The difference between SATC and Wild Hogs is that Wild Hogs had huge movie stars in it (Travolta, Allen, etc) and the “stars” of SATC are, well… tv stars. Also, the expectation that men will not go is based on the demographic performance of “Devil Wears Prada” (the producers themselves have said this) which attracted about 4 women for every one guy.
    Oh, and Oberrman is an idiot, so, who cares what he thinks.

  • Katy

    All i know is that the media coverage of this film release is so overarching, I have NO interest in seeing it anymore. Yeah, I said it: I’ve had enough Sex and the City!

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